Will The Real Karen Please Stand Up?

Some good advice for job hunters is to practice the interview questions before the actual interview. My favorites are the weird ones like,

“If you were a fruit, what would you be and why.”

It’s like an improv game because you never know what they’re going to ask. You can have some fun with it. I like to say that I’m a watermelon. I’m round, versatile, and very sweet on the inside but I have a thick skin that can take a lot of punishment.

Then there’s the standard opening question, “Tell me about yourself.”

This one I don’t find so easy or quick to answer. There’s the pressure of a job on the line and you don’t know which you to pick. What are your best features that you think they want to hear about? What if my best features are the ones you usually don’t put on your resume?

Yes, I’m a teacher with 20 years of classroom experience under my belt, but have you tasted my Orange Creamsicle Fudge? It’s pretty addicting,

I do a lot of second guessing myself. What do I highlight? I’ve spent a lot of my life acting and teaching acting to kids, but I learned that some people equate acting to lying so I’ve become reticent to mention it because of the negative connotation that I didn’t even know it had.
At work, I’m one of maybe two of us in our department who welcome student teachers. I love working with new teachers, they fill me with fresh ideas and force me to be on top of my game. When I was earning my degree, I had two student teaching placements. The first one was a nightmare but the second more than made up for the first. It was from my experiences with student teaching that I want to be the kind of cooperating teacher that I needed but didn’t get in my first weeks in the educational trenches. My goal is to be open and nurturing, real and practical, kind and supportive. In 2016 my student teacher shocked me by nominating me for the Outstanding Cooperating Teacher award at the University of Scranton. She and my other student teachers have moved on to rewarding careers of their own, but they’re all still a part of how I teach today. I strive to be the teacher I needed in high school, and the co-op I needed in college.

Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? If I mention it, however, I wait for the comment, “Must be nice having nothing to do for a couple of weeks.” No, it’s not, because that’s not how it works. See how something I value that is enriching and positive can get turned around negatively to the point where I fear to mention it?

They always ask what your strengths and weaknesses are. (Hint, “Area of Improvement” is a tricky way of saying “weakness”.) Strengths, not difficult. What do you say about your weaknesses, honestly, that doesn’t negate all the good that you’ve just built up about yourself?

Strengths: I am extremely patient, always kind, and have a wicked sense of humor.
Weaknesses: Brussel sprouts, ignorance, and running.

I never know what to say that fully encapsulates the real me. There’s never enough time and too many endorphins that make me sweaty and forgetful. If you’re facing a job interview – virtual high five – I feel you, friend.

It’s a dilemma not only in the job market but in life. How do you decide what’s important and what’s not? I guess I’ve done well enough in the past, but this recent series of interviews just threw my self-awareness for a loop. Ok, I know a job doesn’t want to know how I made my work husband an heirloom blanket for his new baby, but that’s still an important part of me that’s illuminating.

Karen Padden

Karen, Queen of the Paddens and first of her name. Teacher, Baker, Petter of Cats, Multiple Sneezer and Crocheter of Wubbies. Believes in kindness, always.

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