My worst job interview ever

Obviously I couldn’t blog about this right when it happened, but I thought it would be fun to share an anecdote from my job hunting experience.

All in all, I probably went in about 9-10 interviews this time around. Many of those were at the same places — I actually made it to the third round of interviews at two different companies. (Though I didn’t get either of those jobs.)

One of those third-rounders was probably the worst interview I’ve ever been on.

The company was one that organizes sporting events (like dodgeball and softball games) for adults in the city to network and meet new people. I had already survived an initial meeting with their HR recruiter; it went well and we both seemed to get along. A good sign, in my book.

The second round, I was required to write an entire 3-month social media strategy, including a step-by-step list of the first three things I would do if I got the job.

Pause for a second (Zack Morris-style).

Can we just discuss how messed up that is? I mean, my ability to create a social strategy and help a brand define their digital voice is what I do for a living. That is my intellectual property. It’s what, you know, I get paid for.

And now I was forced to basically hand it over with zero promise of a return. (And since you already know I didn’t get this job, I’m not spoiling anything when I tell you this company ended up with my entire strategy, step-by-step tactics, and sample social posts. And I ended up with…well, you’ll see.)

The second interview went okay. The two guys I met with we’re a tiny bit bro-y, but nice enough. They kept up their poker faces the entire time, and, to be perfectly honest, I felt a little but judged for wearing heels and curling my hair. It could have been in my head, but it wasn’t in my head that this was not a girlie-girl setting.

Regardless, I thought I handled myself well. I was prepared for all of their questions, and my strategy even preemptively answered most of them. I felt I came across as capable, organized, and enthusiastic.

About a day later, I had an email setting up my final interview with the CEO and founder of the company. I assumed the second interview must have gone well.

When I arrived for my final interview, I was quickly ushered into a conference room with the CEO. He was an unassuming man from Long Island in his fifties, barely taller than me. He had a teasing sense of humor that I couldn’t quite get a handle on because it was a little, well, condescending.

I turned to face him, and he lifted a piece of paper that I assume had the questions he wanted to ask me on the side facing him. What he didn’t realize was that the side facing me had some writing on it too.

Notes. About me.

I know it was about me because it said Justine LoMonaco at the top.

And under that it said:

Not that into sports
Not funny or creative

There have only been a few moments in my life that I would describe as punches to the gut. This was one of them.

(Obviously, I’m talking about the second sentence. Anyone who knows me knows I make no pretenses about having a passion for sports.)(And this.)(And this.)(AND THIS.)

Let me be clear: I have no delusions that I’m the funniest or smartest person out there. But these are two specific adjectives that people use to describe me all the time. I mean, I’m a classic late-bloomer — sense of humor and personality carried me for years, folks. I work with people who literally will not schedule a brainstorming session unless I can attend. Funniness and creativity are just not things I am insecure about.

And then…suddenly everything changed.

I’m one of those people that if you really want to push my buttons, accuse of something that is just patently untrue. It’s like my brain can’t even process what you’re saying and I become simultaneously dumber and less eloquent. My cerebrum is all, “Wait…you mean…but the-what? SKY IS GREEN AND GRASS IS BLUE AND NOTHING MAKES SENSE ANYMORE.”

Obviously, this is not a good mental state to be in for, oh, let’s say a job interview.

Suddenly I found myself incapable of coming up with a single intelligent thing to say. I was trying to be funnier, which everyone knows rarely works out. And, honestly, I was on the brink of tears for most of the half hour.

The interview wrapped up quickly (clearly I hadn’t impressed), and I hesitated for just a second, wondering if I should address these two accusations against me. In the end, I said nothing (though I did stand up for myself a bit in my “thank you” email). If I had known I wouldn’t get the job anyway, I would have been bolder. Hindsight, amiright?

Instead I shuffled dejectedly to the subway, still fighting back tears, and called my friend to unload what had happened. When I got home and started telling Joey about it, I broke down.

Remember when I wrote this? That was right around the time I found out I didn’t get that job. (Or the other job that I had made it to the third round of interviews for.) I was so frustrated, and my confidence was at a low. Now I was confronted with the possibility that maybe I was just stuck where I was — and not funny or creative on top of it.

That’s a lot for anyone to take.

But wait! This isn’t a sad story. Because, in the end, I realized that I probably didn’t want to work with people who don’t share my sense of humor anyway. I don’t want to work for people who judge me the moment I walk in. I don’t want to work for hypocritical people who claim their business model supports one thing while their actions prove they don’t.

And the job I ended up getting? I’m a million times more excited for it than I was for the other one anyway.

So things work out how they’re supposed to. And the experience also showed me what a great support system I have when I can’t pick myself back up right away. Ironically, when I got my new job, they told me the people I had interviewed loved how “funny and creative” I was. As if that coffin needed one more nail, right?

Anyone else have a job interview story to top mine? Leave it in a comment so we can commiserate together (and laugh about how, in the end, it was their loss).

7 Things You Should Know About Marathon Training

Now that my marathon training is basically over (have I mentioned how much I love taper weeks?), I wanted to do a round-up of things I’ve learned so far in case any of my readers are considering a marathon of their own. Obviously, this is all said without ever having actually run a marathon (yet), but here are a few tidbits I garnered from my training process.

1. Tell everyone you are training for a marathon — or else you will probably quit.
Sure, you put down something north of $100 for this race, but that will start to feel negligible about a month and a half in. (Plus, if you’re smart, you paid for the cancelation insurance in case of injury.) The only thing that is going to keep you running past the halfway training point is pride and the fear of telling everyone you announced your training to that you are wimping out. So tell everyone. Tell your friends. Tell your coworkers. Tell your hair stylist. Tell the guy at the shoe store. You get the idea.

2. You should probably invest in a fanny pack.
Go ahead, laugh. Get it all out. Then get over it. Because unless you are planning to pack all your snacks, cell phone, headphones, etc. in your pockets, you’ll need something to hold it all. I got through most of my training sans le pac de derrière (as I imagine the French would say it), but long runs required a pouch for gummies and metro cards and and cash and things.

I refuse to ever wear a water belt, though.

3. You will be tired. All the time.
No, really. See also: hungry.

4. Your husband/boyfriend/friends will become running widows. Or whatever the running equivalent of a football/hockey widow is.
Training takes time, yo. Time that you normally would have spent grabbing dinner, drinks, and generally having a life. And unless your friends are also training, odds are they can’t just join you for a quick 12-miler after work one night. So let them know that training is going to take priority for a while. (That is, unless they are willing to swap your usual happy hours for a cross training class.)

5. You probably won’t lose weight.
Unless you are starting out with a significant amount of weight to lose, don’t bank on training lowering the number on the scale that much. Yes, you’ll be burning more calories, but you’ll also need to eat more to keep up your strength (plus, see the aforementioned “hungry all the time”). Odds are, if you’re training for a marathon, you’ve been a runner for a while and are probably pretty close to your “happy weight,” and your body is going to hold on to extra calories to support these 1,700 calorie-burning runs you’ll do from time to time. Plus, you know, muscle weighs more than fat blah blah blah, and you’ll probably see higher fluctuations from water weight.

Don’t feel too bad, though — my weight stayed exactly the same, but I definitely got more toned and my clothes fit differently. You’re going to get stronger, dude.

6. You can actually gain weight whilst training.
It seems like a sick joke when you’re working out 5-6 days a week, but it’s true. The hungers are fierce, and it’s easy to tell yourself that you deserve an extra slice of cake when you’re training. But gaining weight can affect your pace, so keep in mind that the better in shape you are, the fewer calories each run will actually burn. You should be eating more carbs while you train, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to more food. The best advice I heard while training was to replace things with carbs. So instead of adding a side of pasta to your usual lunch, replace your salad and chicken with quinoa and chicken. You’ll get the calories and carbs you need without overdoing anything. (Obviously take all my diet advice with a grain of salt…everyone is different, and a doctor or nutritionist can give you much better advice for your body and health. I’m just some chick who runs a lot.)

7. You will not be able to sit cross-legged anymore.
This was a weird one. I’m the type of person that is really bad at just sitting normally; I’m usually pretzel-twisted up in the corner of the couch or something. But about midway through training, I realized that if I sat in any way that wasn’t with both feet flat on the ground with my butt in a chair, my muscles would basically fuse in that position when I tried to stand up. It was weird. And annoying. And painful.

I still can barely believe the race is only a week-and-a-half away. Any last-minute advice from marathon veterans out there?

How to: job hunt while you have a job

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There are few things in life more awkward than job hunting whilst gainfully employed.

For one, job hunting is a veritable job in and of itself. It takes time to scour job boards, craft memorable cover letters, and go on interviews.

And those interviews? They are definitely the most awkward part. After all, you can only have so many doctor appointments, family emergencies, illnesses, burst pipes, etc. before people start to suspect. (Or at least think you are just a disaster of a human being.) And I’m a terrible liar. I hate doing it.

I tend to get stressed out by phony doctor appointments (the rushing to get there on time, the rushing to get back to the office at a reasonable time…it’s too much) and will often just take a day off, especially if I have more than one interview. The problem is, eventually you burn through 3-4 vacation days, which is fine if you get the job. Not so much if you don’t.

Here are a few things I’ve learned about job hunting while having a full-time job:

1. Timing is everything. Schedule interviews either first thing in the morning (ideal, because there are a myriad of excuses that can happen in the morning…late train, dishwasher overflowed, husband got sick and needs me to pick up a prescription, dog ran away, car broke down, etc.) or last thing in the afternoon (“I need to jet out of here a little early tomorrow evening, but I’ll be in early to make up for any missed work.”). If all else fails, lunchtime is doable. (“My cousin is in town just for the afternoon and asked if I could meet for lunch — is that okay?”)

2. Be cautious about dressing too professional if you have to go back to work. Unless you show up every day in a blazer and heels, wear an outfit you can dress up for the interview and down for your office. Nothing tips people off like you showing up late and in a suit.

3. Be respectful of your current employer’s time. 3 pm is not the right time to troll LinkedIn job boards. It’s also not the right time to update your resume. You are still an employee, and you want to leave on good terms regardless of the situation. (If possible.) Save your job hunting for after-hours (and answer emails/phone calls on your lunch break) to avoid leaving anyone with bad thoughts about you after you’re gone.

You’re probably wondering why I’m being so candid about my job hunting process. Well…you guessed it; I got a new job recently. My last day at my current company is next Wednesday. Then it’s off to Paris, and then I start the new gig when I get back.

The long-time readers among you will probably feel like you have déjà vu, but in my defense, I’ve been at my current job for almost two years. That’s a lifetime in the media world. Plus, I’m super excited about the new opportunity.

I’ve got a good feeling about 2014, you guys.

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Marathon Training Update: 20 miles, part deux

My blog has been SO boring lately. I promise there are a lot of things in the works, but trust me when I tell you that I am protecting you from an unnecessary amount of thoughts on running. It’s all I think about, but I know it’s not that interesting to most of you.

Here’s a brief recap for those of you who do care.

The second 20 was a bit harder than the first. I think , in general, my legs (and especially my ankles) are just more tired and sore than they were two weeks ago. I also ran this 20 slightly faster. We’re talking about the difference of seconds per mile, but I think it affected things. I ran the first six miles way too quickly, and I could definitely feel it in the second half of the run. (I was excited because I started the run feeling really good, which doesn’t always happen.)

Save it for race day, Justine.

Other than that, not much else changed. I recently purchased what will be my race day shoes, so I’ve been breaking those in. I also tried a new type of running fuel, these gummies called Sharkies. I liked them a lot, both for flavor and the little boost they have me, so hopefully I can find more to bring to Paris.

Eating while running is really the weirdest thing. I always want to explain to people that I’m running 20 miles; I’m not just incapable of going on a jog without snacks.

I still haven’t tried any of the goos or gels. Even thinking about that texture tickles my gag reflex, and the gummies have been working just fine for me.

Speaking of eating (and when am I not), I’ve also narrowed down the best pre-race meal for me: oatmeal with blueberries, agave, and chopped nuts with a coffee with soy milk and a glass of half G2/half water.

Not all mixed together…the oatmeal, the coffee, and the Gatorade/water mix.

So I’m thinking Gatorade is another thing I might have to smuggle in…I recall Joey and I having difficulty finding it when we had food poisoning on our honeymoon.

As for my post-race meal…um, how about everything?

Only two weeks until the race! Any last-minutes advice from runner friends?

(I promise the next post will have nothing to do with running.)

Bad runs.

It would be unreasonable to expect that every run would go swimmingly, right?

Enter the bad run: Your legs feel like lead, your stomach bothers you, you can’t focus (or rather, unfocus and get into that weird, mindless running headspace), and the miles seem to molasses-crawl past.

It’s not the same thing as hitting “the wall” because, in this case, the wall smacks you in the face the moment you step outside.

I’m sure I had bad runs when I was a casual runner. I remember how sometimes four miles just flew by, and other times I was killing myself to eke out two. But when you’re staring down an 8-, 12-, or 16-mile jaunt, a bad run just stings a little bit harder.

Saturday’s “12-miles” was a bad run.

From the moment I woke up, I just wasn’t feeling it. Determined to shake it off (and with, you know, this little thing called the actual marathon winking at me from three weeks away), I laced up my new sneakers and donned my fleece.

Because, oh yeah, it’s still freezing. This weekend’s run was a delightful mix of just barely uncomfortably warm (when the wind was at my back) and face-numbingly freezing (when I was running into the wind).

So, you know, generally awful.

I tried all my usual running tricks, including reminding myself how lucky I am to be able to run. Including trying to remember when I couldn’t run because I was injured, and how jealous I was whenever someone sprinted past me on the sidewalk. Nothing worked.

In the end, I ran about eight miles. And felt like a total loser.

I’m trying to shake it off, though. I do think I could have forced myself to finish those last four miles. But here’s the thing: I don’t want to hate running. If I had made myself pound the pavement a little while longer, I think I would have ended the run hating it and dreading my next run.

And considering I have another 20-miler next weekend, that’s not a place I want to go to mentally.

So I cheated one of my runs. I don’t actually think this will hurt me significantly. This time next week, I’ll hopefully be back to my confident I’m-running-a-marathon-and-you-can’t-stop-me self.

Any other runners have experience with bad runs? How do you shake it off (in case I wake up on April 6th with a bad case of dead legs)?

Marathon Training Update: 20 Miles

I have a confession: I have been dreading my first 20-mile run from the moment the idea of doing a full marathon popped into my head.

I solved this problem in my typical fashion of, well, ignoring it until the actual day arrived.

I mean, I was prepared. I had my snacks (I’ve been chewing on gummy candies…I need to get something that is actually made for runners), I was well hydrated (I’ve learned that the only thing that keeps me from drying out is to drink at least half a bottle of Gatorade G2 cut with equal parts water an hour before I run), and I had my course mapped out (starting at the bottom of Manhattan, then running 11 miles up the West Side Highway and then 9 miles back down). I was wearing one of my favorite running outfits. I had my music. I was ready.

But as I hopped off the subway in the financial district, I was utterly terrified.

It sounds silly, but the long runs, especially those that are a distance I have never run before, give me an extreme amount of anxiety. Anything could happen. I could get injured or feel horribly sick miles from home.

Okay, those are really the only bad things that could happen. BUT STILL.

In the end, though, I knew I had to just do it. I’ve found it helps if I don’t think of it as running 20 miles, but rather that I am going to run for three hours. I hate wasting time in general, and I tend to stress out when I feel like something is taking up too much time. If I just remind myself that I have cut these three hours out of my life just for running, though, my stress level calms and everything feels more manageable.

So I just started running.

I kept my pace slow-ish, running the first half at about an 8:30 mile pace. I also made myself stop at almost every bathroom for a quick drink of water, rather than waiting until I felt thirsty as I had done in the past. I deliberately planned to be at my least favorite part of the course (everything north of 90th street because there’s no where to stop for water or bathroom breaks) midway through the run — I knew if anything was going to go wrong for me, it would be in the last third of the run, so I wanted to be closer to civilization.

Around mile 11, I started to feel tired. But I told myself that I had run so much farther than that multiple times, so I wasn’t allowed to be tired yet. (I actually said this to myself in my head.)

Around mile 16, I was definitely tired (my pace was a solid 9:13), but felt pretty good otherwise. I started to let myself believe that this run was actually going to go well. When I hit 18 and felt infinitely better than I had during my 18-mile run, I was elated. A bad run can really mess with your head (“Am I just incapable of running this far? Has this whole thing been a horrible mistake?”), but a good run is equally as vindicating.

At mile 19, I let myself pick up the pace mostly because I just wanted it all to be over.

When I finally hit 20 and got to stop running, it was like a gift.

The first thing I did after I stopped running: take this picture.
The first thing I did after I stopped running: take this picture.

I finished in just under three hours, which makes me feel pretty good about my race-day pace. It also helped that Saturday was the first spring-like day we’ve had in NYC in about four months — hopefully the weather will be similar in Paris once April 6th rolls around.

All in all, I’m just so relieved it went well. It’s so easy for me to start doubting this whole endeavor (and I do pretty regularly), but a smooth, non-painful run is tremendously encouraging.

You guys. I really think I’m going to run a marathon now.

Hope everyone else had a great weekend too!