You can’t quite put your finger on it, but you know that something isn’t quite right. On paper it should be fine. In reality, it’s not. You don’t feel right. You don’t feel comfortable in that particular setting, with those particular people, at that particular time.
Why? Why do we feel out of place in certain situations?
These questions came to me when I was placed in a particular situation the other day. I have never felt more out of place.
I’m in the process of changing career, so I’m applying for lots of roles and going for lots of interviews.
I apply to this particular role at 8:34am one day; by 9:27am I am invited for an initial interview that afternoon. Clearly, they are desperate to hire.
So, I turn up to the venue in plenty of time: a large office block in the city centre, which is shared by many different companies. I sign in and ask the receptionist for directions to the interview and he points me in the direction of the corridor behind him. Keep going, it’s the last office on the right hand side. Uncertainly, I wander down the corridor and, when I reach the end, I find a small room – no bigger than my lounge – that is filled with people.
No sign on the door. I gingerly ask the second receptionist of the day if I’m the right place. I am. I’m handed a clipboard with a form to fill out for my troubles.
Now, this may not sound unusual. But trust me, it felt it.
So I take a seat and start to fill in my form, but my attention is drawn to the people around me. I try not to be judgmental, but this is a long way from my previous experience of interviews. I, along with the majority of professionals, believe that appearance and first impressions matter. Therefore, I am wearing a white blouse, black skirt and black blazer as befits an interview. My fellow candidates, however, are dressed for the full array of occasions.
We have outfits for:
- Playing tennis (a cap, baggy shirt and shorts, trainers)
- A night out (sparkly top, tight jeans, knee-high leather boots)
- A night-in in front of the TV (black tracksuit, Ugg boots)
Not only do I feel outrageously over-dressed, but I am also questioning whether this is the right job and company for me, even though these people don’t work for the company!
I couldn’t help it; I felt uncomfortable and left with a really negative feeling about the whole experience.
I felt like this rubber duck. But worse.
This rubber duck may feel out of place trying to swim amongst a flock of swans, but imagine if the flock was made up of boots, fish and remote controlled boats. The latter was my experience. I was totally confused!
But in such a moment, is it just the rubber duck that feels out of place? Or do the others also feel that they are misplaced?
It is such a microcosm of society that throws up these strange juxtapositions that are not always obvious in every day life.
Isn’t society a rich and varied place?!