Interview Excitement (with a dash of neurosis)

So technically, I’m status post one interview, but as it was my home institution and felt more like chatting with friends, I’m still feeling considerably anxious about my first away interview next week. Cue that cute scene from The Parent Trap, where the mom asks, “Anxious-nervous, like he’s totally, completely dreading it? Or anxious-excited, like he’s looking forward to it?” In this case, my answer is a resounding “Both.” Hah!

My next stop on the trail is a program where I could really see myself and also happens to be in a city that works well for my currently long-distance fiancé to move to. Needless to say, I’m freaking out a little! Given my type A over-planning tendencies, I’m trying to keep calm and focused by figuring out all the details, large and small, that someone like me could ever possibly stress over. I also encountered a few unexpected snags when preparing for my home interview last week, so I’m trying to fix those as well.

Me being me (i.e. neurotic), here are some of the things I’m obsessing a little too much over (and what I’m doing to manage it), ranging from the practical and reasonable to the less so:

Having enough thoughtful questions to ask about the program. Based on my last interview, there were WAY more opportunities when they stopped and asked for questions than I expected. I actually found myself running out of questions, especially when some of the other interviewees asked my question before I could. Part of this may be because it was my home program and I know a lot about it, but I won’t be caught in that situation again. I’ve been using this website as a launching off point to brainstorm types of questions, then picked out areas I was particularly interested in. Using the framework of my own background (non-trad, former teacher), I dressed up the questions to be a little more exciting.

By the same token, knowing enough about the program from its website not to ask stupid questions! Even fancy-sounding questions like, “How are your residents involved in advocacy work?” can sometimes be easily answered by a webpage illustrating the program’s Advocacy elective. Oops! Even if you do your homework, these programs can still blur together, making it hard to keep them straight. My plan isn’t anything groundbreaking; I’m just going to study what I can in advance and make sure I have notes with me to cram with the night before (probably cut and pasted from each website into a word document in case of a no-internet emergency).

Researching transportation between the airport/the program/my hotel. It’s looking like I’ll have to pay for Ubers and taxis (and my wallet is weeping) in most places, but I’m holding out hope that in some cities I’ll be able to use public transit, yay! As much as I’d love to take a bit of time the night before or after the interview to scope out the area a little by car, renting one just doesn’t seem worth the money or hassle. I’m hoping some of the neighborhoods (and the weather) will be walking-friendly and that I won’t be in such a rush to get to the airport that I miss out on this opportunity.

The right outfit for the pre-interview dinner. Had no idea this would be a problem until I started getting dressed for my first one and realized that my standby silk shirtdress suddenly looked too short if I wore heels but I didn’t have a pair of flats that matched (a tragic misstep from overzealously Marie Kondo’ing, whereby I trashed all but the most beloved ankle boots and oxfords that I wear to work every day).

After vetoing my dress, all my remaining options–especially in light of my newly discovered lack of non-grubby flats–either seemed way too business-y and formal, or else far too casual. I managed to muddle my way into something relatively appropriate and got some much-needed inspiration from the girls at that dinner, finally splurging on a great dress that works in a variety of settings that I’m pretty sure I will wear to every single one of these events! Here are a few pieces I think would work for everything from happy hour to dinner at an attending’s house: budgetmoderate (plus, in-store student discount!), or splurge.

How much to pack and what to carry it in. I don’t really have a proper suitcase, and the one I do have annoys me for more than a few reasons, mostly due to it being larger than I’d like. It is still a carry-on, but since I try to pack light, I either have to resign myself to objects rattling around in the half-empty thing or stuff it with more than I need and pay the price when it comes time to heaving it into the overhead compartment.

Which brings me to my second problem relating to its size–it’s kind of difficult to fit it into the overhead compartments. In order to be guaranteed a spot for this monstrosity, I have to be one of those people who loiters and inches and shoves to get onto the plane early (or risk the plane’s storage space filling up, leading to the airline checking and inevitably losing the thing when I make my connection…side note, take it from a friend of mine who was once forced to interview in her travel clothes–pack something interview-appropriate in the purse or bag that will for sure make it on the plane with you).

Anyway, I hate having to be one of those people who crowds the gate. I’m going to be a huge whiner for a minute here. I hate wondering if I’m cutting the line as I creep forward or if I really do have an earlier boarding zone than the other people rushing the gate, I hate being on the plane for longer than I have to be as I wait for everyone else to board, I hate being stalled in the aisle while everyone tries to stow their suitcases overhead, and I especially hate waiting forever in the jetway, which is always either far too warm or far too cold. In my ideal world, I’d be the last one to board, stepping on just as the traffic in the aisle cleared and moments before the plane pulled away from the gate. And of course, my bag would have a nice little spot waiting for it. A girl can dream.

All this to say that interviewing, cheap flights with connections, and the stinkin’ airline industry are literally cramping my spoiled travel style. So, I took it upon myself to find a new suitcase. My dad, a frequent flyer, advised me that–while infinitely attractive given my significant plane-boarding needs–the 15″ wheeled totes intended for stowing underneath seats just won’t have enough space for me. Maybe for an overnight, but not for some of the multi-stop trips I have planned. Alas.

So, off I went to Macy’s the other day to see some options in person and I found this little baby (then promptly went home to purchase it online for $50 cheaper on Amazon). It’s probably still too big to fit underneath a seat, but far more compact, far more functional, and–if I’m being honest, here–far cuter than my old option. I’m excited for it to arrive today, to test packing it up and see if it has enough room to travel for 1-2 weeks. Yes, I’m already planning exactly how much can come with me on a five-interview-long run. Yes, I have a problem.

Anyway, enough with the ranting–I promise I’m not usually so negative. How are you preparing for your interviews? Any tips, concerns, or thoughts to share?


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