From the valley to the hill (part 2)

So there I was, training Miss (southern state) USA to do the job that I should’ve received. Every day I felt like I was eating a HUGE slice of Humble Pie as I patiently worked with her and taught her everything I knew.  I had to constantly swallow my pride and pray daily that I would be helpful and kind to her.  I also felt like this was some kind of a test, and I was determined to pass, even if it was just a matter of sheer willpower.  The test was from God, and I felt like He was asking me: “can you trust me?  Can you choose to be humble and kind?”  Over time, Miss southern state USA and I became great friends and we both opened up to each other about our lives, and I was actually glad that we shared an office as I really started to like her as a person.  Slowly, my jealousy/comparison towards her faded away.  I came to the conclusion that it was not God’s plan for my life to get  that lobbyist job at CWA.  Maybe God had something else planned for me. IMG_9548_3

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I also decided to face the comments from my boss as to why I didn’t get the job in the first place. Even though I had the experience that Miss southern state USA lacked, I knew my boss was right about her other comments.  I didn’t dress very professionally and I did tend to ramble on (note to self, prepare 4 more blog posts on this topic).  🙂 Even though I was only making $22,000 a year, I decided to go out and buy some suits (not swim) that were a lot more professional than the long, flowing sundresses that I would normally wear.  I started to catch myself when I was speaking and tried to “bottom line” the things I would say.  As to the comments about poise and confidence, I knew that was a symptom to a deeper problem, so I prayed about that. In so many words, God showed me that my identity, the core of who I was, was not in the correct place. In fact, it was in two incorrect places.  First, I determined my sense of worth by what others thought of me.  If they liked me and approved of me, then I felt good about myself and felt that I had value. Secondly, my identity was in “being successful” at my job.  I could write an entire blog post on my identity being in my career, and maybe I will someday, but the ‘bottom line’ is that I needed to put my identity in what God thought of me, namely that I was his daughter, He loved me, He would never leave me, and He had a plan for my life.  He would guide and shepherd my career, and I could trust in Him.  A job could change, but the fact that He loved me would not.

About the time of this spiritual transformation, something very odd happened. One night, I had a dream.  Now, normally I never dream, and this one was very unusual. I had a dream about working for a specific member of Congress – a specific Congresswoman to be precise.

As I was mentioning this over lunch with a group of lady friends at CWA, one of them piped up and said “hey, I know someone at the Congresswoman’s office. His name is Erik. You should give him a call and see if he has a job opening!”

Even though I wasn’t looking to leave CWA, I decided to give him a call. This is how it went: “Hey Erik (not my husband Erik). This is Heather.  So and So, a mutual friend with whom I work,  said I should call you.  I am calling because, I know this sounds crazy, but I had dream about working for your office and I was wondering if you had any job openings?”

I waited with baited breath, wondering if he would think I was a nut job about to start into the black helocopters.

After a long pause, he said “it’s funny you should be calling me. We DO have a job opening. It’s for a Legislative Assistant on social issues.  Send me your resume over right now and I will get you an interview!”

I couldn’t believe it! The job sounded perfect for me!  If this guy kept his word, I would have an interview to work as a staffer on Capitol Hill!

I quickly sent him my resume and waited for the phone to ring. Erik kept his word and I went in for an interview a few days later.  The funny thing is that I really had no huge ambitions to work on the Hill.  I was perfectly content to spend the next several years working with “outside groups” to pass legislation and to influence Federal policy.  Basically, I was content to stay on the outside.  Now I had a chance to become a real “insider.”  But was this what I wanted?

I had three interviews; first with the Legislative Director (LD), then a few days later with the Chief of Staff (CoS), and then I had THE BIG interview with Congresswoman herself.   The four of us met a few days later at the House Dining Room over lunch.  Now here is where I am going to be completely honest with you.  The boss lady was an amazing Congresswoman but the interview did not go that well because there were a lot of awkward silences over lunch.  It turns out the Congresswoman was not much of a small talker and the CoS and LD didn’t contribute much either.  It was a long, awkward, quiet, strange “interview lunch” where the Congresswoman would ask me a question, I would answer it, and then she would literally say nothing for several moments.  I’m not super great with awkward silences, and since I felt like I had to impress them and sell myself, I began to force small talk in between questions.  I felt uncomfortable and fidgety and nervous the entire time and I kept thinking to myself “there is no way I am going to get the job. This interview sucks.”

After the ‘awesome’ interview ended and we were all in the elevator heading back towards daylight, the Congresswoman turned toward me and asked me a very simple, direction question: “so tell me about your Hill experience.”

Too bad this was about the very worst question she could have asked me.

‘Ummmm….I have none’ I thought to myself. But you’re not supposed to say that.  You’re supposed to say something that sounds really good and impressive in that moment.  But honestly, since I’m not a particularly cool person, I just blurted out my most honest answer.

“Uh, I actually don’t have any Hill experience.”

Really. That’s what I said.  That’s all I had.  No Hill experience and my new suit.

The CoS swooped in to rescue me and said “this is true. However, Heather has worked at CWA for two years in Legislation and she has PAC experience and blah blah blah blah” about all the other experience I had.

The Congresswoman, being the no-nonsense person she was, who was also very good at bottom lining, then said: “well, you must be pretty good then. Because it’s between you and the other girl. And the other girl has two years of Hill experience.  My staff rated you two equally, so you must be pretty good.”  After that, she abruptly turned and got off the elevator.  And that was the end of my interview.

I’ve never felt more uncertain after an interview as I did after that one in particular. But since I wasn’t particularly “looking” to work on the Hill, I thought that I had nothing to lose.

A few days later the call came, and the CoS informed me that I didn’t get the job, the other gal with experience did, but he told me that if they had any openings in the future, he would give me a call.

I wasn’t overly deflated because deep in my heart I was not emotionally ready to leave CWA. Despite getting passed over, I still loved it there and had many relationships that I didn’t want to lose.

However, after several weeks, something inside of me changed and I found myself ready to leave CWA and praying that I would get a call from that same Hill office, offering me a job. I didn’t think I had a very good chance to get that call as I didn’t think they would have another opening so soon.  But after all of my lessons in humility and my self-identity, I was finally ready to leave CWA.

And then one day a few weeks later, the phone did ring. On the other end of the line was the CoS for the Congresswoman.  He said “Hey Heather!  Do you have a minute?  We need to talk.”

I looked over at Miss southern state USA and held my breath as I said: “I sure do.”

His next few words would literally change the trajectory of my career going forward.

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11 thoughts on “From the valley to the hill (part 2)

    1. Mindy, remember what I said about order….I can only handle so much disorder before my creativity can come back!! I promise I will continue this story as soon as I can!! Til then, you’re just going to have to hang on to my cliffhanger ending…. 🙂

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