Friday, 1 August 2014

This Takes The Top Spot For One Of The Most Bizarre Meetings I Have Ever Had

I decided to explore the opportunity when he sent a message saying he had a job offer he'd like me to consider. I met with him, the headhunter. It wasn’t a bad meeting. I felt excited about having a chat with the client. He had told me the client was already sold and just wanted to meet me so we could finalize. I thought the role he wanted to fill was interesting and challenging, and the industry, not one I knew much about. For me, that presented the perfect opportunity to grow. I didn’t know this client; his name, company or anything else for that matter. The headhunter said he didn't want anyone to have undue advantage. Fair enough, I thought.

I looked at the furnishing in the building and the professional way everyone, from the gate to the reception, discharged their duties, and for the first time in years,
I thought about working with someone full time. The space spoke excellence and that told me a lot about how the mind of the employer worked. 

We got to his office. We, being myself and two people from the headhunting firm. It was one of the most spacious, impeccably furnished spaces I had ever seen. We were ushered to a waiting area where we sat. My first inclination that something was off was when the client got to the conference table where we sat and changed everyone’s sitting position; pointing at each person and then pointing at a particular chair the person should sit on.

And then the chat began; only it wasn’t a chat. Because while I sat there looking forward to discussing ways I could help solve the concerns that necessitated their search, this man, the CEO, treated me like I was a deformed illiterate begging for the job of a bank manager.  It started with him reeling out all his achievements and how his firm was an industry leader and how his services were in demand and how much money they made and how everything was just super awesome. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do with all that information and if I needed to hear it at all.

I brought out my notebook with the intention of scribbling some important things I expected he would say. I hadn’t written a phrase when he instructed me to stop writing because he wasn’t looking for a stenographer. I managed to contain my shock.

His questions left me feeling very puzzled. If I tried to answer them and he didn’t agree, then I was wrong. He answered most of his own questions; finished sentences I started or didn’t let me talk at all. Within minutes, I had this feeling that I wasn’t supposed to have an opinion and even if I did, it didn’t count. I looked at the headhunters, they were there, quiet. It was me against a beast and two men who were too timid to intervene.

For some questions he asked, I told him I couldn’t answer them until he provided answers to questions I wanted to ask him. He looked honestly stupefied and warned that if I wasn’t careful, he would send me out of his office. I smiled. When he kept asking and I kept insisting my answers were dependent on information I didn’t have, he let me ask them.

Every question was greeted with a smirk, scoff, snicker or patronizing laugh. His answers were unbelievable and till this day, I’m proud of the restraint I displayed while in his office.

I knew it was time to leave when he asked if I was married or not. I told him I wasn’t. He asked why. I found it annoyingly intrusive especially because it had no bearing on my ability to deliver on the job. He told me he was asking because I will most likely not succeed. His reasons:
  1. He was going to give me a recent, used version of some top-range car
  2. I was going to meet really high-level people
  3. And make so much money
  4. And be so busy I will not have time for a relationship
  5. Sooner or later, I would be under so much pressure to settle down because I'm getting old
  6.  This pressure will make me settle for a stupid, lazy guy with no future ambition who will be intimidated by all my new-found glory
  7. Based on all of the above, the guy will ask me to stop working and he, after so much time and effort, will lose his ‘investment.’ 
Based on his many years on earth and past experiences, most ladies were that desperate and  that stupid so my chances of not ending up with such a guy was really slim.

I was vexed in my spirit and felt sickened by his assumptions. He assumed the car he would give me was better than what I was already driving, that I was not already dealing with high-level people, that I wasn't busy or didn't have money. He assumed the pressure to marry will make me take the last bread on the shelf or that I was even searching at all.

And then there was the fact that I knew different. I know good men; I am surrounded by them. Men who have cheered the women in their lives in secret and in public and wholeheartedly let them blossom. I know women, strong, powerful women who have coached me and who I have admired from afar - Ifueko Omoigui-Okauru , Ibukun Awosika, Omobola Johnson, Adeola Azeez, Funke Bucknor Obruthe, Yewande Zaccheaus, Okonjo Iweala, Maryam Uwais. I can go on.

When I eventually walked out, the headhunters came after me; they felt the job was mine if I wanted it. I didn’t. I did not hesitate, like my friend will say, to give them the ‘length of my tongue’ and it was simply this: If the man had already decoded my intentions (Which was that I wanted money) and drawn his conclusions before he got a chance to meet me, then there was very little I could do. I’d rather not live my life trying to prove someone wrong, trying to get someone’s validation or approval, or putting myself in a situation where anyone feels they did me a favour.  And if he honestly thought I was going to be swayed by a tokunbo car and all the glory that awaited in his immaculately furnished company, then he had no clue who he was dealing with in the first place.  And that loss is his, not mine.

©Naomi Lucas
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hmmnnn... It's very sad, worrisome how many of these 'Nigerian' employers treat other human beings. PROFESSIONALISM at its worst.