I’ve had several jobs before joining the military. I don’t remember the interviews very well, which I guess makes them not memorable. To be honest, I think most of them consisted of just asking me questions and then giving me the job anyway.
Interviewer: “Are you going to steal anything?”
Interviewer: “Cake or pie?”
Me: “Whichever you like, I guess.”
Interviewer: “You’re hired! Start right now.”
It really didn’t matter what job I applied for in the early days. Maybe I set my sights low, but I still got 80% of what I applied for. It wasn’t until 9/11/2001 when I started having issues finding work. That is, until I decided on the Air Force. I think most people would rather hear about that than how I got a job selling housewares for Montgomery Ward, or swept up popcorn at a movie theater, or assembled barbecues, or mixed paint, or wore a tie while delivering office mail, or sold dolls and collectable plates, or– Yes. Dolls. I sold dolls.
As I was saying, one day I decided to join the military. My decision had something to do with unemployment checks and terrorism. There were other reasons, but I’m going to try to stay on topic because that list is lengthy.
I walked into the Air Force recruiter’s office and said I’d like a job. He asked why I wanted to join the Air Force and I told him my reasons. He asked why the Air Force specifically and I said I wanted skills other than killing people and blowing stuff up, something that would be useful when I got out. There’s not a high demand for infantry in the corporate world…yet.
Having past the first test, the test of sincerity and wit, I set about working on the background check paperwork. The packet was probably close to 30 pages and involved trying to find my closest relatives for their addresses, which I didn’t have. I’m a bad relative.
I walked back into the recruiter’s office about a week later and we went through the background package. The whole thing had to be put into a computer, waivers had to be signed, then it all had to be approved. While it was going through the approval process, my recruiter took me into D.C. to take the Armed Service Vocational Aptitude Battery because, for a reason that angers me to this day, I never took it in high school. This test was basically to see what I might be good at. If I remember correctly, I was a little hungover. When I got the results back, I was just as surprised as the recruiter but I think for different reasons.
Recruiter: Do you know what these scores mean?
Me: I know. I totally could have done better.
Recruiter: No, these are really good. You’ve qualified for any job in the Air Force.
Me: Oh. Uh…OK then.
After a month, all the paperwork was finished and I was ready for the physical. This was all done at the Military Entrance Processing Station in Baltimore beginning in the early morning. There both I and the doctors learned I can walk like a duck, lift things over my head, and I don’t pass out at the sight of my blood being drawn…unlike the guy next to me who passed out while they were drawing my blood. While he was unconscious I asked not to be stationed anywhere with him. There was also an incident with a doctor shrieking because she found a tick on someone during a physical. Not a bad morning overall.
I passed the battery of tests and in the afternoon went on to round two: picking a job…or five. This was a hassle because my goal had been to leave the military with viable skills and the guy helping pick a job was being, um, difficult. The military has really cool sounding jobs that have civilian equivalent jobs that aren’t as cool sounding. For instance, Ecology in the military is a bug exterminator in the civilian world. The guy and I went back and forth over a few jobs; he wanted someone to fill needed positions in the military and I wanted to get the most out of my high test scores and do something I liked doing.
Job finder guy: “What about ‘driver?'”
Me: “As in vehicles? No thanks. What about photography?”
Job finder guy: “Says here you’re color blind. How about electronics?”
Me: “I thought you said I was color blind.”
I said I was going to walk out because clearly the Air Force didn’t have any jobs I wanted to do and nothing that would use my talents. He turned a deeper red and said he was going to use the bathroom. Should someone use his computer while he was gone to find jobs, said person would have to pick five before he got back.
I had five jobs selected in under two minutes. Computer networking, Public Affairs…No wonder he didn’t list those. They sounded exactly like what I wanted to do, not what the military wanted.
He told me they weren’t guaranteed jobs and that I shouldn’t expect to hear anything soon nor get the job I wanted. I had a phone call two days later seeing if I wanted to work in a hospital stock room. I said no thank you. I was told again that jobs don’t come along very often and it’d be best just to take something. I gritted my teeth and said I would take my chances with the next job. He reminded me yet again that they don’t happen that often and it was difficult to get a job off my selection list. I said thank you and was rather polite considering.
An hour later the guy called me and said he had a job in Public Affairs if I wanted it. I rolled my eyes. He said the girl that had the position got pregnant and wasn’t able to go to basic training. I said I would take it. He told me I started Tuesday, and four days later I shipped off to Texas to continue the job process.
Continue the process? Yep, I technically worked for the Air Force but didn’t have the Public Affairs job yet. There was always the risk of sucking at something and getting reassigned.
About three weeks into basic military training I met with what I believe was a job counselor to make sure I was happy with my choice, and I think she was also responsible for recommending to continue me on to get trained for the job. I believe part of the interview was to make sure I didn’t have a speech impediment in case I ever had to do an on camera interview. She told me I was the first person she ever met to have Pubic Affairs as a guaranteed job coming in to the Air Force. I also took a typing test that day on an honest to God typewriter. That was the last time I saw a typewriter.
I graduated basic training and went to my technical training school where I learned my job. Again, there was still the risk of failing and being reassigned. It wasn’t until I was near graduation that I was assigned a Public Affairs job at an Air Force base. Start to finish, I’d say it was about a 10 month job interview and qualification process.