I guess I COULD walk 500 miles.
February 25, 2013 12:04 AM   Subscribe

Interview in a city I don't live in-- what to do? (College graduate edition.)

I'm currently working as a teller at a bank in my hometown, where I moved temporarily after college to save money and take care of some debts. In actuality, jobs were scarce, and I was unemployed for 8+ months and got even further in debt trying to stay afloat. This was bumming me out pretty badly until recently, when I was finally hired at my current bank job. As of right now I have no savings (haven't gotten my first paycheck yet) and about $300/mo. in bills. I don't pay rent at the moment. My plan was to live at home saving money and paying off debts for another 6 months to a year-- I applied to some paid internships across the country for the summer, which I would take if I got in, but as they're quite competitive I've been planning as though I will be at home for awhile.

During my period of unemployment I was applying mostly to jobs at home but also occasionally to jobs in my (ex-)College City, where my boyfriend and I are planning to move next fall. The original plan was for me to get on my feet financially at home and then make the move to College City next September. However, since I was having such poor luck at home in the last few months, I thought I would try my luck applying there instead, even while living long-distance. As luck would have it, right before I was hired at my current job at home, I applied for a job in the city that fit my past work experience very well. The job is seemingly secure, full-time, and pays about twice as much as my current teller job. It's a Real Job in ways that my teller job isn't. I just got an e-mail today asking if I could attend an in-person interview this week. The interview would be in my college city, about 500 miles away.

I'm conflicted; I really am excited about the job, but on the other hand, I literally JUST settled into my current relief about being newly employed. More significantly, I live about 500 miles away-- to attend an interview this week I would either have to pay about $400 in airfare (don't have it! could borrow it) or about $150 in bus/train fare + hours on a bus and hours of sleeplessness. I would also miss one or two days of work at my current job for travel.

I've thought about e-mailing them that I'm currently out of town, but could schedule an interview early the week after next (cheaper airfare), and that I'm also available for Skype or phone interviews during this week. However, I know that's basically like painting the words "high-maintenance" on my application and most likely will cut my chances down.

I'm lacking any real adult wisdom or guidance on this matter (my parents don't really get why I'd want Job #2, though it's on my career track, while bank tellering is not). Plus, I grew up in a rural/poor community and don't really understand the norms of the career path, so I have no idea whether flying to an interview like this is supremely stupid or something people do all the time. Basically I want to know, what would you, the reader, would do-- blow money on the expensive airfare and show up fresh and on time, send an e-mail asking for slightly alternate arrangements, try to finagle a shuttle-bus-plane route that will save money but result in 36 very unhappy hours, or just wait until my situation is more stable (this fall) and I can move comfortably to my target city?

This job does seem uniquely tailored to me at my current level of experience, plus it's working for an organization I'd love to work for, but it's not exactly a prestigious foot-in-the-door at my dream job or anything. Rather, it would provide a year or two of professional experience which is difficult to get at the entry-level, if I were to get a job offer-- and would provide a much higher salary, making it easier to save + pay down debts + live comfortably with my boyfriend. But blowing $400 just seems stupid, especially if I bomb the interview-- I'm going to feel like an idiot. But I spend much of my life feeling like an idiot who Tried, so maybe Trying is my thing.

(In terms of moving to the city if I did get the job, I have friends/a boyfriend to crash with until I'm able to get on my feet, so I'm not worried about what comes after the job-- just what the least stupid thing to do is after being offered an interview.)

I would say that my goals right now are to 1) gain experience on my tentative career track, 2) amass savings and pay off some of my minor debts, and 3) move in with my boyfriend in College City. Bank tellering is a pretty sweet gig for someone who was expecting to be earning minimum wage after 8 mos. of unemployment, but I'm not interested in finance or sticking in my hometown much longer, and the pay isn't that much better than minimum wage. The interview job is with an organization affiliated with my college, and advertised the job through our career network.

Just to say in advance, there's no rail service between my (rural) hometown and the city-- there's a Greyhound route (12 hours), and a shuttle + Megabus route (roughly the same time cost but cheaper). I can't drive, unfortunately, and airfare is a little steep because I'm flying out of such a small airport. Is there a solution I'm forgetting? Also, sorry this is more an I'm-a-recent-graduate-how-do-I-live-in-the-world question than a professional/work question.

Thanks so much, everyone.
posted by stoneandstar to Work & Money (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
$400 is such a small amount of debt to add for the opportunity, not just for the job but to get you out of your hometown. Even if you don't get the job, you get a connection and interview experience.
posted by Violet Hour at 12:14 AM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you've led College City job to believe you live there? Because if they know you're not yet, you could always casually ask if they pay travel expenses. I've had two interviews where my travel expenses were paid for after I brought it up. Plus if they do know but won't pay travel, I would absolutely ask for an initial Skype or phone call so you only have to pay if you know you're a serious contender.

If not, in your situation, I'd probably go the email route you already outlined. It doesn't seem unreasonable to me that you may not be available on short notice.
posted by vegartanipla at 12:26 AM on February 25, 2013 [9 favorites]

I would ask if we could meet Monday, then leave Friday night and take a bus, then buy a one-way plane ticket back to avoid missing much time from your current job. That's if all of this, including airfare, adds up to substantially less than just a round trip ticket. Otherwise I'd fly. But definitely go for it.

I'd let them know that you will be traveling so that they can schedule any necessary in person interviews while you're there.
posted by salvia at 12:46 AM on February 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

airfare is a little steep because I'm flying out of such a small airport

Is there a bus/shuttle to a larger hub on the way, which you could fly from for cheaper?
posted by lollusc at 1:55 AM on February 25, 2013

I would go for it if you can work any way to do so. You don't want to get stuck where you are. However,do you have a way of taking the job if it is offered? Can you move that quickly? Have a plan if you go.
posted by emjaybee at 5:14 AM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I presume you know what the world is like right now, in terms of how increasingly difficult it is for people like us who do not come from rich places to succeed. You would be out of your mind to not move heaven and earth to get to this job interview, and you would be equally misguided not to prepare for it so that you can ace the interview.

You can of course ask politely (you seem very polite, that's probably not a problem) if it's possible to do it next week, just due to your work schedule (do not go on and on about yourself!), but if there's any pushback, bite that bullet.

I cannot imagine the regret you will feel later down the road when you are searching for jobs if you do not hustle to make this interview happen.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 5:58 AM on February 25, 2013 [4 favorites]

I'm going to disagree on the value of the initial job interview. It's just that, it is an initial interview for an entry level position. They could be interviewing 20 people. Corporate recruiters are people too. They have a heart, and a brain. Well, most of them do anyway.

I would call immediately and explain that you have returned home since you applied and that you are interested and would move back for the job, but would like to do the initial interview via phone since you are not local. Since you said it pays double your banker tell pay this is a $30K a year professional type job, right. It is absolutely 100% reasonable to expect them to pay expenses for the interview. They might be interviewing only local candidates to avoid that, but that is fine and that is why you offer to do it by phone.

I wouldn't spend money I don't have to go to the first interview though. Honestly, the odds are probably not on your side. You are one of 5, 10, 20 or more that they are interviewing.
posted by COD at 6:40 AM on February 25, 2013 [9 favorites]

Say it would be difficult but possible to come in this week if they're making a decision right away, but that if you could come in next week that would be better. AT LEAST do a phone interview first, to see how serious they are. They might be thinking "eh, she's not really what we're looking for but she's local, we might as well interview her." (I have had hiring committees straight up tell me that when I went in for an interview. Gee, thanks.)

There is no guarantee you're going to get this job just because you go to the interview. Of course you will regret it if you don't go and then aren't able to find a job later, but you will also regret it you spend $400 and take days off work and then realize as soon as you get there that it's a terrible fit or they've already got an internal candidate and are just bringing you in because they have to interview ten people for the job or whatever.

On preview, what COD said.
posted by mskyle at 6:43 AM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yeah, don't put too much weight on this interview - in a employer's market, especially for an entry-level, they are probably interviewing dozens of candidates.

I say ask for the skype interview, or see if they pay travel,
posted by Think_Long at 6:53 AM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

If this is the first interview, I'd see if I could do it over the phone. It's not optimal, but it can keep you from wasting time and money. I would call the person back and tell them your dilemma.

"Hello, I'm VERY excited about being asked in for an interview, however, I'm located in another city right now with a demanding work schedule. Is it possible to do a preliminary interview via telephone? That way we can both see if this is a good fit, and if so, then we can arrange to meet in person."

If you are one of 10 folks being considered, and this is the first round of interviews, then it would be entirely appropriate.

If you've made the short list of folks (how likely is that at this point?) then it makes more sense to sacrifice to be there in person.

I wouldn't turn myself inside out for the first round of interviews. Only if I made it to the second round would I consider spending my money and time to interview.

Sure, the job looks good on paper, but what if after speaking to them, the money isn't what you expected, or they want you to volunteer there for a week or some other wacky thing?

Getting the right person for the job is just as important to them, as getting a good job is to you. If you approach it from that angle, you'll have more perspective. Also, they'll respect you as you're not so desperate that you'd drop everything, spend your last dime and sit at their feet waiting for their crumbs.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:06 AM on February 25, 2013 [5 favorites]

I would call instead of emailing and explain that you're not local but you're really interested, and you can get there for the interview but it would definitely make your life easier if you can do the interview in a week or two so you can get a better deal on airfare or if they cover your airfare. If they can't cover the airfare, you should still go for it but it doesn't hurt to ask. Or, if it does hurt, these are probably punks who you do not want to work for anyway.
posted by kat518 at 7:11 AM on February 25, 2013

I think Ruthless Bunny has it, but if you still want to go, can you rent a car? Can you get a loan or a car or get someone to drive you? 500 miles isn't all that far, but the plane fare isn't cheap.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:40 AM on February 25, 2013

If you can't drive and they really want to do the interview in person, you could look into ride-sharing, which might be scads cheaper than flying.
posted by brina at 9:02 AM on February 25, 2013

I've thought about e-mailing them that I'm currently out of town

Does the phrasing "out of town" here mean that you lied to them about what city you live in?
posted by Autumn at 10:41 AM on February 25, 2013

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