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Part 1 of what will doubtless be many.

I turned in my final class projects last Wednesday. That evening I saw a post in my Google newsfeed that Ralphs, our local Kroger affiliate, was having a huge SoCal hiring event on Saturday. I followed the link and applied. Then I was directed to an online personality assessment, which I thought was weird, but I did that, too.

I’ve thought long and hard about how to re-enter the paid workforce after a more than 20-year absence. It made sense to me to look for a part-time, minimum wage job at first so that I could establish a recent work history and prove that I’m punctual, responsible, and honest. But I wasn’t exactly excited at the prospect. It was a means to an end; a stepping stone down a longer path.

I received an email confirming receipt of my application that directed me to the local store on Saturday for a screening interview. This email specified appropriate attire as “business casual” (had to Google that). Kid #3 had some back-to-back activities on Saturday that we had to negotiate, but I was able to get to the interview.

There were at least three dozen applicants ahead of me, at least half of whom were dressed in very casual clothes. And because this is San Diego, six people showed up in shorts and sandals. Applicants were in and out of the offices fairly fast, maybe 10 minutes each. When my name was called, I went to an office where a man about my age introduced himself as the store manager. We talked for about 30 minutes. It was a really pleasant conversation. He was astute and finally remarked that he thought I might be happier in a position with more set hours, like, say, store bookkeeper. Turned out his current bookkeeper (educated as a librarian) would like to move over to a library job and her position would be opening up. I was all over that, as long as they understood I needed training.

He assured me that he would call me back for a second interview (we’ll see) and I left.

The bookkeeping job, if it materializes, isn’t perfect. The hours absolutely suck (4AM-11AM) and the pay is likely low. But it’s an option I’ll keep open. The whole apply and interview process was low stakes to me; I viewed it as a practice run. I’m terrified about getting out in the world, asking for a job, at 54. So I considered just doing it at all a major triumph.