Thank God for bad suits. Sometimes they can lead to really incredible things.
Well, that’s how I look at it anyway. This is a story of how a bad suit led to a bad job interview which caused me to get rejected for a job which eventually helped me realize my dream. – A job in fraud.
Thank God for bad suits.
My Story Begins in 1991
It was 1991. I was fresh out of college and had just returned from a year of traveling from the top of Mexico to the bottom of Peru by bus and then back again. I had done it on a shoestring; spending no more than $2 each day on housing, transportation & food.
And boy was I skinny after that trip. I lost 30 pounds, by eating only tortillas and rice. You can’t eat or live very well traveling on that tight of a budget. And I learned that the hard way – by the end of the trip I only weighed 130 pounds.
And by the end of that trip, I needed something else. I needed a job. I was almost flat broke. I couldn’t afford an apartment. I had to live out of my car. Life was rough.
I was desperate. I needed a job fast. I was determined I was going to do whatever it takes to get one.
In Peru 1990 – All this money was worth the equivalent of $10.
I Applied for Any Job I Could Find From the NewsPaper and Classified Ads
Back in those days, there was no internet. So you would look for a job by going to the classified ads and submitting your resume by mail or calling a phone number.
So that’s what I did. I applied for anything and everything I could find – Claims Adjuster, Mail Room Clerk, Entry Level Analyst, Customer Service Representative, Administrative Assistant. Any job. You name it, I would send out a letter or make a call and beg for that job.
After a few weeks and hundreds of calls and letters later. One company called me back – Liberty Mutual Insurance Company. The lady on the other side of the phone said, “we’re interested in interviewing you for a job as a claims adjuster. Are you interested?”.
My heart was pounding. I tried to maintain my composure but I only managed to squeak out an answer, “Of course I am mam.”
“Great” she replied, “Please come by our offices next Monday at 10 am for an interview.”
I hung up the phone. I was so excited. I couldn’t believe I was going to get the chance to get a real job. I was a grown up now, doing grown-up things.
I have never been so excited about a job as I was for that one. I imagined myself sitting at a desk answering calls and working at a computer. Since I had never had a real office job, I felt like it was going to be my ticket to happiness and wealth.
What About Your Suit?
I called my brother so excited about the interview. I asked him how I should prepare. We talked about what the job would entail and he helped me prepare good answers. I felt like I was going to be able to nail the interview. He was a claims adjuster himself so I had the inside scoop.
I was feeling good and was ready to say goodbye and he interrupted me and said, “What about your suit? Do you have a suit?”.
I stopped. My heart sank. NO! I do not have a suit. I don’t own a suit. I don’t even know where to get a suit. The last time I had worn a suit was in 8th grade for graduation. And it was a pretty ugly suit that would never fit me now.
Me in 8th grade. The last time I had worn a suit.
My heart sank. I was going to need to get a suit. And I didn’t have much money. I was a nervous wreck now. What was I going to do?
A Horrible Suit Shopping Trip
After a few days, I knew I had to go out and get the suit or I would probably never get the job.
I managed to scrape together $75 and went out to the mall to try to find a suit. I went to every store I could think of. I looked high and low trying to find something in my budget.
But everything was way, way more than I could afford. The cheapest suits I could find were $300! I could never afford that.
I was getting depressed. I was about ready to call the lady at Liberty Mutual to cancel my interview when I saw a store called “Men’s Warehouse” and it looked like it was chocked full of suits. I decided to check it out.
I walked in and immediately a sharply dressed guy approached me., “What can I do for you Sir?”
I couldn’t believe he called me “Sir” since I felt like I was still a kid. I told him I was looking for a suit. He took me to the rack that had my size and my heart sank as I looked at the prices. The suits were nice, but they were all hundreds of dollars and I would never be able to pay for them.
I said to him, “What do you have for $75?” He gave me a bit of a surprised look and took me to a derelict rack in the back of the store with a few drabby suits that looked really dusty. “This is it buddy.” he said to me.
Great. now I was “buddy”. Instead of “Sir” I was now “Buddy”. When he figured out how poor I was he viewed me very differently.
Well, it turns out there was only 1 of those dusty drab suits that fit me. It was bright blue. It was made of nylon. It was extra baggy on me since I weighed practically nothing. And it was dusty. I mean it was the ugliest suit I have ever seen.
But I ended up buying that ugly suit because it was all that I could afford. I couldn’t even afford to tailor it. The suit and I were partners now – partners in trying to get me a job at all cost. We were going to go to the interview together and try to land the job.
Strange Looks and An Awkward Interview
It was interview day. I got up way too early and got dressed in that horrible suit. I looked in the mirror and was so ashamed. “Look how dumb I look in this suit!” I thought to myself.
I drove to Liberty Mutual and arrived way too early and sat in the parking lot for 45 minutes waiting for 10:00 am. My heart was pounding. I was a bundle of nerves. I was sweating so my shirt was getting soaked with sweat. Things were not shaping up for a good first impression.
When the time came I walked into the building and asked for the HR lady. About 5 minutes later, I hear the door open and a friendly looking lady comes out and greets me extending her hand.
I extended my sweaty cold hand out to her and said “Hello Mam”. She immediately looked up and down at me when I stood up and her eyes indicated to me that she was not impressed. Or maybe I was making it up but I immediately felt awkward.
When we walked through the hallway to get to her office, I noticed all the employees glancing at me and giving me weird looks. It felt like a walk of shame.
We went into her office and she started asking questions. I did my best to answer the questions but I was so flustered and self-conscious, I guess I messed the interview up something bad.
She did her best to make it comfortable but it was obvious – my suit was not a good fit and more importantly – I was not a good fit for this company.
Thankfully, she cut the interview short and let me be on my way. I felt the tears welling up inside as I stepped outside the building. What a failure I was.
I was broke. I didn’t have a job. The only thing I had was a bad suit.
I drove home and threw the bad suit in the trash. It took me a long time to get over that bad interview and regain my confidence to start interviewing again. I eventually did but I was determined to do it right next time with a GOOD suit – even if it cost me $300.
6 Months Later I was Working in Fraud
Needless to say that ugly suit, that bad interview, eventually lead to my dream job. 6 months after that interview, I got an interview with a bank. They initially offered me a job in customer service which I took.
Within 3 months of taking that job, they promoted me to a job in the fraud department. When I got that job in fraud, I knew I had achieved my dream. I knew that I had the best job ever. And I didn’t even have to wear a suit to get the job.
I think back to myself and in retrospect, I am so glad that I never got that claims adjuster job.
Would I have been happy being a claims adjuster? Probably not. Was I happy working in fraud? Absolutely. Looking back I am so glad I was rejected for that job, because if I was accepted, I may have never got that first job in fraud. And that makes me very happy.
Maybe the job in fraud didn’t pay as much. But I tell you what, it was the happiest I have ever been when I was fighting fraud.
So just this week, I was thinking back to that failed interview and back to that horrible suit. I thought to myself, “Thank God for bad suits, sometimes they lead to really incredible things”. It brought me here.
And that’s my story. Thanks for reading.