08/04/2006: "prep time, distraction time"
I have two weeks to go before my NRC interview. With any other interview, I wouldn't give it too much thought. After all, I've had probably over 50 interviews in the past four years alone, and I can do a pretty good interview off-the-cuff now. However, this one is different, in that NRC provides a lot of information on how to prepare for an interview, which I have already started to use. I will be prepared for this interview like I've never - and I mean NEVER - been prepared before.
Of course, being chronically forward-thinking, I've been contemplating two issues that would come about should I be hired; cars (surprise, surprise), and French.
This is the first position I've applied to where they provide an in-depth body of material both suggesting how to prepare for the interview, and from which to prepare from. In another first, the interview was confirmed without any human contact whatsoever - I applied online, waited many months, and then suddenly I have an e-mail in my inbox confirming my interview date, time and location. Alongside the geochronological information was suggestions on how to prepare for the interview, and an attached document that provided more information, including links to their website, with which to prepare. Checking out the career section of their website reveals a whole "preparing for an interview" section. Truly, at this point I'm still trying to wrap my head around all the information I'm coming across, and I've just barely started to put it all into a personal context. Good thing I have two weeks to prepare.
Meanwhile, my brain is drifting off in two other directions. The first is absolutely no surprise (or at least shouldn't be if you know me in any way), in that I've managed to bring this all the way around to cars. Specifically, the need for a second vehicle. Should I get the job, I would be traveling quite a bit - all locally, but I'd be out and around the region a lot. The job description specifically mentions the need for a privately-owned vehicle. Naturally, I've started to wonder what we should do for that.
My first impulse is to lease something new. Leasing is cheap, and there are some very inexpensive vehicles out there that would serve me well. A smart fortwo? Hah, no. As cool as it would be, a used one still goes for way more than the new vehicles I'm considering. New? The price new vastly exceeds the car's diminuitive size. The four vehicles that make the short list? Hyundia Accent, Toyota Yaris, Nissan Versa, and Honda Fit.
The Hyundai is the least expensive of the bunch, coming in well under $17k with air conditioning. It's been recently redesigned, we've enjoyed our current Hyundai, so it's a safe bet. The Toyota is also quite new, with the only thing going against it is the fact that it's pretty much a stripped car, not much is standard. Toyota has made lots and lots and LOTS of room for dealer-installed profit... I mean, options, on the Yaris. So long as I can get A/C and a radio, I'll be happy. The Nissan I probably wouldn't normally look at, but it's a brand-new car as well, comes with a class-unprecedented 6 speed manual transmission, and my stepbrother works for Nissan, so I can probably get a deal that will significantly lower the $17k+ asking price. Lastly, there's the also-new Honda Fit. I really miss my del Sol, so getting back into a rev-happy Honda would be fun, but Hondas are usually pretty pricey. The Fit is no exception, coming in at well over $18k.
At the same time, I've been wondering if going with a low monthly cost simply obscures the long-term cost (which it does quite nicely), and if thereby I should get a used vehicle and suffer the short-term higher monthly payments for something I'll ultimately own outright. In fact, I've wondered if the same idea holds true for getting a minivan for my family. Would we really want to lease $35k worth of vehicles when we can purchase $15k worth and still get the same functionality? (Yes, we'll spend more on repairs, but certainly not $20k more. Heck, one vehicle can evaporate and we could buy another used one and still stay under $35k!) This would especially make sense if we're trying to limit our spending in favour of long-term saving. Yes, our monthly payment may be higher, but at the end of it we'll be able to save that much more. So bite the bullet, buy a used minivan, drive it into the ground, and then treat ourselves to something new later. A GM minivan (Montana or its brethren) that's 4 years old retails for about $10-12k these days with less than 100K on the odometer. If I get one through my stepbrother for wholesale, knock off a few thousand. Suddenly holding my nose and driving domestic for a while seems like a good idea. Or if not good, at least tempting. While I may not need a second car in the long run, Jannette and I are going to have to do some thinking about this whole minivan issue.
The other item that has been getting some brain time of recent is our other offical language, la lange de l'amour, la belle Francais. That's French for all you monolingual anglophones (like me!). NRC is a government body, and I'd be a public employee, and thus learning French might not only be an available option, it may be encouraged. In fact, there is a significant monetary bonus for those able to operate in both languages. That impetus brings my long-time desire to be multilingual over the top, and I've started figuring out where I can learn French. Other than the few free online courses (which I can't imagine would be all that in-depth), there is always the distance education option from any accredited university. The question becomes, how do I practice? I guess I become much better friends with my two fluent friends, and talk to my mother more, who taught French (including French immerssion) for more than two decades in elementary school.
For now, I have to put the urge to check out new cars and French lessons on hold and actually get down to the process of preparing for the interview. This is a golden opportunity that I don't want to simply fluff off, as I won't get a chance like this again for a long time.