This is what I had expected Singapore to be like. I was walking along the Limmat River in the old part of Zurich, Switzerland, and realized why I had been disappointed by our visit to Singapore in the previous week. Don’t get me wrong, Singapore is an amazing city, but so many people had told me that it was one of the cleanest and most organized cities they had been to. Well, I guess they hadn’t been to Zurich. Zurich is living up to the Swiss cliché of being organized, punctual, clean and polite.
I was walking the still familiar streets and enjoying a break from the fabulous chaos that is Southeast Asia. However, I was still very confused that cars stopped for me at the crosswalks. It was late Tuesday morning and I was on my way to meet a friend for lunch. I had lived in this city for a while during my PhD and a few of my friends were still around. This gave me the opportunity to settle into the time zone and adjust to the environment for a couple of days before I had a job interview.
Yeah, the main reason to come to Zurich wasn’t to catch up with friends or go hiking in the Alps. I had applied for this job a while ago and got invited to interview right around the time when we were leaving on our Southeast Asia adventure. Of course, the date for the interview was right in the middle of the time frame that we intended to be travelling. For one of my previous job interviews I had gotten the advice: ‘If they ask you to jump, you only ask how high’! Thus, the date was set. The open position was at one of my favorite employers and in a location that offers a great quality of life for me. Thus turning it down wasn’t an option either. That meant that it would have a significant impact on our travel itinerary. Little did I know how much it would influence our trip. At first, I mainly thought about the added complications of travelling to Zurich. I had to pick a city close to where we might be at that time and book flights. Unfortunately I had no idea where that might be. J suggested that I should fly out of Singapore since I was also trying to set up a business meeting there. That way I could combine the two things that needed fixed dates and it ended up determining the rough schedule of our trip through Malaysia and Singapore.
However, the preparation for the interview had an even more significant impact on our trip. In the beginning I only worked a couple of hours each morning. But especially in the last few weeks before my departure to Switzerland, I spent more and more time designing the slides for the presentations and trying to come up with all possible angles for questions. By the time we arrived in Singapore I was basically working normal hours. But applying for jobs is a job in itself and having the time for it as well as being removed from my normal work environment was very beneficial. Furthermore J was a great reviewer and improved the quality of my presentations tremendously. [J’s note: I didn’t make him write that!!]
The days that I spent in Zurich before the interview went by quickly. I met more friends, visited the cafes and bars I used to frequent and worked more on my presentations. By the time I went into the first interview event I felt like I was well prepared and, what was maybe even more important, like I belonged in that place. One of the presentations was public and two friends of mine attended it. It’s always nice to have supportive faces in the audience. This is something I also take advantage of when giving talks. I focus on those people in the audience who seem supportive of what I’m saying. Things went well. The two interview days seemed to fly by with many interesting discussions and I left with the impression that I had done a good job. The rest is going to depend on factors outside of my control.
The day after the interview I went on a hike with my parents who had decided to use the opportunity to see me for a weekend trip to Zurich. We had a great time and it was especially nice of them to stop by since I don’t get to see them that often these days. They dropped me off at the airport after breakfast on Sunday and I started on my two day journey to meet J in the islands of southern Thailand. On the way I spent a night in Singapore, which seemed even nicer now that I was more relaxed.
It will be a while before I hear back about the outcome of the interview. I knew that going in. Nevertheless the first two weeks were tough. I checked emails every time that I had access to an internet connection. But I’ve calmed down about it. It still crosses my mind regularly. But I’m no longer excited every time I check my emails. For the time being I assume that I won’t get an offer and continue to look for jobs… …and to travel of course.