Tell me about yourself.
My name is Conan Kmiecik. I will be 43 years old before the end of this year. I have two sons who live back in the United States. They are 20 and 18 years old. I have worked in education for little more than a decade now and have served as an instructor, a program coordinator, and a student advisor. In my spare time, I like to travel, write, and take photographs. My other interests include cooking, tending to my houseplants, and listening.
Listening to what?
People and podcasts. My personality default is to be more introverted, but I do like social interactions. I just prefer sustained conversations with another person or a small group of people. Usually, in these situations, I end up listening more and chiming in every so often. Additionally, I am a single man who lives alone, so podcasts are a nice way of occupying my mind when I’m doing chores around my quiet apartment.
makes made you different from your classmates?
Probably my drive. When I was younger, I remember reading about Benjamin Franklin’s plan for self-development and upward mobility. He shared how he taught himself to swim and how he used social connections to help him improve his station in life. That had a formative effect on me. I grew up in a small town, my parents were divorced, my mom supported us with government assistance, I was nonwhite. If I didn’t take matters into my own hands, I don’t think I would have had the same opportunities in life. I got my first job in sixth grade. I’ve worked ever since then. I ran cross country and track in high school. I earned a second-degree black belt. I sought out summer programs on my own. I earned 13 college credits while still in high school and then got accepted to UW Madison. I spent 11 years in higher education, earning a bachelor’s degree, a teaching licensure, and two master’s degrees. I guess I like accomplishing things.
So, if your drive is one of your strengths, what is your greatest weaknesses?
Probably cutting people out of my life. If someone angers or upsets me, my recourse is usually to cut them out of my life.
How could you improve this weakness?
I suppose I could do a better job of communicating my feelings to avoid huge blow ups. Maybe I could be more forgiving. However, when someone has apologized to me, I was pretty quick to forgive them and let them back into my life without holding a grudge. I’m just not the one who initiates the reconciliation, if I don’t believe I was at fault.
Why did you choose your major?
When I was younger, I tested better at math than language arts. However, I liked my English classes more because I felt I could talk about all subjects through literature. I believed that it would be a better lens for me to see the world.
What do you like most about your major?
I like cultural texts. I like consuming them. I like critiquing them. I like teaching them. I like producing them. Sorry, I can’t be more specific about “cultural texts” without digressing into a more academic discussion that really isn’t germane to this situation.
Is there anything you dislike about your major?
Yes, the life of an English major is usually a life of the mind and not a life of money or material reward. I have had to be very driven and resourceful in order to stay gainfully employed in higher education this past decade. I have done a lot of work that is adjacent to teaching, but overall this has made me a more versatile and valuable professional.
What has been your most valuable/interesting work experience?
Probably my work developing and administering short-term summer programs for international students.
Can you tell me more?
Sure, at the universities where I previously worked, an international partner university would say, “Hey, we want to send X number of students to your university for a cultural experience. What can you offer and how much would it cost?” It was my job to put together an itinerary, figure out the logistics, and estimate the costs. Then if the partner liked what I proposed, I would actually have to run the program. I enjoyed doing this, and I was good at it.
What was the most difficult part of this project/activity?
Probably timing. If a partner university didn’t inquire about this experience early enough, then there wasn’t enough time to put together a program proposal, negotiate the details, recruit students, and hire the necessary staff. For a program to run in June or July, I needed to be certain in December that the partner university was committed to the opportunity.
Tell me about a decision you have made that you would do differently today.
I used to tell my students in Freshmen Orientation course to save themselves a lot of trouble and break up with their high school boyfriend or girlfriend. This was half joke, half truth. Had I not gotten my girlfriend from high school pregnant and become a father when I was 22, my life certainly would have been much different. However, I don’t know if it would have necessarily been better, and I would not want to give up my sons in some Back to Future ploy to rewrite history so that maybe I could be happier or richer. My decisions have resulted in problems for me, but they have also afforded me the opportunity to learn from my mistakes. So, it’s probably best for me to accept the decisions that I have made and to try and make better decisions in the present and the future.
Tell me about a time when you had to resolve a problem with no rules or guidelines in place.
I have been doing this for the past 43 years—life is a problem with no rules or guidelines in place! You have no choice regarding the situation that you are born in. Hopefully, you realize early on the limitations of your environment, and you have enough agency to pivot yourself in a direction that is more to your liking before social momentum carries you somewhere less to you liking. You pick a major with the limited information that you have before you. Hopefully, it pans out into a rewarding a career, or maybe you have to hustle to find work related to your major. You give your heart to someone, and maybe your relationship stands the test of time and works out. Maybe it doesn’t. If so, hopefully, you are able to clean up the mess in reasonable amount of time without making a further mess of your life. If and when you have children, hopefully, you are in a good position in life to spend your time and energy raising them. Maybe if you do things right, they will be productive members of society who make better decisions than you did at their age, resulting in better opportunities for themselves. Once half of your life is behind you, and you accomplished or survived the things that you needed to do, hopefully, there is still a fire inside of you that urges you to seek out more challenges and adventures which can pose further problems with no rules or guidelines in place. I’ll let you know how everything works out once I’m done resolving these problems.
So, do I have the job?
This week’s blog entry was inspired by the CV and job interview assessment that the students in my business English had to complete this past week. I had to conduct 5-minute mock job interviews with around 80 students, so questions from the interview became lodged in my brain. For that reason, I thought it might be fun to see how I would answer the questions if posed to me. Please feel free to look through the complete list of questions for the speaking assessment posted below, if interested.