“I knew that if I failed, I wouldn’t regret that, but I knew the one thing I might regret is not trying” – Jeff Bezos
As one of the many “card-carrying Millennials” exploring new professional challenges during a pandemic, I must confess that having to deal with so much uncertainty has been a daunting and unpleasant experience.
On the other hand, I also realize that many businesses and organizations are having a tough time. Now facing lots of heightened economic tension that has led to budget cuts and team restructuring, a lot of them have had to significantly cut back on new job offerings.
Job interviews? These are no longer easy to come by, which is why the memories from one of my job interview “failures” remain fresh in my mind. Here is another one of my stories.
The Beginning: There is no harm in trying Kingsley. So, I told myself – Just do it!
“The graveyard is the richest place on earth because it is here that you will find all the hopes and dreams that were never fulfilled…all because someone was too afraid to take the first step”. – Les Brown
Like most job applicants, I followed the conventional job application approach: submit the usual online applications for open positions. But after receiving the standard automatic rejection e-mails, I became tired of this process and decided to try something different.
There was an organization I had been interested in for a while, but they had no suitable open position at that point. I nevertheless resorted to sending an unsolicited e-mail to one of the team leads. And as it turned out, this move ultimately paid off – landing me an interview. They responded;
“Thank you for reaching out and expressing your interest in… I would very much like to touch base with you to better understand your interests and goals as a…. I will ask… to reach out to you to schedule a quick chat for us this week.”
I couldn’t contain my excitement the moment I got the response confirming an interview had been scheduled. This was nothing I was going to take lightly, and I knew I had to make the best possible preparation for it.
Usually, for such interviews, I have the same conventional pitch prepared; introduce my “professional” self relating (to) the role I was interested in, talk about what I could bring to the team by highlighting areas where I saw I could add value. And finish up by asking a couple of questions.
But this was not going to be a conventional job interview. In this case, I had made a conscious decision to approach it differently which eventually let to an unexpected outcome. In this piece, I share two key lessons I took away from that episode.
Lesson 1: Everyone Has An Opinion And Something To Say – If You Ask Them.
“There are as many opinions as there are experts.”- Franklin D. Roosevelt
Thinking about it again, there was actually nothing wrong with my conventional pitch. I mean, it had produced considerable success in the past. But I, on that occasion wanted to try something different. This decision was primarily born out of the desire to make the best of what I saw as a “unique” opportunity.
It was to this end, I made efforts to reach out to several individuals I knew within the organization asking them for help. As I recall, my ask for help didn’t have any specific requests; I just wanted anything and everything they could offer.
For a second time, I was lucky and did get many positive responses. Everyone I reached out to had something to offer and provided me with valuable insights and resources. From every individual conversation came a different;
“You do this Kingsley! Say this! And use that! You will be fine!”
But these conversations gave a dilemma: I only had 30 minutes for this interview but had received more than 5 hours’ worth of insights and resources. Long story short, I eventually ended up ditching my conventional pitch and did everything but sell myself and my skill sets.
And judging from the “cold” aftermath that followed the job interview episode, I again realized the importance of being able to sell yourself especially against a backdrop of conflicting opinions.
Yes, I would continue to recommend seeking the opinion of others as much as possible because this is very necessary for quality improvement. However, I also see it as equally important to think about how and where to use and implement them because it can sometimes be possible to place too much trust and emphasis on such opinions harming one´s own instinct and vision. The way I see it, the ideal situation would be to always:
find the right balance.
Lesson 2: A Rejection Today Does Not Necessarily Mean Rejection Tomorrow.
“Your interview performance says nothing about your worth nor your intelligence” – Kwabena Adu-Darkwa!
From my experience, some unwanted outcomes might also mean that it is probably not the RIGHT TIME or the RIGHT OPPORTUNITY. The way I see it, a company cannot unanimously reject or accept a candidate as the outcomes of interviews are always going to be based on subjective circumstances, judgements, and the opinions of different individuals, which are bound to change overtime.
“No two individuals within a team, business or organization I have interacted with to date think or act the same”
So, the outcome of an interview with Mr. X who worked in Department X at company X in January 2020, can be subject to change if the circumstances were different under the same company X in January 2021.
I also realized that a NO today does have it benefits too. On several occasions, it has redirected me to consider opportunities that I had previously never thought about but gave me the best professional experience.
I recently came across a LinkedIn post by Kwabena Adu-Darkwa where he shared his story about being rejected by Microsoft, and I left a comment which ended with the following words in
“A rejection today might actually be the best preparation for an acceptance tomorrow if you pick the lessons and use them.”
Are there any similar lessons you have you learned from your professional experience? Or mistakes that taught you something important in your career journey? Happy to receive your perspective and insights too!