Two months ago I did the initial interview for the job I have now. I’ve interviewed a few times before but this interview was different. After the first few questions my heart settled and I breathed easy because I knew the answers.
I felt more like a consultant than an interviewee. I was offering advice, and talking about my experience. I was hearing about the problems and offering solid solutions. I wasn’t bragging about myself, I was showing them the work that I had done by speaking from experience and authority
It was kind of weird.
I’ve thought about that interview a lot and have asked myself a million times, why it was different?
I am assuming that at some point in the future I will interview for another job and I would like to repeat this process. Understanding how I got to that point will provide insight into how I can make it happen again. If you get something out of the process, that would be pretty great too.
The key insight for this process came from a quote by Neil Strauss who said, “The opportunity doesn’t come until we’re ready.”
The first time I interviewed for a director position was after being in recruitment for a year. I got a phone interview, but only because I already worked for the institution.
I bombed it. I wasn’t ready. I knew enough about the position to talk about it, but I didn’t understand the problems and solutions necessary to do the job.
No matter what the position is there are always nuances that are invisible when looking at the position from the outside. They can’t be noticed until you’re in the position. That’s why it’s easy to sit back and see other people doing their job and think, “I could do that.”
After bombing the interview I tried to learn from it. They asked me questions I hadn’t heard before. I was clueless. Those questions sent me in the direction of the learning the answers. I was interested in doing a better job.
I started to look for answers, asking colleagues and friends for their input. I went to conferences and listened. Slowly I was building my knowledge base and trying to put what I was learning into practice.
The next interview was a year later. During the process of the interview I was able to talk deeper about the subject. My knowledge had grown significantly. I could talk shop and speak about best practices and results.
From those interviews I was given more responsibility than the original position was created for. In that position I was able to see deeper into the process.
I got straight to work implementing the knowledge I had gained. There were some bumps along the way as I learned the different dynamics of working at a different kind of institution (moving from a 2-year to a 4-year). There are different processes and different goals, different people, and different systems, it was a learning curve, but the process was similar.
A year and a half later I got another interview. Although not as tough as the first interview I still wasn’t ready. I wasn’t director material. Not yet. Like the first one it sent me in a good direction for what I needed to learn next.
This was a critical point for me. I started to see how different departments worked together. This insight helped me to learn how to ask the right kind of questions.
How I saw my job started to change as well. I had a good understanding of recruitment out in the field. I then learned how to navigate the office environment. Now I was learning to see how the different offices worked together.
I started conversations with other departments, getting different perspectives and understanding how our day to day activities overlap and work together to reach the collective goal. It was a shift in mindset from tactical to strategic, from day to day to year to year.
The first time I went rafting it was to learn how to guide a tame section of a river. The guide that was teaching us showed us how to look up from our paddles to see the bends in the river. To look ahead and make decisions based on what we saw ahead of us. not what was happening right now.
Conceptually I got it. Look up, see what’s coming. But I wasn’t in the habit. I had no practice. Because of that I had to wait until I had practice. Time is the only way to develop practice.
Before I knew it I was doing the work. I was putting in the practice. When I sat in on the interview my body reacted, when the interview started I eased into the knowledge I had acquired.
Now that I’ve started the new job there is another learning curve, it’s a different industry, a different model of education, there are different people, in a different place, the only thing I can do is continue to learn. Hopefully, when I’m ready I’ll recognize the opportunity and be able to take it.
I've always loved this because it means that I could do what I want. I don’t have to fall in line with someone else’s plan. I could create the life that I wanted and be rewarded.
The only way this phrase actually works is if what I loved provided enough value that people were willing to pay for it. Money is the social way of showing value.
I don’t love that, but that is reality.
When I lost my job teaching drama I went through a bit of an identity crisis. It occurred to me that what I was doing didn’t provide value. If it did I would still have a job teaching drama or be able to get another one.
Before all my artist friends, former students and parents of former students protest, let’s dive into perception. I can look back on how I was raised and the thing that had the biggest influence on me was theatre, that’s why I wanted to do it.
But when it comes to providing value perception is reality. One of the hardest personal finance lessons for me to learn and accept was where I spend my money shows what I value.
In this country right now public education holds little value. That’s why we pay teachers so little. The arts fit into that same category. Theatre is at the bottom.
Theatre is expensive. Continually expensive. The return on that investment is rare, even under the best circumstances. The value isn’t there.
It’s one thing to walk into a bad movie having paid $7, or even $15, to see it. It’s disappointing. But I have seen enough good movies that I would likely go back to see another one. Especially if I know the actors, the director, or the story. Sometimes the experience alone is worth the money.
If I go to a play and spend $50-$100 a ticket and it’s mediocre. The value drops. It’s not worth the risk. It’s hard for me to justify attending again.
I get the idea of art for arts sake to a point. My kids will be enriched by the arts, they will become better people because to them. I know that and for that reason I will put my kids through arts programs.
If they show an interest in engineering, I will foster the crap out of that because the return on investment has a higher potential.
I had dinner with a friend of mine who has two 3D printers. He has money to spare. What he does for a living is so sought after and valuable that people are willing to pay a ton of money for it. His skills are valuable.
All of these things got me thinking about value and the value that I provide. No matter what I do.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about money and some of my beliefs about money. Here’s the revelation for this post. Money shows value.
The more money I make the more valuable I am providing.
If I want to change my financial situation then how is it that I can provide more value? It’s at this point that I had another epiphany. This is where personal branding comes into play.
The internet told me that personal branding has to do with my social media profiles and my resume. But those are just the natural result of value that I already provide.
Personal branding is a new name but it’s old concept. Personal brand used to be passed by word of mouth because that was the only way to pass it on. The digital age changed the way the value we provide gets spreads.
If I’m a workhorse then I’m going to have a stellar resume.
If I live an interesting life and document it through Instagram then my following is going to show that.
That’s the hard part about value. I want the results, but the only way to get the results is to put in the work. And that’s hard.
Here’s the benefit of understanding this reality. If I am providing enough value then people will pay me. If I’m not, then they won’t.
It becomes a scale of the service that I am providing. If I know that the work that I am doing is valuable but the perceptions isn’t there then there is a breakdown in communication. That’s when I need to market it better.
There is a lot of business talk in all of this, that’s because everything is business. When I got into education and specifically theatre I didn’t think that I would need business skills. But what I found was that my administration didn’t care what I was doing. If they didn’t know what I was doing then I wasn’t providing value. If there’s no value then why is it being funded? That’s how I lost my job.
I learned this too late. It wasn’t until the semester before the program was cut that I started letting my administration know what I was doing. How many students were involved in my after school program, the parents that were involved, the awards the students were bringing back from competition, the recognition the school was getting. It was too late.
The experience of losing my “secure job” taught me that I am a business. No matter what business I’m in. I need provide a valuable service, and market myself with the value that I can provide. No one else it going to do it for me.
Money is like religion. Not that it just gets worshiped, but that there are irrational beliefs that surround it. Like religion everyone has their own, based on their own experience, and how they were raised.
I have always said that money is a necessary evil (a tell of my beliefs about money). I never had the intention of going out and making a lot of money. What was more important to me was finding meaning the work that I was doing.
When I went to college, that was my goal. Finding work that would give me meaning. That’s how I ended up in theatre, and education.
I got married young (22) and getting married forced me to grow up quickly. I was forced into some realities that aren’t overly pleasant.
And of course, MONEY.
I carry a lot of baggage about money surrounding my beliefs about what money is, how it works, and it’s role in my life. The hard thing about these beliefs is that I didn’t know they existed, they were my normal. They were my everyday.
The only reason they started to surface was because I got married and my wife has a whole different set of beliefs about money. It means something different to her than it means to me.
I realized that my perception about money isn’t reality.
There’s a lot of things about money that I don’t particularly like. I give money a lot of power. Money controls a lot of my actions. That’s not something I’m particularly proud of.
For a while now I’ve tried to identify my relationship with money so that I get to the point I want to financially. I don’t want to spend my whole life stressing about money.
This is the point in the blog post where I tell you how I did that so you can repeat the process. That would be a. I haven’t figured it out. I work at it everyday.
That’s a lie. Most days I don’t work at it at all.
Since the beginning of the year money has become a major focus. I think about it a lot (but not everyday). There is one thing that I have learned, that has somewhat changed my behavior.
Money management is health management.
Just like I can’t get a six pack from the one workout and the half day of clean eating. I’ll never have decent finances without some consistent work. I know, I know, I’ve known that.
I’ve always known that. So what changed?
I realized that money is a tool. I exchange money for what I want, for what I value. When I fill out the values sections of Franklin-Covey planner I put down the standard answers of what I value. The things I think I value. The things I want value.
The primary answers. But the uncomfortable truth is that I spend my money on what I value.
I just had a great conversation with a former high school teacher of mine about the impact of travel. He’s a guy that values travel. He spends his time, energy and money making it happen.
Before you think it takes a lot of money to travel remember that he was my high school teacher. And he didn’t come from money.
When I look at where I spend my money I am really looking at what I value. It turns out to be food.
(This is a 6 month snap shot of where we spend money. Our house is the biggest expense we have and we bought a car within the last 6 months)
If you would have asked me in college what I would end up spending a good portion of money on I wouldn’t have said food. I also weighed 150 pounds and would often forget to eat meals.
I have since found the value in good food (obviously). Also notice that food isn’t on my primary list.
I could argue that it fits under family because we spend time together cooking, or eating out or whatever. Or health. Whatever’s going to help me sleep at night right? I categorize it as both by the way. And I sleep just fine. Better than ever actually.
I bring this up because of the hard question that it asks….
Is this really what I value?
It’s not a question of how I can optimize my spending at the grocery store, it’s a question of personal value. What I find important.
I can clip coupons all day to save money at the grocery store. Turns out that they don’t coupon real food. Only the things that come in a box. That’s a whole other blog post.
The benefit of this chart is that I get an idea about where I’m spending my day-to-day money (the trees). But life is made up of a whole bunch of trees (a forest). I don’t want to get caught off guard and lose of sight of my entire life (my whole value system) because of the things that are immediate and right in front of my face.
Making big changes is impossible because it’s too much change too quickly and habits are hard to replace. In order to gain some control over the forest I need to start looking at the forest.
Once a week I sit down with my wife and look at the finances. That’s it. For now. Sometimes it doesn’t happen every week.
The real crappy part is that when we first started doing it there’s not a lot we could do except look at it. When I want to make changes, to anything, I want to make them now.
Trying to make adjustments right after Christmas and in the middle of the month would have caused more damage. It was over the next few months of looking at it every week that we started to understand our habits and were able to make adjustments.
We adjusted budgets. We made short term and long-term goals. We made room for some splurging without guilt.
It’s all the same stuff you’ll read in any finance post or habit book. The things that really got me to take action was recognizing the power that money had over me.
I don’t want to be a slave to anything.
What’s your relationship like with money? Any great tools or tricks you’ve found that help keep you on track?