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.
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