Your Way

My parents were sitting high up in the stadium seats as were my sisters.  Mom had the camera.

When the ceremony was over, they came down onto the field; hugged and congratulated me.  I had graduated a bachelor’s degree in business with a minor in law.  It sounded substantial – like it had meat to it, but I hadn’t a job lined up yet.  I was about to enter the market.canstockphoto10272726

Later, when mom had the pictures developed (yeah–we used to have to wait for pictures, kids) the perspective from the stadium seats had an impact on me. There was this sea of black-robed kids down on the field–each of them needing a job.  It occurred to me that across the country that month, there were hundreds of other universities graduating stadiums worth of kids, too; all of us needing jobs.

How would I set myself apart?

What would make me more viable for some future opportunity than the other guy?

How could I develop a fair advantage?

I mean we all basically did the same thing; went to school, got decent grades, joined clubs and activities that testified to our real interest in the given trade, our resumes were in the right style, our wing-tip shoes were shined brightly, etc.

What could I offer an employer that would make it clear that I was the very best choice?

I began to listen to other success stories; people who had gotten that first offer. What had they done? Joe arrived a half hour early. They liked his punctuality. Fletcher spoke very little. They thought he was brilliant and pensive. Todd had worn a blue pin-stripe suit. They thought he was very professional.

So I got my first interview scheduled. I wore the blue pinstripe. I arrived early. I spoke very little. Turns out I was so early that I had preceded the lady who typically opens the office up. When I bragged to my interviewer that I was so punctual I’d been waiting outside before the staff even got there, the supervisor realized the lady that should have been there was late. The only reason anyone knew it was because I was so early. To cover for her, I began to back-peddle like crazy; so much for being quiet and pensive. Needless to say that first offer letter never came from that place. They practically threw me out of there.

Undaunted, I went to interviews 2, 3, and 4 with the same M-O and the same results. Then on the 5th interview I’d applied at a place where the job was a level or two below where I felt my skill sets were at the time. I arrived on time and struck up a good conversation with the front desk person. I wasn’t really pressing for the job because I didn’t see it as much of an opportunity. I just wanted to get hired somewhere but again, I wasn’t desperate. My banter with the front desk turned into a recommendation because when my interviewer came out into the lobby to get me, the introduction she made included, “Hey Larry, your first interviewee is here–this kid’s a keeper–nice young man.”

I got that job and moved quickly and sure-footedly through the ranks.

My “tricks” were humility, good nature, and sincerity. In short–the job worked out because I was just trusting that being myself was best. Over the years, no single tip or bit of advice was as important as that reminder. Be yourself.

Now–does that mean you should act like the worst of yourself? No.  Speaking fractured English like you are on the “Roseanne” show and belching loudly while saying, “How’d ya like that one, boss?” is not what I mean. You need to be yourself but make it your “best-behavior-self.”

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