No matter what any rejection email says, every time I’m unsuccessful in a job application this is what I really hear.
Shame melts over me immediately.
Towards the end of last year I found myself in my worst shame spiral yet. I applied for a job with the ManCave - a company that runs healthy masculinity workshops for teenage boys. They go into schools and hold full-day workshops teaching boys about vulnerability.
Everyone quipped I’d be perfect for the role, that I couldn’t be a better fit. To date my job experiences equipped me with all the required skills:
- Worked with teenage boys - Tick. Footy coach for 15 year old boys.
- Managed my own events - Tick. Superhero at kids parties.
- Deliver content - Tick. Entrepreneurial workshops at Investible.
It seemed like a natural extension of all that work. All I needed to do was get through the group interview. I went in with all the confidence in the world, believing what I’d been told: I was perfect for the role.
Unfortunately, things didn’t go to script. I became a train-wreck in the group interview.
It started off great, I ran an ice-breaker activity for the group. However, shortly after I found myself amazed by the other candidate’s stories and character. This shouldn’t have been an issue but I was under the impression that people were being hired directly from this group interview. I didn’t realise they conducted follow up 1:1 interviews for shortlisted applicants afterwards.
The result of my misunderstanding?
In trying to impress and “prove” myself I became overzealous, constantly being the first to speak, denying airspace for other people to share. I became that guy everyone frowns upon because it’s clear he is trying a little too hard.
Fast forward a week and the dreaded email came:
If we were playing job rejection bingo we hit all the themes:
- Thanking me for my time
- More appropriate candidates
- Wishing me the best
However, as I sit here three months later perhaps it was for the best. I’m happy to concede it may be cognitive dissonance that’s convincing me of this. But before I do, hear me out.
Who is the main character in Lord of the Rings?
No it’s not Frodo. It’s Sam.
Stories are about transformation and Sam is the character that transformed the most.
Ever wonder how a book publisher is able to read hundreds of books every year ? Yeah, me neither, but what I recently learnt is they don’t read all of every book that comes across their desk. They only read enough of the start to understand the protagonist. They then skip to the end to see the evolution of the character.
The quality of a story is defined by the change of the main character.
With this perspective perhaps the ManCave job was too perfect for me? I fear I already possessed the skills required to succeed and wouldn’t have been challenged. Ultimately, causing a premature end to my story.
However, I saw my great interest in the work the ManCave does as a signal. A signal that this type of work would bring fulfilment, I simply needed to align the work with a challenge that would satisfy my self-narrative.
It wasn’t until after my keynote on ‘The Vulnerability Sweetspot’ a few months later that a call to adventure came. My uncle, a school principal, asked after watching “why don’t you go into schools?”.
His question made me throw my head back and cover my face with my hands, groaning. This was the only evidence I needed. I’d found a challenge that scared the shit out of me, but knew I needed to attempt.
A week later I was on the phone to Redland's headmaster (my former high school) exploring his interest in the idea. It was a resounding yes. We’re now planning a follow-up meeting to figure out the finer details. If successful, my next challenge will be to secure additional schools that I have no prior relationship with.
In this scenario, instead of only facilitating, I will face the challenge of launching my own operations; creating my own workshops, securing work and delivering my own content. Something that not only provides the fulfilling work but quenches the self-narrative I have for myself.
Ultimately, there’s no right or wrong. It’s simply about the story you want to be carving for yourself.
What story are you creating?
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