I’ve taught it to staff in training who came to me straight out of college and I’m sure that many of you have heard or said these things yourselves – don’t chew gum, dress for success, take notes, have questions written down, make eye contact, have a firm handshake, etc. etc. etc. I was cocky. I did all of these things and more, but I still didn’t get the job.
But how could they not want ME!?? (This is what I said to myself at the time)
I was wearing black designer slacks and stiletto heels. It was mid-summer and very hot so I chose to don a white short-sleeved tailored blazer and ruffled green blouse underneath. If I do say so myself, I was the image of perfection as far as interview candidates go. I felt confident and ready. I brought with me my leather bound interview folder with my name embossed in gold on the front. I had read the organization’s web site and had my questions written down on a brand new memo pad. I brought my own pen for extra flare – not the kind that comes in a pack of 12, but one with gold trimmings and a metal tip.
There was a panel about 4 that sat across the table in front of me, asking questions. I could sense some skepticism, so I smiled and gave out my strongest dose of charm. I had an answer for every question because I had already rehearsed. I knew the right things to say and didn’t see a single curve ball that I couldn’t hit.
I walked out afterward, still confident and imagined how long it would take them to call me. Would they call me the next day or play hard-to-get and make me wait? I shuffled through the parking lot, dodging potholes on my way back to the car. It was a rough neighborhood and I knew it, but I knew I would be making a difference and at the time, the prospect seemed to line up with the person I desired to be in the community,
But they never called. I don’t even remember getting a “we regret to inform you…and we appreciate your interest” email or letter. But in reflection, I don’t blame them.
In my eyes, I did everything right. I checked all the boxes. However, I forgot to do the most important thing… I didn’t CONNECT. In hindsight, if I had worn a pressed blouse or polo shirt with trouser jeans or slacks and flat shoes, I wouldn’t have seemed so high and mighty. I don’t believe it was because they doubted my ability to perform the job functions outlines on the job description. I didn’t get called because they thought I wouldn’t be able to connect to the inner city youth they were sworn to serve.
What I learned from that is to know my audience and make it a point to connect, no matter what. I can’t allow myself to be in a place where I don’t adjust to the needs, perceptions and expectations of those I want to serve. Whether it’s a job interview, an internship interview, workshop, training or one on one coaching session, we have to CONNECT in order to be our most effective selves. In failing to do so, we limit our scope of influence and stifle our opportunities for positive change.
Stay encouraged. Never be too busy to stop, listen, look and CONNECT.