Tuesday, July 19, 2016

You Don't Know Your Story Yet

Let me tell you what I wish I’d known
When I was young and dreamed of glory
You have no control
Who lives
Who dies
Who tells your story

If you're unfamiliar, that line comes from the musical Hamilton.

Which, I saw in New York in March. YAY

At work, I interact with cohorts of recent PhD grads who are transitioning into new roles -- taking their research backgrounds and learning to use it in ways that local tech companies want to hire. Neat.

Recently, we had a session where we chatted about some of their anxieties around the phase of the program we're now in -- the interview phase! If you've been around my blog for a few years, you know I have...very relevant...experience with the rollercoaster emotions of this realm.

tl;dr version -- moved to California 3 years ago for a job that immediately fell through, and thus spent the next several months interviewing, getting turned down, working a retail job at Anthropologie, getting cash for odd jobs off Craigslist like taste-testing popcorn, etc etc etc.

The thing is, looking forward, you don't know yet what your story will be.

You often know what you want your story to be. You typically have a plan. And when you can't see how that will pan out, or you can only see setbacks moving you away from that plan, and you worry that it's due to something you're somehow not doing right, it's incredibly unnerving.

Take my story. A couple months after arriving in California, shortly after I started working for Anthropologie, I interviewed for a job at Google. GOOGLE! This was the dream. This would be the perfect shiny bow on my own "young, scrappy and hungry" story. (another Hamilton reference YAY) My moved-to-California-and-had-a-setback-but-pushed-through-it-and-WOW-GOOGLE story. This was going to be the best.

And then, it wasn't. Because after several rounds of interviews, they told me no. And I cried in the parking lot of my retail job before cleaning myself up and heading in to earn my $10/hour for my $900/month rent. I was financially worried, but also emotionally crushed. That offer was supposed to be my success story. Right?

A year later, I did indeed have a job at Google. It was the third position I interviewed for at that company. And one of twice that many I applied to at Google, and one of dozens and dozens and dozens I applied to at countless other local companies. And it felt like a dream. And I knew I deserved to be there. Was it a fluke, if they told me no before? Nope. Because there are a thousand different reasons why a job interview might not pan out. And it may not say a damn thing about your skills or ability to succeed.

It's just....your story.

Looking back at myself, rolling into California in July 2013, would I have actively chosen a route with so many detours to get to where I am right now? Probably not. Looking back, would I change any of the details? Probably not. If I changed anything, it'd only be the faltering confidence I had. I'd sit myself down and tell myself I had reservoirs of grit and determination and nerve I didn't know about yet, and also important things to learn that would ultimately shape the jobs and path I later secured.

What I didn't know then, is that my own job setbacks and interviewing saga would provide me with an empathy and passion that pointed me away from a writing career and toward a people development career. What I didn't know then, is that the very thing that made me cry and took my feet out from under me is what later gave me clearer vision and steadier legs to stand on.

As I wrote at this time 3 years ago: "I'm fine with missed shots and almost-theres and you'll-get-it-next-times. I'm fine with bruised knees and scraped palms and frustration and delayed success. I'm learning how to fall, so I can learn how to skate."

Looking ahead, I didn't know my story. Looking ahead, I wouldn't have written it the way it was ultimately written. And looking back, I'm really damn glad life took the pen out of my hand and wrote it better.

1 comment:

Feisty Harriet said...

This is such a great post. I'm re-entering the interview stage, yet again, and this is exactly what I needed to read.