I got a call this week from someone close to me. She was strung out because she'd panicked in a job interview. She couldn’t get the right words out to accurately depict her (overqualified) experience.
"I don’t know what happened", she said. “I was so nervous I couldn’t even answer really simple questions about my experience. I could hear myself talking but I couldn’t stop. What’s worse is that one thing they needed to know - I couldn’t even answer.”
I could totally relate. I thought about countless times nerves have gotten the best of me, to a point where even the easiest of tasks became over thought and paralysing.
I reminded my dear caller about the time I interviewed an intern.
I was the PR Director at an advertising firm and it was my role to find good junior talent. I interviewed a series of terrified young PR’s and one really left a statement to remember. I asked her how her friends would describe her. (I’d read some HR book that said I should ask questions like that. I was completely guessing what I was doing in the interview, too, BTW.). The intern looked terrified. ‘Um, good at head?’
Her face looked mortified. I was mortified. We both looked at each other in shock.
‘Did she just say that?’ I thought.
She’d had a brain fart. It happens. I quickly changed the topic. That poor wee thing. That is literally a worst nightmare.
I laughed about it afterwards, recalling my own statement of terror.
In my 20’s I did a dash of journalism in London and New Zealand. It gave me a chance to write and interview interesting people. One time I even ended up at Shoreditch House with a big deal actress interviewing her. It was surreal and great experience.
I was asked to interview my heroine for a music magazine. The interviewee was this kick ass rockstar who I totally fan-girled over for years. She was basically my rock star alter ego if I had the guts to do what she did.
Anyway, it didn’t go well.
To start with, our line was murky, she couldn’t hear my questions and we got cut off a few times.
I was so desperate to kick start the conversation I thought ‘fuck it’, and asked 'would you rather’. Now, for those of you who don’t know what this game is, it’s when you ask someone ‘would you rather’ and have them choose one out of two bizarre and embarrassing situations. The idea is that it’s a bit of an icebreaker and you have a laugh.
YOU HAVE A LAUGH.
Well, it turns out that is totally something you should do with only very, very close friends. Not mega stars who have never met you before and aren’t in a great mood due to a shitty line connection.
If I could pay someone to go back in time, and tell me to never, ever, ever, do that ever with someone new to me - I’d give them my Givenchy heels fresh out of the box.
Anyway, she was so offended (I asked her would she rather grow balls on her chin or swim in a pool of diarrhoea' and yes I realise that was a severe oversight on my end), she told her publicist, who told my Editor, who then emailed me saying she’d received an official complaint, and, in a first for the magazine, the rockstar’s camp would need to approve any write up.
I. Was. Mortified. MOR-TI-FIED.
I wrote back and profusely apologised to the Editor. I told her I was so excited to interview my idol I’d had a brain fart. A massive oversight and it wouldn’t happen again. I spent hours making sure the write up was on point, and made sure it was rock solid before sending it for approval. I told the Editor I was sorry I’d put her in this situation and it would never, ever happen again.
The rock star approved the piece, it was printed and we all learned a valuable lesson. I wouldn’t ever interview my idols again because I come across as a crazy person (sorry to break it to you, Beyonce…) and more to the point: I’d own up quickly, make it right, admit it was a fuck up and make life easier for the people involved.
Only now, and even writing this, I’m dry heaving thinking about it again, can I look back and cringe less. Slightly less.
I guess Everything Is Copy, after all.
And only as recently as this week, I completed a dick move.
I rudely interrupted a junior colleague. Talked over her. I was so excited about a new idea in GSD mode, I completely railroaded the conversation and took over.
Dick move, brah.
Reflecting on this overnight, I realised the mistake I’d made (one of those wake up in the middle of the night moments of ‘OMG I WAS SUCH A DICK YESTERDAY’), and the next day, I gave her a call.
I apologised. I said it was a dick move, I was sorry, and that I don't want that to be acceptable behaviour. I made a commitment to her that it wouldn’t happen again.
To her credit, she acknowledged it. Said she appreciated the call. Which is not to say it isn't a strike in the book, it is. People remember that stuff. But, if that happens again, she totally has a right to pull out the ‘Rach, you’re doing it again and remember our deal’ card. Two strikes ain't part of the deal, you hear me.
And, because it's not a big deal, we all moved on.
But we all have moments like this, don’t we.
Moments when the words and the brain aren’t in the same time zone and a total avalanche of total bollocks comes charging out like a bull in a china shop.
So, back to my dear caller. The overqualified, total boss lady who would slay that job in a heartbeat.
I told her to email the interviewer, ASAP. Thank her for making the time. Say it ‘occurred’ to you that you hadn’t accurately outlined how supremely qualified you are for the role and then proceed to outline in all the very many ways you’d nail what they’re looking for. Ask them to put it down to interview nerves because you’d love the role. Then tell them you’d love the opportunity to come in for a trial to make it impossible for them not to consider it.
Because, as Kylie Lewis from Of Kin kindly outlined to me not so long ago, underneath all the corporate stuff; everyone is human. We all face adversity. We all stuff up.
Fuck ups happen.
They make good stories once you’re over the embarrassment, for one.
But more to the point - fessing up to mistakes is actually what makes you better at life.
You become better at having harder conversations. You realise when to apologise and learn when to address the elephant in the room. You learn how to be a better human, friend, colleague, partner.
So, this weeks address is to courage. If you want to have better friendships, relationships, interactions with your colleagues or your to-be boss, address the fuck up. Own it. Apologise - and then get on with your life.
I’m 34. I’m still learning to get this being a good human stuff right.
What about you?