A new low. Recently I failed to get an Executive role in a company that manufactures and distributes shit. Not only did I fail, but I appear to have failed by some way, and with some fairly brutal post final interview feedback. Feedback is supposed to be good to get – it is a gift after all – and I much prefer receiving it to getting the “could have gone either way” or “toss of a coin” malarchy you seem to sometimes get. However in this case there was a lot of it and it was quite pointed. The bit that sticks in my mind was something I have never been told in my 25 plus year career before, that they must have gleaned in their wisdom from the full hour we spent together, that I was “not across my numbers”. Number twos presumably.
Maybe I’m getting a little bitter. I’ve been in this situation a couple of times before – albeit much earlier in my career – and the difficulty is and always was keeping it in perspective. Every week feels like both an eternity and a huge waste. Whereas when you’re in a role those same weeks hurtle past like they’re on the fast track to Pearly Gates Central. And yes, I know that this is not new news. And I know many others are in the same position as I am. And I know I need to get over myself. But frankly, it doesn’t help.
Have I been a bit blasé? I’ve racked up what I THINK is a pretty impressive CV. Obviously there’s been a helluva lot of “right place right time” luck involved, but hey, they don’t need to know that do they? Fast growth companies. Takeovers. Sustainable profit. Turnarounds. Engaged teams. Successful transformations. Digital. You name it, it’s on there. And it’s in buzz word format so both bots and humans should be able to see it. And unlike most CVs that used to come across my desk, and bios that you glean from conferences and LinkedIn, it’s actually real. Tangible, validated results that have left significant lasting value in major organisations. Sure, on the whole, and certainly in more recent years, others mainly did it and I just steered it, but again who needs to know? Yet, somehow these days it doesn’t feel like any of it is anywhere near enough.
In truth the process of finding a job has never been one that I felt particularly comfortable with. All that self selling. No wonder there are so may egotists at the top tables of the corporate world. They no doubt smooze this hurdle of actually getting in. Meanwhile, it took me a long time (“an eternity” my dad called it) to get my foot on the ladder to start with, and the only other time during my career that I took the bold leap of leaving somewhere cosy with nowhere to go, cost me a good many restless nights before finally nailing that plum role 12 months later. Perhaps that’s one reason why I’ve stayed for such lengthy stints in a relatively small number of big companies.
Whatever the reason, this time feels different. And the process feels very different – harsher somehow. The support along the way is more random, more isolated, and prone to long bouts of silence. Using social media and technology to prove your worth is something I actually morally rail against to a large degree, but standing out and doing so is such a no no, I’ve had to play along and develop my “profile”. It is a real modern day irony that in a world that’s using social media so effectively to drive out bias and ‘isms, probably the biggest growth bias there is is against those who refuse to engage with social media.
And then there is the age thing. With the big 5-0 hurdle just having been clumsily traversed I am perhaps a little susceptible to paranoia on this one, yet I do believe this is not a good era to be looking for a big role, be male, and have your age start with a 5. And that one I can do little about if I’m really going to remain authentic (ie. not lie). Attitude is of course the key to turning this around. And mine currently stinks most of the time. They say that confidence is recognisable and magnetic, but then so is an iron mask. Some days it feels like that’s what I need to wear.
Why am I so focussed on getting this fabled next big corporate role? It’s a good question. I’ve done my time and given a huge chunk of my energy, passions and thought processing to the corporate world already. And for what? Should I just wash my hands and say that’s that, joining the throng of people my age changing course and doing their own thing. Changing course is a bit of a misnomer for me anyway. My plan from way back was always resolutely to be running a beach bar aged 40, and I’m already ten years late. I reflect back and think why this didn’t happen, and ultimately it’s down to courage. And it could be the same is true now. Being able to let go of all I know and jump into the abyss versus going for it again “just one more time” is a quandary. I honestly don’t know which way it will end. People around me console me with the “something will turn up” and “it’s a waiting game” platitudes. But in truth I’m not so sure. And failing to land the shittiest job going has not helped. Watch this shitty space….