When I was in college I remember getting my first interview opportunity. I was excited. I was also in a small panic when I realized I didn’t have a business suit to wear given our economic situation (broken, student assistance, etc.). I don’t remember how, but we managed to scrounge up a few dollars before heading over to K-mart (Wal-mart of yesteryear) to pick up a cheap suit and tie. Task one complete.
I then went over to the career center to find out more information on the company. When I was going to college, there was no Internet to “Google” the company. I went through the company prospectus and I read as much as I could about their products and services. Task two complete.
On the way to the interview that Friday, I had to take two buses to get there which took a little over an hour just to get there. On the way I mentally rehearsed various scenarios of questions that would be asked. I was having mental conversation with myself anticipating what I would say to certain questions and what types of questions I should ask in order to sound “intelligent”. I managed to arrive twenty minutes early and during that time I went into overdrive on the mental preparation. I was ready! Task three complete.
It was interview time. I walked into the manager’s office and he closed the door behind me signaling that I was now in the ‘arena’. It was time to get down to business. The interview started out well. The more questions he asked the better my answers began to sound. Then I countered with a few well-placed questions. In the back of my mind, that little voice from within was routing me on saying, “You’re doing great! Keep it up!” I felt schizophrenic having another voice in my head encouraging me on while I was interviewing. The interview concluded and I left the manager’s office feeling like I had nailed it! My ego, and my head, was of gigantic proportions. Task four complete.
On the way back home I began to mentally go over all aspects of the interview trying to recall every minute detail so I could analyze it carefully. The more I mentally replayed the interview tape in my head the better I was feeling about the eventual outcome; a job. I’m telling you, I was on cloud nine and my big, helium inflated head resembled a dirigible.
When I got home I was excited, talking a mile a minute. As the conversation went on my dad was clearly excited for me. Then he asked the single question that ‘popped’ my ego-balloon, “When are they going to call to let you know if you got the job?”
I stopped dead in my mental tracks and said, ‘I didn’t ask and they didn’t say.”
He nodded his head politely and my excitement went from 60 to 0 in 3 seconds.
What I didn’t tell my dad was that I was afraid to ASK when they were going to make a decision or when I could expect to hear from them. I wanted to ask but I didn’t; I chickened out during the interview. Task four…not completed.
Knowing that I should’ve asked and but didn’t, really bothered me. But I reassured myself that things were fine nonetheless and I would probably find out next week whether or not I got the job. It was time to enjoy the evening for now and wait for morning to come.
Mental Log of Events Starting Monday:
Monday rolls around and I don’t receive a call.
Mental State: “Well, it’s Monday. They probably have a lot to prepare for and will most likely call me Tuesday. Also, they probably don’t want to seem too anxious that they want me.”
Tuesday comes and goes; no call.
Mental State: “Well, maybe they’re reviewing a few things and need to be sure before calling me.”
Wednesday comes and goes; no call.
Mental State: Concern begins to set in. “Why haven’t they called. What could be taking them this long to decide?” I’m a little worried but not too much.
Thursday comes and goes; no call.
Mental State: Concern now becomes anger. “I wonder why the hell they haven’t call. I mean, damn it, the interview went well. What more could I have said or done? What the hell is their problem?”
Friday comes and goes; still no call.
Mental State: Anger becomes resentment. “Aw hell, I didn’t want the damn job anyway! It would’ve probably been a lousy job anyway.”
By the time Friday ended, I did everything to “rationalize” why I they hadn’t call. I tried to convince myself that it probably wouldn’t have been a great job anyway. I tell myself that it was no big deal. But the truth was that I was angry and feeling very resentful at the company not calling.
In hindsight, my anger at the end should not have been directed at the company who interviewed me. It should’ve been directed at me for not asking the key question, “When are you planning to make a decision or when can I expect to hear from you?” Although the outcome may have been the same (i.e., didn’t get the job), I could’ve avoided the mental anguish of waiting all week for a call that was never forthcoming. Worst, for the following two-three weeks I was holding out hope that they would still call. Deep down inside I was telling myself to expect the worse, but I was still hoping for the best.
The call never came and that experience taught me two valuable lessons:
1) Ignorance is not bliss. Deep down inside there was a part of me that didn’t want to ask for fear of getting rejected. We often times think it’s best not to know the truth thinking somehow that ignorance is bliss. Wrong! It’s best to know the truth no matter how painful it may be. It was actually more painful not knowing for the next few weeks whether or not they would call. When they didn’t, and I eventually accepted the reality that they wouldn’t, but I also realized that I had just spent the last few weeks worried about something I could’ve had the answer to sooner if I had only asked.
2) I deserve an answer. I believe the other part of the reason I didn’t ask was because I was afraid to because I didn’t feel I had the right to ask. I saw myself as someone begging for a job. And we all know that beggars can’t be choosers. What I should’ve done is see myself as an equal, offering my services to a company knowing that if they didn’t see my value I would simply go elsewhere. But I didn’t; I felt inferior not superior. I should’ve treated the person interviewing me as an interviewee also. Because not only was I interviewing for the job, they were being interviewed by me to see if I wanted the job. This change in mindset would’ve given me the confidence to ask the tough questions.
We often defeat our own means at success when we undermine our capabilities and sell ourselves short. That’s what I did during this interview. And in doing so, I lost the courage to ask because I didn’t feel worthy of asking.
That same little voice in my head who was encouraging me during the interview also held me back when it would whisper, “No, maybe it isn’t a good idea to ask for a date.” Or “If you ask you may get rejected because you seem to anxious.” The voice in my head was undermining my confidence in asking.
What I didn’t anticipate, by not asking, was dealing with the mental anguish of not knowing what could’ve been possible. I’ve come to the conclusion that it is more painful not knowing. So today, when I need to know something, with little hesitation, I ask.
In everyday life we are presented with situations where we have to ‘ask’ for something. If you want a raise in our pay or promotion in your company, you have to ask. If you’re going to buy a new car, or house and feel you need a better price, you have to ask. If you see or meet someone who strikes your fancy and would like to know their name or get their phone number to ask them for a date, you have to ask. You may not always get the answer you want, but it’s better to know, than not to know. The cost of asking may be high (i.e., rejection), but the cost of not asking is incalculable. Life is too short…ASK!
R. Wade Younger, CSP
401 North Tryon Street
Charlotte, North Carolina, 28202, U.S.A
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