A little post-luncheon cynicism

cfw has had another rejection letter, and it’s really, really depressing. She’s talented as all hell, and just needs the break. Seems like a lot of people are having trouble getting a job, but that doesn’t really offer too much consolation, does it? If you’ve got a job that involves any kind of intellectual rigor, and you think a doctor of theoretical physics might be able to handle it, consider her.

It makes me think that, in one sense, we’ve been fed a whole load of shit about what it means to learn and work in the world. You grow up, and your parents encourage you to do well at school. At school, they teach you about these rarified and difficult-to-apply subjects; they teach you about places and concepts and languages you’ll probably never use. When you get out of school, employers won’t touch you unless you’ve earned qualifications in them, and when they do consider you, they reject you for missing skills no-one ever told you you’d need and no-one ever helped you learn.

What do you really need, then?

I think what you need is a form of acting; it’s the ability to convince people you’re talented, and to spin things so that people see the best in what you do. It’s all appearances. Real knowledge serves as the raw materials for your bluffing, real ability just makes the act easier.

So, look good in a suit, shake hands firmly, lock eye contact, and talk in a deep, confident voice. Keep your head still and straight. It’s amazing how effective these sorts of things are, especially keeping your head still. Absolutely weird, but very powerful.

Leave evidence that you’re achieving and that you’re a winner, baby! Lie well on applications and CVs. Produce stuff that looks great. Everyone loves a winner, right?

Be moronically positive People believe what you tell them, unless they’ve got evidence to the contrary. If you tell them stuff that’s positive, that’s going to work to your advantage, even if it’s neither balanced nor true. In the choice between truth and positive spin, choose positive spin.

Enough ranting…


4 responses to “A little post-luncheon cynicism”

  1. I’ve recently done some interviewing (for a web developer post at HYMS) and that was a very interesting and useful experience. I came away from it completely struck by the importance of appearing confident, relaxed and relatively outgoing (as well as the other important stuff like knowing what you’re talking about…)
    Interviewing can be nerve-racking. The first person we saw was someone I knew personally and thought would be great for the job; I have never seen a man in his 40s shaking. It throws people and they feel they have to comfort you and make allowances rather than concentrating on what you’re saying. And that gives the impression you need a helping hand with the job itself which obviously isn’t true. He also focused entirely on the negative aspects of projects. He was only being honest but it leaves a bad impression – it really does. Another candidate, who was so nervous she was almost hyperventilating, said about one of the key aspects of the job ‘I hadn’t thought of that’.
    The problem with apparent shyness/lack of confidence is not those qualities per se, it’s that people end up focusing on your personality rather than your skills because there is that immediate barrier. Everyone wants someone who is easy to work with and often people feel uncomfortable around someone who is shy or perhaps just naturally quiet. That may be their problem but if they think of it as a problem that will affect your chances. The trick is to put the interviewers at ease so they think you’ll be OK to get along with, that you’ll ‘fit in’ in the working environment. I know it sounds odd, but that was my take on what was going on in that room. So my advice would be to think of it less as you having to prove yourself and more as you taking charge of the situation and telling people what they’re going to think of you.
    Plus the interviewers only have 20 minutes to see you and lots of other candidates and if you don’t come across with some kind of impact you’ll be sidelined in favour of people who do. The fact that you’re great on paper is the reason you’re being interviewed after all. I don’t think you need to lie, just be positive, have answers to the obvious questions and remember they are trying to find someone to appoint and hoping there will be an obvious choice so they can go home early – it’s not a firing squad, you’re not there to be shot down in flames.

    • Interviews
      I’ve not been to all that many interviews, but I have had a few hits. My impression has been that the main focus of an interview is about is how well you will fit in with the company / team.
      After all, in a lot of jobs, you won’t be expected to know anything specific when you start. The experience you have will probably not be directly related to whatever job it is, so it is very important to fit into a team and get people to help you learn!
      So I think coming across as a professional person who’ll be fun to work with will be a lot better that reeling off loads of technical knowhow.
      In fact, the first job I got after university involved being sent away for a week to write a web application. Once I had done that, they knew I could do the job, so the rest of the interview was not technical at all.

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