Oh yes, the past can hurt, but the way I see it, you can either run from it, or learn from it. Rafiki, The Lion King
We always use social media to put our best foot forward. That new car, that photo of your dinner, the engagement ring, that cute new baby, the new house, that funny thought you had. I thought I’d break that trend, even if it’s just for a day.
Today I remembered my shortest job interview ever.
I was a sophomore in college and the computer business I started in high school wasn’t selling very many computers. I was trying to be Michael Dell, and I wasn’t very good at it. I needed some disposable income as my financial aid ran low.
I woke up late. The traffic was horrible. I drove alone in the carpool lane of the 51 freeway during rush hour, otherwise I’d have no hope of getting there. I didn’t get caught by police, but I’m sure I pissed a bunch of people off.
Don’t worry, after about a year of brazen but internally apologetic carpool lane driving, I did get caught, and went to traffic school. I never did it again, until I bought an electric car and I could do it legally.
All in all, I was about ten minutes late to the interview. You should be ten minutes early to a job interview. The job was a $15/hr position as an assistant at a legal firm: filing papers and stuff.
I got there, prayed, and turned on the charm. I got in and shook hands with the woman supposed to interview me.
We didn’t even sit down.
“Hi, I’m David. I’m so sorry I’m late, the traffic was horrible.”
I gave her that million dollar smile I learned in Academic Decathlon during speech and interview. Surely she couldn’t resist.
I mean, I wish I had photos. I deleted every photo taken of me in 2006 though, except for one. I’m sure you can guess why. Yes, I was immature once. The one photo I have left was taken at a party, a day after getting my wisdom teeth pulled, and my face was swollen, and I’m still proud of that picture.
I’m just ok now, but I was at peak handsome in 2006. That was the year that two beautiful twenty-something-aged women picked me up off the street (sidewalk) and gave me a ride to a gas station (running out of gas wasn’t a rare occurrence), though I insisted they let me walk. They seriously wouldn’t take no for an answer, and I was too nice back then.
In hindsight, I’m pretty sure they wanted a ménage à trois, with the looks they kept giving each other and myself, but I turned on “Daddy mode” and kept telling them, “You really shouldn’t be giving me a ride, it’s not safe to pick up random dudes.”
Yes, I actually said that. They responded by telling me I didn’t look dangerous. Now that I’m older, I know if two white women tell a black stranger he doesn’t look dangerous they’ve got something else on their mind. Once I was back at my car, I implored them, “Thank you so much, but please, never do this again.”
They looked really disappointed. I didn’t ask for their numbers, or to hang out, or let them know, “Hey, we should party sometime!” I was basically lecturing them. They never guessed they’d picked up the lamest, most oblivious, most gentlemanly and Christian black guy they’d ever met. I had a girlfriend at the time, and she was pissed when I told her what happened. Heck, my wife is pissed at me for that story.
“Really David, you actually got in the car with them?”
If you’re a non-Christian guy, you’re probably pissed too, though for the exact opposite reason as my wife.
Once in Pre-Calculus, a female classmate handed me a stack of risqué photographs to see if I liked them, because she was working part time as a lingerie model.
Seriously, this stuff never happens to me anymore!
My interviewer just gave me this blank stare. “You’re late,” she said. “You’re ten minutes late to a job interview.”
“I know, I am so sorry,” I said flustered and embarrassed.
“I’m sorry too,” she coldly replied.
I could take a hint. “Yeah, I understand… thank you though,” I sighed in defeat. I felt my cheeks get warm and I walked away.
I sat in my car gazing at the steering wheel. Those ten minutes had cost me my entire morning.
And why did I tell her thank you? Thank you for what? For rejecting me? For her time? We spoke for 30 seconds!
David, sometimes you are too polite. You don’t have to say thank you, when you’re rejected.
That was it, after staring at what had now become my staring wheel, I left there feeling like an idiot and a failure. Everybody’s had that bad day.
Here’s the thing, because I didn’t get that job, I got a crazy idea and decided to apply for a few web design jobs using the skills I’d learned while creating my computer business’s website.
I got my first web design job being paid $10/hr for a couple real estate agents. They weren’t very good agents and eventually dissolved their partnership, and I had to find a new job. Their checks even bounced a couple times.
Then I found another web design job for $12/hr. This was pretty steady and I worked there for a year before feeling like I needed to move on to bigger and better things.
But first things got worse. A lot worse. Besides regularly running out of gas, and regularly paying overdraft fees, or having your $25 used tires blow out, or having the engine on the car your parents gave you go out, and not being able to afford to fix it yourself so your parents bail you out, and having it happen on an Indian reservation, and having it get towed by Indian reservation police, and having $30 left in your bank account, and then only $2 left.
All because I was 10 minutes late to a job interview in 2006.
That bad day you’re having, that unanswered prayer… It could be the best thing that ever happened to you!
I was never late for a job interview again, but I occasionally look back and think how different my life could have been, had I been on time for that interview.
Be encouraged. Your bad day might not seem so bad, that dumb thing you did might not seem so dumb, if you could see the future.