Being more than you are.

Recently I was in an interview where some basic programming stuff came up – stuff that I just completely blanked on. It’s stuff I’ve encountered in the past but as a PC programmer it’s just not something you think too much about in terms of how the compiler actually builds the code. It’s obvious if you think about it but in the high pressure caldron of an interview sometimes this stuff just isn’t there in memory when you reach for it.

Anyway, further on in the interview the question “What do you want to do?” came up and I indicated that, if the job was mine, I would like to explore area’s I’d had little or no experience in.

But I got the feeling from the interviewers that there was an underlying current of “Why would we hire you to do stuff you have no previous experience in?”. I didn’t address this at the time – wish I had but it was a constant-question interview and there’s wasn’t much leeway in terms of being able to steer the conversation myself (which is ok, had very little time there so it had to be like that for them to get out of me what they needed to know).

On the drive back to the airport I was thinking about it and what I should have said and I came to the realisation that a) this was not only something that’s actually deep to the core of me – not something I want to say to people just cos it sounds good and b) next time I need to lever this into an interview by hook or by crook because it’s important.

So what should I have said?
I should have said that “I want to be more than I am.”. The only way to do that is to literally throw yourself into a situation where you *aren’t* as comfortable as you’ve been in the past. As long as there is someone else around to ask I’ve when I’ve hit blank walls I’ve found that’s the best way to *really* learn something. Be responsible for it, be afraid of it because it’s an unknown and you’ll apply yourself and really get to grips with it.

Being afraid or uncertain at work is a great applicator, as long as you have the ability to actually understand what you are doing (I’m not going to be a theoretical physicist anytime soon no matter how afraid of the math for it I am) and I think I need more of that. It also has the added bonus of keeping you humble as well which I really need I think since I have a tendency to a bit of casual arrogance at times (not intentional, just comes across that way).

I think this is a crucial thing people need to hear in an interview – that you want to be more than you are rather than just carry on doing the same stuff you’ve always done.

One of the things I pride myself on is learning new things. I’m 40 and there’s just no way I can compete with the 20 something’s these days unless I *do* immerse myself in PHP / MySQL or C# and the like. And god knows there’s never a lack of new stuff to learn.

I need better ways to get that fact out in the interview I think. Ah well, you live and learn.

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