If I Were 22: The Last Thing You Want to Happen During a Job Interview

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of a series of open letters to college graduates.

Dear grads,

Sorry this letter is a little late. I’ve been busy starting my own business. Imagine that. At 55, starting over. Yeah, I’m reinventing myself – one of those people you read about who left the corporate world to seek his bliss elsewhere.

It’s been fun, exhilarating and sometimes scary. But totally worth it. I’m making new friends and building relationships I never would have had if I’d stayed in my corporate job. I’m making my own destiny, setting my own objectives and charting my own course.

You could say my career started with a flat tire. Not exactly an auspicious beginning.

Me at my first job -
in the newsroom.
I was 23 and fresh out of grad school, with a bachelors in English and a masters in Journalism. My advisor told me the news director in a nearby city was looking for a 10 o’clock news producer. I made a phone call, set up an interview and hopped in my car for the two-hour drive. (It really was simpler in those days.)

Arriving at the station, I found there was nowhere to park. I felt a momentary panic as I scoured the lot until my eyes landed on a single empty spot marked FELDMAN. Now, I knew Scott Feldman was the principal anchor but I reasoned he wouldn’t arrive for work until 2pm – at least four hours from now. Surely I’d be long gone by then.

I entered the station, had my interviews, met some of the staff and, well … one thing led to another and I wound up spending the day, watching them put together the evening news. It was a heady experience. I got chills just thinking my first job might be in the 17th-largest market in the country! I stayed to watch the 6 o’clock news, then said my goodbyes, got the usual “we’ll be in touch” and walked out of the building.

I started to hop in my car when I noticed something amiss. My eyes darting around, I noticed the two rear tires were completely deflated. Someone had let the air out of them! It must have been that Feldman guy, I thought. Sending a message. How dare I park in the main anchor’s space? I was mortified. So was the assignment editor, who was embarrassed on behalf of the station – not mad at me. He called a tow service which showed up and re-inflated my tires.

Off I went, back to college town, and a few days later I received word that I got the job.

Feldman and I never said anything to each other about the incident. We enjoyed a cordial, professional relationship. I don’t even know if he realized that was my car.

The point is … life will throw you a curve from time to time. Often it will come in the most unexpected way. I mean, letting the air out of my tires during a big job interview? Really? So, you’ve got to keep it light. Keep smiling. Don’t let anyone or anything dent your confidence.

My son just graduated from law school and he’s looking for work. I know it’s a stressful time. I, too, am going through a big professional transformation. That’s the world we live in. So my advice is … when you suffer a setback, remember it’s just a moment in time. Things will pass. Keep your eye on the big picture. It’s the only way to maintain your sanity.  

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