Why, Ralph himself, he’ll be in line for a promotion in a year or two

August 29, 2008

Earlier this week I was interviewing someone about their strengths in the workplace. And, because despite all this work I still have a considerable ego, I then turned to interviewing myself in my head.

It’s rather amazing that I’m able to tell a coherent story of my strengths in the workplace. In the past, I would either have told you (meaning it) that I had no strengths in the workplace, or I would have lied and told you some inflated stories about things that I could pretend had gone well. But I would have been thinking, of course, Megabank Corp (or insert name of company as appropriate) never really gave me a chance to use my strengths. I was quite sure that when I found the right environment, my genius would finally be able to flower and be acknowledged.

I don’t believe either of these stories now, thank the Lord. It’s hard to decide which one is more unhelpful. I know that I have strengths that I can use in the workplace and I also know that there are areas where I am not strong. I could now answer interview questions truthfully on either subject, without defensiveness or resentment.

The second is harder to answer than the first, because I have changed so much this year. It’s a bit of a generalisation, but for the most part my workplace strengths are strengths of skill, whereas my workplace defects have been defects of character. I have screwed things up at work because I have been very emotionally reactive, because I have taken everything personally, because I have had very messed-up ideas about what I am responsible for. (Everyone else, but not me, broadly. Any flaw in that logic?) I have screwed things up at work because I have been paralysed by my perfectionism and fear of failure, because I have carried approval-seeking to pathological lengths, because I have taken my drama addiction into the workplace. I’m sure there are more.

I’m not here to say that I’ll never do any of these again at work. They’re habits that I’ve practised assiduously for sixteen years, and they’re not going to go overnight. But the balance has shifted. I now know I am doing it, and, more importantly, I now know that I am responsible for it. I’m no longer emotionally reactive. (I just checked this on the phone with my flatmate. It really is true.)

I hope this doesn’t sound like I will be a perfect employee. I am quite, quite sure that I will have new weaknesses at work. It’s just that I don’t know what they will be. My concentration span is still not great – I’m working hard on that one, but it is a difficult change and I think it will be a while before the balance shifts. (I’m not certain it would be a great idea to admit to that in an interview.)

The other thing that comes to mind is that I still make things more difficult for myself than they need to be. I am very bad at keeping it simple. I don’t have a great judgment about when to keep working on something and when to compromise. I get things done, but I often make heavy weather of it and tire myself out unnecessarily. I have achieved more this month than in any other month of my life – and I’m proud of it – but my goodness I have been exhausted for a lot of it and, if I’m honest with myself, that probably wasn’t necessary. I don’t yet know how not to do that.

It’s a journey, and starting a new job will be a new phase. It won’t be what I expect. And maybe I’ll never even get asked that in an interview. But it feels good. I have strengths, and I have weaknesses. Just like everyone.


3 Responses to “Why, Ralph himself, he’ll be in line for a promotion in a year or two”

  1. This is really good. Well done – I know you’ve worked incredibly hard and I’m so pleased for you that you are starting to reap the rewards of that.

    And yes, admitting in an interview that you have a poor concentration span and you think it’ll be a while before that changes is probably sub-optimal, unless you are interviewing to be a presenter on children’s/youth TV, in which case it’s probably an advantage ;o)

  2. Francesca Says:

    Or video game tester?

  3. Sure, that works too 🙂

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