S07E06: Interviews and first dates

Interviews are just like first dates, aren’t they? Or maybe first dates are like interviews. Anyway, this is on my mind this week as I look backwards and forwards. These notes are slightly jumbled because it’s two weeks worth and I couldn’t quite knit it into something, so now you’ve got a sort of patchwork of metaphors. Anyway. Here you go.

I’ve been interviewing for the last couple of weeks. I always seem to be interviewing, don’t I? I feel like it comes up a lot in this blog. In part it’s because I’ve totally internalised the Netflix idea that “We see occasional outside interviewing as healthy, and encourage employees to talk with their managers about what they learn in the process.” There’s something that improves my own feeling of self-worth, knowing that my skills are valuable elsewhere. Sometimes the outcomes of these interviews give me really valuable pointers to areas for growth I hadn’t considered – for example, a recent rejection has told me that I need to try to find a way of managing a budget. Another rejection – on my part – has given me a much-needed reality check on what I find important and fulfilling.

Sometimes I glimpse an exciting job that seems to have fallen through a time portal, like one that uses competencies from 2017, and frankly that’s just a thrilling insight into the fact that organisational change is really, really difficult.

Now all of this might scream commitment issues to you, and I think that’s certainly one way to read it. But then you have to contrast it with the very exciting fact that I celebrated my first anniversary with my partner this week. It’s been perfectly joyful, and we are engaging in such unbearably cute couple stuff that I honestly can’t tell you for fear of being blamed when you vomit all over your reading device.

There are some parallels there, but they’re for another time when I’ve got them sorted out in my own head.

This week I took two days off (because anniversary). Despite that, the three days were not too manic, and I managed to get almost everything finished. I’m currently juggling multiple papers and strategies. They all need to align with each other, and it feels like trying to dock ships. Space ships. Space ships in motion. Space ships in motion relative to each other where there’s no such thing as ‘up’ and you can’t tell if you’re moving.

And somebody’s shooting space lasers at you.

And everybody’s working from home.


I had a frustrating experience this week where it’s taken four months to move something forward. I think it’s a relatively simple thing, but it’s turned out to be like carrying a tree on your back (the world record for which was previously three steps, held by a legendary Viking, and is now held by Hafthór Björnsson). I asked my manager how he maintains resilience in the face of this treacle-like working environment, and his answer was “The same way you eat an elephant: one bite at a time.”

And the thing is, the thing is, I’m not sure I like elephant. I’m not convinced I could eat one because, frankly, there’s a lot of elephant to eat. I like a varied diet. I’m immensely envious of people who can eat the same thing every day. My cat Salem has eaten the same thing morning and night for six years and frankly I can only respect that, because by now I would have eaten me purely just to try something new.

I’m putting aside the ethical question here of whether the elephant should be eaten: in the analogous situation, there is an elephant and it must be eaten. I am merely reflecting, in the open, about whether I am the right person for this mammoth (groan) task.

And finally this week: I got some absolutely lovely feedback – because it’s feedback season, friends, so don’t forget to offer your opinion around to anyone on anyone. Among the extremely lovely and flattering things that were said to me – not to be repeated, one couldn’t, one mustn’t – one interesting challenge stood out: that I’m intimidating in my technical knowledge. It’s been a really good reminder that the stuff I take for granted is still new to plenty of people, and the stuff I know seems like magic to most.

I don’t know what to say about this. I think everyone’s magic, frankly, and fully half of my team is more technically skilled or knowledgeable than I am. I suppose it’s yet another reminder that everyone’s context is entirely unique. This also came up during an event I attended for mentors; specifically, mentors on the Crossing Thresholds programme. I got to do that exciting thing where you share knowledge with other people who don’t have the knowledge, and on this occasion it was my firm belief that happiness is not the aim of life. It’s a belief I’ve picked up from the Stoics, via the magician Derren Brown (really, sometimes I worry about how many of my systems of belief are hand-me-downs from magicians and other charlatans), and it’s entirely changed my life. I recommend it highly.

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