Monday, 18 March 2013

Being "the best by a tiny bit"

Several years ago while living in Rochester, New York, I took the decision to leave my then current job and go on the hunt for another. For one of my interviews, wanting to impress the recruiters, I went all out in creating a few samples of communications products. The message was consistent across the products and, as I spoke to the brochure in particular, I was quite excited as I tried to sell the company on my new and original slogan: "It just makes sense!" Well, I didn't get the job.

What I did get was one of the shocks of my life. About three months later, a new insurance company opened offices, and started offering their service, in Rochester. Their slogan? "It just makes sense." They had a few commercials that created scenarios of people/situations with a dearth of common sense. They built 'em up to that final scene where everything inevitably came crashing down. Had they chosen the insurance company...blah blah blah. But, I was stuck at the slogan! To this day, it would be difficult for anyone to convince me that my idea didn't make it out of that interview and into the ear of some marketing/ad person responsible for the insurance company's ad campaign.

The fact that this has happened to me means that it has happened to others. I took no action. I mean, how would I even begin to prove that my intellectual property (didn't call it that, then) and creativity had been encroached upon? Nay, stolen. By that time, anyway, I had already found a new job and, well, was simply not interested in pursuing it.

That experience left me in a funny place. Not haha funny but funny peculiar, as my sisters and I used to say growing up. How would I, from that moment, demonstrate my capabilities in satisfying recruiting requirements, while not furnishing my would-be employers with valuable insight/material for themselves or those within their network, if they end up not hiring me? It also made me feel that, were I to take that route, I would not be carrying out my full potential; I would be marring the integrity of my work through deliberate short-changing. Doing so would mean not being true to myself.

Over the years, I've changed jobs a few times - relocating to different countries will do that. Whenever I've had to attend an interview that asks for evidence of my work, that episode jumps out at me. In a few cases, the requirement is in reference to something they've already worked on. And, that's fine; that's the way it should be. In one or two cases, they go the "what if" route for a situation yet to be realized. With those, it's really a hard call. The last time I was faced with that, I did go all out, but, I introduced no new idea in the comms material - everything was already theirs. I created the materials and did the writing - to show them I could. My uniqueness was in my speed; the way I captured the voice and sound of the head of the company in the proposed speech and the way I showed that I totally got what the organization was about.

I'm not saying that is the way to go.  Kinda reminiscent of Dash in The Incredibles: "I'll only be the best by a tiny bit." Most of us want to be the best by more than a tiny bit. And, after learning that we didn't get  x or y job, we certainly don't want to be thinking, "Man! If I had just put that little extra in it!" It might come down to: "Do your best but be wise as well." I would like to think that organizations are more mindful nowadays of the kinds of projects they have candidates work on as they vie for certain positions; whether these projects leave the company with little to no wiggle room to benefit in any way from what a candidate brings to the table if that candidate ends up not being hired. At the very least, it's a matter of ethics, really.


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