Failure

I just admitted in a job interview that I felt like a failure. Just prior, I delivered a really great answer to the question of how I approach project planning. When I finished, the Director of Operations blurted out “how have you not been hired yet?” I shared my difficulty in getting an interview for project manager or engineer jobs. My resume works best as a functional resume; however, most career portals process chronologically. I have large gaps in my resume for child raising and to take care of Sarah, and my latest role is as an office admin. She nodded her head in understanding. She was interviewing me for an hourly admin role.

Then my mouth opened and I said “I felt like a failure.” The room got quiet as I explained that I felt like a failure for not succeeding in the way that people expected based on my degree, intelligence, college, etc. I was not living up to expectations.

I spent about a week at the end of August listening to the refrain of “I am a failure.” One day after leaving my part time job, I sat in my car and felt a little panicky. The chant of “I am a failure” was so loud it sounded like blow horn in my head. The urge to silence that blow horn was immediate and intense. I took some deep breaths, told myself to hold it together, and turned the radio up loud as I drove away.

Over that week, I alternated between watching myself and thinking “you’ve never beat yourself up like this before” and bending under this oppressive weight. At painful times like this, I usually just sit outside and breathe. Sometimes I listen to music, sometimes I lie on the floor, sometimes I try to talk it out but it is hard to find the right ear. The right ear is not the one that says “you are not a failure!” It’s the one that says “ah, I’ve heard that voice.” I canceled on a few commitments. I knew that I was not in a position to deliver.

After a number of days, despair began to creep in. What if it never let up? When was I going to feel better? Was I ever going to feel better? I got frustrated because I’ve tasted joy, I’ve savored contentment. I was not letting those feelings go. I began to change the self talk bit by bit and that began with the counter-intuitive idea of acceptance. I am not a failure. Logically, I knew that but I was failing in application. I was failing to live up to other people’s expectations of what I should be doing and how I should get there. Well, there’s an easy solution to that. Fuck that.

Fuck other people’s ideas of what and how. I was failing in only one major way. I was failing to trust myself. I was failing to have faith in my hustle, my work ethic, and my people skills. On the sixth day of that awful week, I rewrote my resume to showcase all the terrific skills I am practicing in my current admin job. I let go of job and salary expectations and began applying at businesses looking for what I nail down everyday: excellent admin and great customer service for internal and external parties.

A little bit here, a little bit there, I felt the weight begin to lift. The voice of “I am a failure” became less strident, less loud and less obtrusive. I sent about 9 applications within a week. I refined my resume further and spent time crafting confident and, finally, authentic cover letters.

In my interview, I jumped the back story and summed up by saying I let go of other’s expectations and focused on what I know I can deliver. I gave them examples of how I’ve been able to help my current employer in unexpected ways and how that has been beneficial for both me and my employer. I stated I will bring my best to any role for which I am hired, salaried or hourly. As the company and I get to know each other better, we can reevaluate the needs and what skills I can use to meet those needs.

About an hour after I got home, my HR contact called to schedule a second interview. In addition to meeting with the Director of Ops and department personnel, she specified that my last interview of the morning would be with the company CEO.

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