Please, can you interview me?
Applying for jobs and not even getting an interview really sucks. It’s like getting rejected before a blind date. You’re disqualified from the race before you even got a chance to compete.
When I moved from Tel Aviv to Melbourne, it sucked about 100 times in a row.
After working in one of the tech capitals of the world, nobody in Australia would even consider me. Why? Because I didn’t have a degree. At least that’s what they said.
Maybe it was also because they couldn’t pronounce my name. But let’s go with the ”no degree” reason for now and give everyone a pass on cultural bias. Just for now.
My military experience counted for nothing. My experience at two startups counted for nothing. A degree, however, was apparently very important. It’s as if I couldn’t be seen for who I really was. Instead, I was an uncheck box. I didn’t meet the criteria.
So I went and got three of them. Five years of undergraduate study and part time work, followed by two years of postgraduate study while working full time. A hefty price to pay for a seat at the table. But that’s what I needed to do, or at least what I felt I needed to do, to access the opportunities I wanted.
When I reflect on the skills I acquired over the years, the skills I value most come from four places. None of which are university by the way.
The military is a unique environment. There are very few harsher experiences in life than combat service – although prison comes to mind – and yet, there is also something soulful about military service. While we spend most of lives focused on contributing to ourselves, the military – a bit like parenting – requires us to contribute all our time, energy and skill for the benefit of someone else. That’s a challenge in itself because, by nature, we’re self-interested creatures.
While we all wish we lived in world where military service wasn’t required, there are huge benefits to military service. Having to perform to a high level while under duress taught me a lot about what I’m capable of. Whenever a boundary appeared, I learned time and again that I could push myself further. That left me with a sense of unending self belief.
The other benefit was the leadership skills I developed. I don’t care what anyone says, leadership is not something we’re born with. Like any skills, it’s something we develop over time. In fact, one of the most important traits of a leader – facing into discomfort – is diametrically opposed to innate talent. If it was innate, we’d feel comfortable doing it. As a leader, I’m almost always uncomfortable. But I do it anyway. And that’s how I get better.
On the job learning
I learn by doing. I don’t like reading the manual or taking the course. I like making my own mistakes. I’m not an efficient learner because I usually do it the hard way. But that’s how I build confidence.
Most of my functional skills – the skills I use every day – were taught on the job. Watching others, trying myself, asking for feedback, trying again. Experimenting.
Some people like to know all the facts before starting something. I like to know about third and then discover the other two thirds along the way. Does it get me into trouble sometimes? Sure. But it’s also a more interesting way to go through life. And most importantly, it’s who I am.
There are people who have had significant impact on how I see the world and how I conduct myself. While none of them ever mentored my formally, I consider them all to be mentors because of their profound impact. Sometimes it was one tiny piece of unforgettable advice. Sometimes more.
But there is no doubt that I have sought, and attracted, a lot of help along the way. If you find someone smart who also cares about you, don’t let go. Their advice will be thoughtful and come from the heart.
I consume a lot of literature on a daily basis. A LOT.
I read books, articles and newsletters, I listen to podcasts and audiobooks, I do research and I ask questions.
I probably consume the equivalent of a minor thesis every day.
It’s not a deliberate strategy. It simply satisfies a need. Curiosity. I need to know more, so I don’t stop until I learn everything I can about a topic I’m interested in.
Thanks for not giving me that interview
Let’s be honest, there was one huge benefit in attending university. The network it gave me, both professional and personal. I met some great people, including friends, former colleagues and current investors in Vervoe.
Heading the list of significant people I built relationships with – significant to me – is my wife, who I met at law school. Best thing that ever happened to me. So maybe I should write to all the recruiters who didn’t give me an interview and thank them for doing me a huge favor.