At the time I was working in a dead-end job. It was in truth, the latest in a long line of dead end jobs. I had not enjoyed any of them really, but there was a need to earn money for my young family and my capabilities were meagre, so here I was. The company decided that it needed a senior manager and thought they would give the people on the floor the chance to step forward, I threw my hat in the ring. I figured what is the worst that could happen? I know stuff, I know how our customers think, I reckon I’m as smart as most of the others so what the hey.
The appointment was being handled by an external employment agency in three phases. Written applications, interview and then psych testing. The job was also advertised externally. The candidates would know they got through the written applications if they were invited to an interview etc. The internal candidates were guaranteed an interview so that was at least something.
So regardless of the strength of my application, when given the time for my interview it was without much excitement or sense of achievement. In my interview I was candid and probably a little too straightforward, certainly that was what I was thinking as I caught the train home in time to put the uniform on and get back to work. A few days later I was told I should turn up to do some psych testing. Now I was pretty excited. I knew I was the only internal applicant to get to the next stage.
I didn’t think I would get this far. I knew I would get an interview because I was an internal candidate so my expectations certainly weren’t raised at that stage, but now, off to some fancy pants evaluation centre, that was a whole new deal.
I got their early, like I do everywhere. I sat in the comfortable lounge in the foyer and was eventually invited behind the big doors down a corridor into a little white room. It was too small to be a part of some padded cell but that’s pretty much what it felt like. I was handed a few sheets of paper and a pencil and told to answer what I could in the time I had, and they would be back at the right time to stop me and collect the papers.
That sounded simple enough, so they left the room and I started sticking crosses on the paper without wasting any time. I wasn’t being reckless but I wasn’t triple reading anything either. Sooner than I had expected the door opened and they gave me another bunch of papers in a hostage exchange for the last lot. Same process and in what felt like even less time, they were back to run a third test.
Because I changed schools so often courtesy of my father’s Naval career, I had done more than my fair share of IQ tests, so I had no fear of these sorts of procedures, in fact some of the questions had a ring of familiarity about them.
The lovely office person then gave me a nice big smile and said that was all done and they would advise the firm in due course. They made it quite clear that I would not be hearing from them again. I remember thinking, well, that’s that.
Just as I had anticipated, there was no ticker tape parade next time I turned up for work. I gave myself a silent internal kicking for getting my hopes up. What was I thinking? They were probably just being nice. I may have been the only internal candidate that told them the truth about their organisation. So they probably felt obliged to send me to those tests.
I had given myself two weeks as the envelope of enquiry, Though I didn’t expect to hear from anyone upstairs, I gave it two weeks until I would give up on the idea entirely. The next day I was doing my thing at work when the boss meandered up to me and told me I wasn’t getting the job. He was nice and polite and I tried not to let my disappointment show. Almost without drawing breath he said the recommendation of the testing company was that I was way too bright to be doing my current job. My boss had very kindly and generously agreed to provide me with another meeting with the employment consultant to try to find me a job I was better suited to. I will forever be grateful.
In the next meeting, which was with a senior manager, I was provided with an insight into their testing numbers and where I sat on the spectrum. They gave me my test scores and then her expression changed, a scowl came across her face and she asked me what the hell was I doing? I then received a lecture. It was both confronting and fun. I was so excited to be told in a sort of definitive way that I was pretty bright and shown the scores that seemed to indicate it was true and at the same time be chastised for the same virtue, or more accurately wasting that virtue.
Previous to this manager, the only person that had ever told me I was super bright was my mum. Now lets face it, I think we all know, our own mum thinks we are all bright and beautiful. It is hardly an evidence based decision. I knew that mum was just pumping me up, bless her, that was her job after all. “My mum says I’m handsome” is not going to cut it in the modelling world.
A new dawn had arrived. That afternoon I went out and bought 4 books. A book on mathematic theory, and three books on science. Between the four books they covered pretty much everything I knew I was too dumb to ever understand. But now that I was smart, I ate them up. While they were not the first books I had ever read, I could name all of the others.
On reflection, what had really changed? It was merely my mindset. I was in the middle of learning an incredibly valuable lesson. The biggest change you can make in your life is in your own mind. I soon learnt about the “Growth mindset” and have been an outspoken advocate ever since. I went on to earn my MBA and run my own business and along the way advise dozens of other businesses on how to improve their performance.
Michael Beaumont MBA
The Life Log Project
Michael records histories and stories for the benefit of future generations. For more on the Life Log Project go to http://www.thelifelogproject.com.au