Photographer Joie Takaki is pursuing her dream of building her own business. In this guest blog series, she shares her journey from beginner to expert with us.
Earlier this year, I received an unexpected package, a package of courage, in the form of an email. It happened when my niece sent me an email, asking for me to review her resume for her first job application. This was a milestone moment for her, and it made me sad to realise how fast life speeds forward.
After proof-reading her resume, I started reminiscing about my own very first job interview. And then I gasped! ‘My Gawd! Mine was truly unforgettable. How on earth did I ever forget about it?'. I must have blocked it from my memory!
Suddenly, I remembered it like it just happened. I remembered sitting in my car, feeling cute and stylish in my fitted blazer and knee-length skirt, overly eager, having arrived at my very first job interview (ever) straight out of University.
I was an hour early, as always, so I was mentally preparing myself. I felt this position was practically made just for me. I had a mentor, and also an inside connection, both of whom were rooting for me, and waiting for the verdict. I had this one in the bag! I was so damn sure of it!
Then it was showtime.
I was so full of confidence, I remembered walking into that towering glass building with so much gusto. You know the kind. You are humming happy tunes in your own head. You are smiling at everyone from the receptionist to all the other interviewees waiting nervously for their turn. The whole while that I was waiting for my turn, I was just beaming from the inside out, because I practically felt like I already owned it.
Then someone called my name.
And I was so ready! I went into the interview room with the biggest, most genuine smile and gave the interviewer a hearty handshake. I had walked in that room with such zesty energy and self-pride.
Then one by one, with each Q + A, I was shot down. Everything flopped.
Like a magic marker, my smile and perkiness were wiped clean away. Suddenly, I wasn't only disappointed, but starting to feel really upset, even angry. Somehow, this dreamy interview scenario had became a real living nightmare.
It was one of those situations that you might read about happening to others; where you think, ‘This would never in a million bazillion years happen to me!' And then it just does. The entire time, I kept thinking, ‘Is this a joke? Is this really happening? Where’s the candid camera?'
Yup. It was really happening. The worst case scenario for a job interview. And it was happening to me! I almost wanted to laugh.
The body language. Negative.
The words he used. Negative.
The energy. Negative, negative, negative.
I can handle negative. But he wasn't just being negative. Worse. He was being rude. Really rude. And I don’t tolerate rudeness. At this point, I just accepted the fact that I definitely was not getting the job. No matter how hard I tried.
I felt utterly… crushed.
But defeated? Not a chance …
After what seemed like the 1000th question, he finally asked me THE question of all questions. The one question, that ultimately changed the entire interview around for me. A question I haven’t ever forgotten.
He asked me, ‘What is your greatest weakness?'
I wanted to choose the right answer, not to win the job interview anymore, (at this point I had lost all desire in that goal), but I really wanted to prove myself.
So I replied: ‘I am a very honest person.'
He rolled his eyes and basically said, ‘Yeah. Sure you are.'
I took a deep breath, relaxed the tension I felt inside, and then, with calm and composure, I slowly and carefully proceeded to tell him exactly just how honest I really was …
This is what I said to him:
‘I am so honest as to tell you that I don’t think this interview is going very well.
I am so honest, as to tell you that I don’t think you like me, for whatever reason that is, but it feels more personal than professional.
I am so honest as to tell you how crushed I am that you are making me feel this way because I had high hopes that this job and this company was the one for me. I truly believed it.
To be even more honest, this is the only job in the entire country that I applied for. Why? Because I only want to apply for the places and positions that truly matter to me. It’s not just about the position. It was the people, and it was this company’s corporate culture that attracted me. It was the sense of fun and support and community that I was drawn to. And you, as the interviewer, you are responsible for representing this company. And you are making me feel the complete opposite of those feelings. So, if you are making me feel this way, I am really sad and sorry to say, I am no longer interested in this position.'
I was done.
Then, complete silence. He was so stunned, he just sat there, eyes wide open. So I stood up, shook his hand, and left the room.
I was 22 years old. That was my first job interview experience. And I walked away thinking, ‘Wow. That went nothing like how I imagined it'.
When I got home, my sister asked me how the interview went. ‘Awesome'. I smiled. Then I told her, play by play.
‘YOU SAID WHAT?!?!?!' She was baffled.
But, guess what happened next? I got a call. From that interviewer.
He told me that he was really impressed by me. He told me that of all the interviews he had ever had, no one had replied like that. And he wanted me to come in and discuss a potential position. This time, it was my turn to be shocked. I was sure that I would never hear from him again. I was really astonished by this turn of events.
By now, I knew what I had to do. I responded kindly but confidently with something like this:
‘I appreciate that, but unfortunately, I don’t feel I belong there. If anything, I want to thank you for the opportunity, but also thank you for making this decision clear for me. I know where I need to be now. I have a potential job offer overseas. I plan to move away for at least a year. To pursue other dreams.'
He actually wished me the best of luck! And to contact him when I returned!
A few months later, I got that job overseas and moved to the other side of the world. And it was one of the best decisions of my lifetime. It transformed me, and evidently, my life.
A whole other world with unforgettable life experiences and living out truly astonishing stories and meeting the most incredible people who have become a very special part of my life today; all of which have shaped my life and changed my perception of what it truly means to be alive. I was so so so in love with my new life, I didn't want to ever leave!
Just think, this new life would not have been possible if that interview went well.
Then it hit me, just now.
I never thought about that interview again. It no longer made me angry, or upset, or disappointed, or rejected, because I was too busy enjoying my new life and too happy with the results.
Sitting here, and reflecting on my earlier self, what had happened then, and what happened afterwards, I just realised the connection between that interview and some pretty extraordinary things that transpired as a result of it.
For the remarkable life, I got to live overseas is because that interview went wrong. I am eternally grateful for that outcome!
And then, only just now, I realised another incredible connection.
Ever since that interview, I have rocked at all the interviews I have ever had, thereafter. Even if people were not actually hiring, they wanted to hire me.
It never occurred to me, why?
I believe that this interview had something to do with it; because the worst thing that could happen at an interview had already happened to me.
So I always go into new interviews and meetings with this bad-ass attitude, like, ‘Try me!', I dare you. Followed by a smile. Always with a smile. Because my past experience taught me that I can trust myself in whatever situation comes my way.
So I began to think, ‘How could I apply this in my current life?'
And I thought, ‘Right! Photoshoots … and running my own creative business; whatever happens, happens, I’ll be OK! I can handle it!'
Remembering the outcome of that interview, I decided to start approaching everything with ‘realistic optimism'; that it could potentially become my worst nightmare, yet simultaneously thinking, let’s try everything possible to make this a dream-come-true!
In fact, you almost want the worst case scenario to happen to you. To get it over with. So that you’ve been-there-done-that, handled it, and mentally prepared for whatever happens next.
There is extraordinary self-power in knowing that the worst has already happened to you, and you rose far above it; rather than letting that bad experience take you down, you used it as ammunition, to propel forward. Incredible change happens when you decide to take control and turn things around yourself. This means taking actions that set things into motion, even after the fact that something did not work out as you had planned.
So, don’t be afraid of shocking setbacks.
The worst-case scenario might just be the best thing to ever happen to you!