Last week I took a training class at work. I’ve taken many classes over the years on various topics, and one thing I can always count on is having a classmate who…well, who stands out, and often for the wrong reason.
You know the ones. The older guy who decides to be argumentative because the instructor’s broader lessons don’t match his specific experience. The career woman who’s continually name-dropping high level leadership to convey that she’s important. The new hire who lists “my confidence” as his #1 skill. The middle-aged man who somehow has experience in every area of the company and has an opinion on each one.
Am I stereotyping? Obviously. But stereotypes come from somewhere, and unfortunately I see them proven time and time again.
(I’m sure I fit into some of them myself. I wonder which ones?)
Last week, one classmate was a combination of #2 and #4. This person had an opinion about everything and didn’t hesitate to make it known, often speaking up before anyone else had the chance to add to the discussion. On top of that, this person managed to work in their interactions with upper management and senior leaders multiple times per day regardless of whether it was actually relevant to the conversation. It was somewhat annoying.
At the same time, as I sat there in class, I was also working through some concluding thoughts about the leadership program that I was not selected for this year. I was finally able to meet with my center’s program representative earlier in the week to get feedback from my own interview.
When I’ve solicited feedback after various unsuccessful interviews in the past, it has always been more useless than useful. The constructive criticism is general and indeterminate, vague and unspecific, and therefore difficult to use to make any meaningful improvements. But this time was totally different! My discussion with her was very positive and she was able to give me real, concrete, solid feedback that I can use going forward.
First, I got dinged for having to ask my interview panel to repeat their question, not just once but 3 or 4 times. (Most of the questions were two-part affairs. I was nervous, and by the time I had answered the first part, I had forgotten exactly what the second part was.) I knew this wasn’t good, but underestimated the impact it would have when comparing me to a pool of people who are ALL good at interviewing. It is what it is, and I can easily fix the issue in future interviews.
Second and probably more importantly, the interview panel didn’t feel like I had enough “skin in the game.” They didn’t feel like I communicated how I’ve invested in my own development — and for an agency-wide leadership program like this one, seeing that an applicant is already doing what they can without relying on anyone or anything else is a major factor. In reality, I’ve done quite a bit to develop myself at work, and I knew going in that I needed to play that up. And yet I still failed at doing so.
Essentially, I didn’t “sell myself” well enough.
And so last week as I sat there in class, pondering my interview feedback while internally eye-rolling as my classmate dropped another name, it occurred to me that perhaps these two things are related. Perhaps the fact that something fairly innocent like this person’s name-dropping behavior annoyed me so much is part of my problem.
I think there is a fine line between self-promotion and arrogance, and that line makes me uncomfortable. I am often hesitant to promote myself. I often fear being seen as arrogant. And even though I know this about myself, and even though overall I’ve been successful in my career, my weakness at the “art” of self-promotion continues to be an obstacle from time to time.
I know I’m doing good things. I just need to be more forceful about communicating that when it matters.
(And maybe take a few tips from people who are good at it instead of rolling my eyes? The jury’s still out on that one…)