In my last post I shared a play by play on my many athletic failures before I found a passion and talent in swimming. I will admit that it is easy to laugh at silly athletic failures from my childhood. It is altogether different to talk about adult failures in our professional work.
I remember my very first superintendent interview. I was blown away to even get the call. The district was way out of my league – large, high-performing and located in a beautiful area of the state. Any sitting superintendent in the state could have had that district and they called me, an Executive Director from Lake Travis at the time, as one of six to come in to interview.
I put everything I had into that interview. I knew that district backwards and forwards – every challenge they were facing and every accomplishment they had achieved. I knew every board member by name and occupation. In a word, I was prepared. The interview started and the board members began to ask questions – one by one around the table. And I began to answer… Question. Answer. Question. Answer. Question. Answer. They said that had been their final question. There had been 21 in total. I glanced at the clock and about 21 minutes had passed. Just so we’re all on the same page… in the interviewing world, that is NOT a good sign.
I walked out of that interview and didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. When the search firm called a few days later I quickly began to apologize. I felt like I hadn’t represented them well – kind of “embarrassed the family” if you will. He quickly responded and shared “No, Jill – they really liked you… In fact, they said you had ‘great energy’.” I had to chuckle to myself… Of course they thought I had great energy – who answers 21 questions in 21 minutes?!?
The world would look at that interview as a failure. I clearly did not get the job. But this too, was success. Because it was an opportunity for me to learn; to practice; to reflect; and to BE BETTER.
Six months later I had another opportunity to interview for a 2nd superintendent position – this time for Gunter ISD. So much had changed in those six months. I shifted from a place of being prepared to being READY. I shifted from a place of understanding that my job was not just to answer the WHAT – the “head” part to their questions, but to speak to the WHY and the HOW – the “heart” part of their questions.
Two interviews and 3 1/2 hours of discussions later and I was named Lone Finalist for Gunter ISD. I didn’t get the Gunter ISD job because I had “had a good day” or “a good interview.” I got the job after my second opportunity to interview because I had failed at my first opportunity to interview. That failure prepared me for success – because Failure Prepares us for Success.