"I get knocked down, but I get up again, you're never going to keep me down" - Ancient Proverb
I had an interview recently, and we'll just say it could have gone better. As I walked out of their office into the cold, Canadian winter, I felt an overwhelming sense of defeat. And not the regular sense of defeat most Canadians generally feel when winter starts. It was a myriad of different emotions; anger, disappointment, confusion, disappointment. Actually come to think of it, it was mostly just a whole bunch of disappointment.
Over the past couple years, I've become a lot more comfortable and confident in my skills—when I apply for a position, I actually feel like I'm a good fit. I've shed off a little bit of that imposter syndrome; I walk around the office with a little more bounce in my step. I've built up a development portfolio. I started answering questions on StackOverflow without too much fear of being eviscerated by my peers. Things have been pretty good—except all of that went out of the window during this interview. Maybe it was the entire Margherita pizza I ate only an hour beforehand, or maybe I just cracked under pressure (it was probably the pizza though).
Pictured above: the culprit
The position seemed like a perfect fit for me. It was a front-end React position at a Market Research company. I've been working professionally as a developer for around four years with a focus in Node.js/React, and I have a post-grad certificate in Big Data Analytics—this ticked off a lot of their checkboxes. A friend of mine was working as a highly-respected developer with this company, and had even recommended me for the position. Things really couldn't have been much more in my favour. I was critical darling "The Shawshank Redemption", and the Oscar for Best Picture was mine to lose.
The Shawshank movie poster and the picture of an Oscar on Wikipedia both had attribution clauses I was too lazy to read, so I found this terrible stock photo to illustrate my point instead.
Except Shawshank Redemption didn't win Best Picture. And I wouldn't either (in case you're curious, Forrest Gump beat both Shawshank AND Pulp Fiction for Best Picture that year. Also, am I nailing this analogy?). Here's the thing: I had all of the advantages coming into this, but you can't rely on just advantages to carry you through to the end. The simple fact is I had a bad interview. It's nothing I wasn't prepared for, the technical portion was pretty straightforward. I just happened to run into a bug that ate up almost all of my development time. I panicked—cooler heads did not prevail—and by the time I figured out what the issue was, it was too late. I swallowed my pride and walked my interviewer through what I would have done to finish the challenge.
How I felt, but in cat form.
I wanted to be open about this experience because I feel like it's important for people to see the less glamorous side of things. We often focus on talking about our jobs or the cool projects we've been working on, but it's not often that we'll open up about our failures. Maybe it's because there's a ton of ego in our field, and talking about weakness opens you up to being attacked (maybe this article was a terrible idea—what have I done?). But I think we've all been through the process; the countless resumes shipped, the seemingly-endless applications filled out. Months without hearing back on any prospects. The technical recruiters who claim they're excited to work with you, only to ghost you like a bad Tinder date. The feeling that maybe you're just not cut out for this. It can be hard to stay motivated through it all.
Here's the thing: you will fail, and that's okay. Because once you find success, it will taste so much sweeter. There's an infinite number of failure-related proverbs I could reiterate at you until they crown me the king of cliches, but quotes from dead presidents are for yearbooks and gravestones. Twelve years ago I was homeless, and now I'm a software engineer (a story for another day). I faced a truckload of failure before I made it to where I am. It sucks, but I made it, and I'm not going to quit just because of one bad interview. It will take at least three bad interviews to stop me.
Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed my story. I'm doing better now but feel free to send me hug emojis on Twitter.