In my ideal world, this is how I would introduce myself professionally.
Hi, my name is Ryleigh and what I really love is knowing what I do sparks joy in people’s lives.
All my need-to-knows are in my CV; instead of an introduction peppered with my various achievements, how about we shake things up and let me tell you the real me?
The sole impetus for wanting to join a creative agency was a book I read by David Ogilvy, which utterly captivated me! Although, based on my qualifications and capabilities, I have only two choices — account management or operations (traffic); I chose the client-facing role.
With zero experience, I tried to be creative and did up my resume in a flyer format; I tracked down the addresses of all the big agencies I wanted to join and knocked on their doors. Then, I hustled the receptionist for a chance to meet the account director or at least the HR person.
I want to say, “With my efforts, I got a job at JWT.”
Wouldn’t that make an incredible underdog story?
I did not get any job offers, although one agency did offer me an intern position. I spent the next nine months in a sweatshop agency before I landed a job at JWT, and by an extraordinary stroke of luck. Besides a job opening, the interviewer wanted to meet me cause he did not know anyone by the name of Cheese*. He turned out to be one of the best mentors I could have when I started my career in advertising.
As a junior executive, hearing the word “networking” conjures images of senior executives playing golf together and directors rubbing shoulders at award shows. It’s totally out of my league.
Unbeknownst to me, I was already doing it subconsciously. Whenever I arranged a get-together with friends, clients and colleagues to catch a football match, lent them a book I just read, or asked what they actually do for a living, I was already networking.
I don’t know what’s the secret sauce, but one thing I can confidently say is I make people feel at ease, and I’m really thankful for that.
Looking back, I wouldn’t have gotten the job at HBO if I didn’t have the experience with ESPN Star Sports, where my client roped me in for a contract role to cover the gap. Likewise, I wouldn’t have gotten my break into startups without a trusted referral from a friend. I landed my role at Metigy because the hiring person met me through an event at a previous job, and we had a mutual friend — that friend gave me a glowing endorsement.
It has been a fantastic journey so far. Honestly, I don’t shine at interviews cause I get really nervous, but I know that I’m good at my work and I’m great with people — as long as the setting is not “during an interview”, I feel fake that I need to brag about my accomplishments.
So… what’s the point of writing all these?
Interviews should be conversations, not interrogations. If you get the job, that’s great. If not, at least aim to make a new friend.
The most critical point, in my opinion, is our current recruitment process is outdated and detrimental. Obviously, everyone will showcase the most outstanding achievements; I’ve met people who are great at talking but not so much when it comes to actual work.
We hear companies promising diversity, inclusion, bring your true, authentic self to work, but can we really? Most of us wouldn’t even get past the interview stage unless we were hired to meet a quota or through a referral.
My most memorable interview experiences happened at WeWork and HBO, where I also did my proudest work to date**.
Change is in order if you desire to hire talents that will be cohesive and contribute positively to the culture; if you want advocates and champions for your business, staff willing to go the extra mile.
Hiring managers, and organisation leaders, lend me your ears (eyes).
*Before my baptism, my name was really Cheese. **If you want to read about my experiences in HBO and WeWork, leave me a comment.