“So tell me about yourself?” — A probing question shot off in my direction of late due to going to job interviews & meetings etc. and in true probing fashion, I am the ass at the end of it in one way or another. Interviews are uncomfortable, pretty boring and even though I’ve been to several million these past couple of weeks; they’re something I’m not quite accustomed to — neither the question nor scenario of ‘job interviews’ itself really. Sure I’ve had job interviews in my past (I didn’t sadly crack the winning lotto ticket to just do nothing but eating Yours Truly pizzas after waking up at noon & sticking around until the jollas roll through * thanks mom & dad), but it’s something you hopefully don’t need to do all too often — because interviews are crap. Besides the obvious, overwhelming anxiety to make a half-decent impression (the bare bones of this is you being judged — don’t be fooled) & trying to bluff the other(s) in the room of your desperation to sign the dotted line to go forth and buy your bread for the week & alcohol for the weekend, but holding some dignity by refusing to end up designing supermarket food catalogues. But the question has made me to actually consider who I am & what I enjoy.
It’s not like I’ve found myself, face first, against an existential wall of clay (well not clay made from human shit at least) contemplating the real me, screaming, “it’s all one big lie!” & thinking everything in my world if fake. It’s not that extreme & in actual fact, my world of 20-something, stressed-out designers/creators, involves a different type of -plate, serving as a fake solution.
At first it concerned me a little. It’s not comforting asking yourself these sort of things. Especially when they stem from a catalyst of others posing the question. Things that actually change you just by considering change. I have always loved advertising (a word/industry I came to discover a CEO of a global mobile-media company has absolutely no concept of this past week. If you want to talk about an awkward interview… He even asked me, “when and what did you do to overcome failure in your past”… I mean honestly? Did this guy just read some ‘Get Rich or Die Trying’ seminar memo or something? Absolutely no authenticity or passion from that interaction. Agh, getting off topic here) & social influence. An ephemeral industry built on “making life-long impressions” is just the kind of messed-up, oxymoronic concept that tickles me with curiosity. I enjoy that sense of crazy. I think in retrospect it would have come down to two options — advertising or A&R. If I had chosen to pursue the latter I’m 90% certain I’d be dead in one way way or another, & for the most rational moments of my mind, I enjoy harnessing the 3 portions of my talents & taste (The 3 H’s) into one daily practice.
The 3 H’s
1. Hipster — The (sellout) artist inside me.
2. Hustler — The devil in me getting you to buy an expensive round of shots from the bar & making it seem like your idea.
3. Hacker— The nerd in me that likes tech & code.
But I then realised it was possibly a good thing I considered this question more honestly than the blasé, rubbish we usually regurgitate as a response— seriously, do you remember the last thing someone replied to when you asked them to tell you about themselves, or worse, what you said in reply to the question? No, you don’t. Because it was boring, regular drivel. Not that they wished to sound boring or regular, and they’re likely very exciting, interesting people, but they haven’t genuinely thought about it. I certainly didn’t. I don’t think most of us have. I realised I enjoy solving tasks — it excites me fixing problems. Not fixing the kitchen sink kind of task. But challenges requiring some unique & new thought to solve. In university we considered this ‘creative thinking’ (a shitty term. Adding ‘creative’ or ‘innovative’ to any title or thing on a somewhat official standard just makes it seem tacky and creates the opposite impression somewhat) and in school, our ideas of story-telling were labelled ‘creative writing’. I always liked these lesson-types. I like solving the challenge of getting kids home safe and sound after a night out, that doesn’t necessarily mean one person in the party has to be sober, call Mom or shell out for an Uber. There are ways with the right ‘creative thinking’. This immediately got me reaffirming my happiness & love for advertising. But also stumbled by how this drive is under appreciated in London. Of course I won’t mention names, but I have had meetings with some powerful people of powerful agencies, who I got the impression they aren’t interested in what wonderful wisps of magic your mind can imagine, and then to practically applying it, but rather more interested in the tactile skills of code & design from finger to computer screen. I’m fully aware that these skills are sought after & wanted (and luckily I do have these skills), but these skills are taught. Taught. Every time I Youtube a tut about anything from repairing my iPhone to streaming the latest films, it’s delivered by some pre-pubescent kid. I still think that kid should be crushing on a girl in his class & playing football, but you get my point? Natural talent and training ultimately wins, but those skills are taught. There’s no text book or business model for character. And worse the impression when they ask if you can recreate something that you’ve already built, or exists elsewhere & wish to replicate. Now, take this all with a consideration of bosh sides of the coin, but a designer does not want to reproduce the same illustration or style day in and day out. A musician doesn’t want to sound exactly like f*cking Bono, because you happen to love f*cking Bono. A developer has no personal, creative expression when you want them to hack together a single page website with a few social API integrations to ‘generate market reach’ for every client. *Side note — developers, besides the nerdiness, are some of the most ‘creative’ & imaginative people I’ve met.
Not to get too specific of an industry, but this scenario can be apparent for anyone in any role. It is good to be asked, and then ask yourself these questions. Be aware they may make you change your path radically, and leaving what you’re familiar with behind — this is not a bad thing if you believe and trust your decision, it makes you brave, but make sure it is your decision. Be aware it also may just be time to test & reaffirm your beliefs as the question is intended to unsettle what you’re confident about. Ultimately believe in yourself, do what excites you. But ASK yourself as honestly and barely as possible, what do you believe in? What does excite you?
You’ll be surprised how much of a refreshing answer you can actually deliver to the interview cliché, “So tell me about yourself?”, and to hear the answer yourself…
Peace & love you all.