By not hiring me and explaining why, a savvy founder set my entrepreneurial career in motion and saved me from a job I would have hated.
After graduating college in 2010 into one of the worst economies in memory, I started applying in bulk to any company I came across that was hiring. Out of desperation, I was open to just about any industry or level of pay that would consider my liberal arts background. After a series of successful interviews for a job I had no true interest in, I had a final interview with the savvy founder of the company. He told me outright that he wasn’t going to hire me, as well as why he was saying no.
He instructed me to buy Jack Welch’s book Winning (one of the first business books I read), proceeded to give me some of the most candid and important advice I’ve received in my career, and sent me on my way. I was upset and disappointed about not getting the job at the time, considering it a failure of mine to have ineffectively disguised who I was and poorly played the part of the person they wanted to hire. In hindsight, I realized that his small, thoughtful action set me on the course of entrepreneurship I’ve followed since that time.
The founder of the company explained that he couldn’t hire me because I would hate the job, and that within six months I’d either be so bored I’d quit, or perform so poorly that he’d have to fire me. He was clear on the fact that while they were looking for a self-starter, it’d be a bad business decision for him and a poor career choice for me to bring me on as an employee. Considering every job I applied for listed “self-starter” and “entrepreneurial” as qualities they were looking for, I was surprised at the time to find that wanting to eventually start a company precluded me from this particular job.
As a 22 year old, I knew I liked startups even though I didn’t have much of a clue what entrepreneurship was. Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to work at several startups, then Livingsocial, Google, and most recently to start my own company. I didn’t realize when I applied for those first jobs that the trajectory I established as an entry level worker would dictate much of my career success in the years to come. It’s impossible to speculate on how taking that job would have affected my career, or whether I would have ended up in a similar position pursuing tech and startups, but I think it’s safe to assume it would have been at a different pace, if at all.
To the founder who had the awareness and presumption to help me understand that meeting the minimum threshold of qualification for a job isn’t a good predictor of success, thank you. You challenged me to seek a path that I’d actually enjoy, excel at, and find rewarding. It’s made all the difference.
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This post was initially featured on Sprezzy …by Zack Liscio
Zack dreams big. He is passionate about disruptive technologies and creative destruction, and is happiest when working on making the improbable look easy. Split between Washington, DC and Silicon Valley, he’s worked at Livingsocial, Google, and recently founded his own company, Changecause.