When failure means growth

Photo courtesy of the State Library of New South Wales on flickr

Today I found out that I didn’t get the teacher librarian position I’d recently applied for in a girls’ secondary school. Initially I was undecided about applying for the position and upsetting my world with change, then I decided that I’d go for it, and that I’d get it only if it was meant to be, after that it became something in which I had to succeed, which is silly because it turns into a personal quest. So when I received the fatal phonecall today, the rejection hit me on a personal level, although fortunately not for too long.

After asking for feedback, the head of library and I had a lovely conversation which had me thinking I would like to keep in touch if only by seeking her out at PD sessions. Some people you feel you would click with in the first few minutes of conversation.

Anyway, I’ve processed the whole thing to the point where I can put the matter behind me and return to my previous life. I wanted to write about this experience of job seeking, applications and interviews because I was interested in other people’s experiences. How many people go for new teaching jobs, how often, and how many rejections do you have before it hits you where it hurts, or before you decide no more?

And isn’t the interview a strange, artificial beast? I’m not very good at the interview thing but with practice (I don’t get any better but) I’m not as threatened and start to feel more confident about what I have to offer. I won’t be fake though, won’t talk myself up, and I definitely wear my heart on my sleeve. I suppose I feel that I don’t want to trick people into thinking I’m something that I’m not. I want to be able to say, here I am – warts and all; take me or leave me. But that’s just unprofessional. Nobody wants to hear about your shortcomings, they just want to hear your uncompromising assurance that you will do a brilliant job.

Photo by Terry297 on Flickr

Meanwhile, I’m staying transparent, sharing everything I have with whoever is interested – and if that includes my failures, then so be it.

Just today I read a very transparent graduation speech by a  primary school principal whose openness and generosity of heart really touched me. Here is a principal whose strength lies not in top-down leadership but in the acknowledgement and appreciation of the members of his community.

Although this was grade 6 for you at Forest Green as a student, this was Kindergarten for me as a principal. .  I am honoured that I got to address you on your first day of grade 6 and now your last. In my first year as a principal, I wanted to sit back and learn the environment of the school and I was so impressed with all that you did.  As a teacher first, we are suppose to be the ones that teach YOU, but in reality, you taught me just as much.

As I get older, I feel not so much that I’m more knowledgeable – in fact, my questions increase – but that I’m stronger in that I draw my strength from others and I’m not afraid to admit it. My hope is that I pass on the message to students – that their greatest achievement is their learning community or network – not their mark but the support of and appreciation of others in their learning journey.


Filed under networking

15 responses to “When failure means growth

  1. catherine wells

    Tania- I applaud your bravery in applying for a job (and for sharing your experience!) I interview potential staff quite often and I think it is really easy to forget just how nerve-wracking the whole process can be for the candidate and how much emotional energy is invested.

    It has been awhile since I last applied for a job but I can remember spending hours upon hours writing the resume, applying for various schools and then the inevitable waiting….waiting for an interview…waiting for a response. I felt absolutely devastated when I received my first ‘rejection’ letter. I think it’s very normal to feel let-down.

    Yes – I think we learn from rejection, but sometimes it may be awhile before we can appreciate this.
    For what it’s worth – I’m glad you’re still with us!!

  2. Thankyou, Catherine, it’s nice of you to say. I have to say I would be sad to leave many of the lovely people at school. As for rejection letters, they are never good, but rejection phone calls can at least lead to conversation and understanding.
    Hope you’re making the most of your break. Gotta love the holidays!

  3. Angela Harridge

    I understand, Tania. I applied for, and didn’t get, a position last year. I didn’t really ‘need’ to change jobs – but it looked really interesting – and it was in a NEW library. I wasn’t surprised that the offer didn’t come my way – I knew that before I walked out the door. What they wanted in a TL and what I believe a TL in the 21stC ‘should’ be were two completely different things. It would have been fabulous – a big, new library, closer to home … but I couldn’t ‘tell them what they wanted to hear’ either. I would have ended up frustrated doing the job they wanted.
    For someone who appears so confident, I was utterly petrified before I went in. It was only the 2nd interview I’d ever had and I really didn’t know what to expect. In the end I had quite a relaxed time. We chatted like old friends, and they showed a lot of interest in what I do and how I do it … it just wasn’t ‘for them’. I too, hope I catch up with them at a PD sometime.
    That said … I am SO jealous of their library – I stare at it every time I drive past and wonder what it’s like to work in it. Sigh!

    • I think that what we do is often ‘not for them’. I think one day schools will expand their vision to incorporate what we can see as important, but by that time I might be retired!

  4. Tania,

    Thanks for mention me in your post. I am honoured. It is funny that your last paragraph says exactly what I feel. As I get older, I have learned also that I am only as good as the people that I surround myself with. Through their strength we can all achieve greatness. Thanks for sharing such an open post.

    • Great to see you here, George. I loved your address to the kids especially the fact that you talked about learning from them and others in the school community. I don’t know about your schools, but here we are all driven to those final yr 12 marks. It’s as if nothing else matters. It’s very sad because we never stop learning, and there are so many skills which aren’t covered by the results. Thanks for dropping by.

  5. What an honest, genuine and heart-felt post. It is exactly the feeling of reading the text of somebody who is truthfully themselves that drew me to your blog years back. I am privileged to have got to know you a little bit since then. Sorry to hear that you didn’t get the job, but as you say, maybe it just wasn’t meant to be.

    I, too, applied for a new job – a post abroad, but through our national Ministry of Education – in spring. Didn’t even make it to the interview, though. I felt totally defeated, too old, good for nothing – lucky that nobody but my family knew! I find failure and rejection very hard to take.

    Interestingly, I come from a culture where blowing your own horn is frowned on – so much so that people become too modest. However, my international activities have taught me to be proud of any successes or strengths I think I have. Sometimes I think this works against me here, even if I never boast, or exaggerate.

  6. Sinikka, thankyou for your kind words. It’s true that it’s possible to know a person somewhat through reading their blog posts, and I’ve always felt we have much in common. Meeting you and collaborating with you in our global project has been so rewarding.

    I’m sorry about your experiences with the job application – sounds a little overwhelming. Very true that we can be left feeling old and good for nothing. I hope you didn’t feel that for long because, judging from what I’ve seen, you would be a brilliant educator anywhere. I don’t think anyone likes failure, but I’m beginning to get an idea of how specific criteria in interviews might miss out on valuable people for the job.

    I also have very strong ideas about what I want to do and how I want to do it, so it may take a long time for me to find a place that fits me.

    I think I’d fit in very well in your culture! Doesn’t matter how much you try, it’s ingrained and feels foreign to promote myself.

  7. Tania,

    I love reading your reflections – your honest appraisals and deep thought are so very inspiring.

    Like others, I tend to think that when you give it your best shot and you don’t get the job, it usually isn’t a match and disappointing as it might be (at least temporarily), it is ‘for the better’ (cliche, I know…). Have you read Seth Godin’s Linchpin? He talks a lot about the need for more linchpins and that if you are one and try to work in a ‘cog’ position or with a ‘cog’ company (as opposed to a linchpin), you’ll not fit well at all. Tania, you are a linchpin and you’ll create the place that fits – one where you will be a major contributor and leader…that is likely your existing role, as well – but you’ll grow it in other ways and in other places, too!

    I’ve had many such frustrating experiences, but I’ve also had good ones. It used to be that I would get bored so quickly, I only stayed in a school for a couple of years. I think I was constantly searching for the ‘perfect’ fit for me. Now, I just change ‘roles’ in my school and/or directions that I want to take within my role. 🙂 Now, I await ‘retirement’ when I can take an annual contract job overseas or create my own job and ‘live it’ to the fullest without having to worry about job security and longevity. Now, I gain similar satisfactions by collaborating with people of like minds (outside of my school) to further enrich my own learning and that of students….and I’m glad to have that experience with you and Sinikka.

    And, so I ramble, but I do hope that you recognize all of your talents and attributes within and that your potential ‘mismatch’ at that job will lead to other doors to be opened! 🙂

  8. Marie, if you are rambling, then you do it so well – keep rambling! Your words are very touching, and I appreciate your support. I’ve heard of Seth Godin’s Linchpin, and now I want to read it. I hope that I’m a linchpin because I don’t want to be a cog. It would be so interesting to read in depth about your journey as an educator, Marie. It’s interesting, isn’t it, that some of our most enriching collaborations and relationships are with people outside our school/work – like the relationship we (3) have with Sinikka. And after so many encouraging comments here, I’m feeling much better about the way things have worked out with the job. I think the experience, but mainly the reflection and discussion after it, have been valuable in sharpening my vision about who I am and what I want to do.

    Did you read Linchpin online or as a hard copy? Thanks Marie.

  9. Pingback: Linchpin « Brave new world

  10. JudiJ

    Coming to this late, Tania, but I too applaud your honesty in expressing what many of us have experienced at some time. The disappointment doesn’t come from a sense of entitlement, but for me, it felt like personal failure. I will never forget the sneer in the receptionist’s voice when I rang to enquire about a particular application – I seemed to tick all the boxes, even down to the fit of the referees for that school. You didn’t _even_ get an interview, she said, retrieving my file. No letter of rejection; up to me to make the enquiry. Retrospect, of course, tells me that I would not have been happy at a school with a culture that didn’t contact applicants and had a sneer at the other end of the phone. But at the time, it hurt. All power to you, Linchpin Lady.

    • Thanks, Judi. There’s no excuse for sneering attitudes! As you say, why would you want to work in that place? I was fortunate to receive a friendly phone call and a good chat. I think we should have a linchpin group, perhaps on Facebook or hashtag on Twitter.

    • Judi, I’ve had similar experiences. I find it interesting that people can be so rude when obviously, when it’s them and their job application they would like to be treated in a respectful way. The sad thing is I think we are all very competitive and so we sneer at others to make ourselves feel better…that’s one explanation. I’m sure there are many. Tania, I think it’s wonderful that you remain positive and honest despite this set back. Don’t let them convince you that you should be anything but yourself, warts and all!

  11. Thanks, Susie. I think that each interview just confirms for me the fact that, if I want a perfect fit in a job, I have to present myself honestly.

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