WE’RE ALL OUT OF OUR DEPTH

Richard Tur­ley dis­cusses how to get hired when you don’t know what you’re do­ing

Computer Arts - - Meet The Team -

Did I know what I was do­ing? No. But it sounded like a good idea at the time. And we learnt – well, I learnt

In or­der to be­come fully versed in the art of talk­ing your way into po­si­tions far beyond your skill set, you have to un­der­stand – to the very core of your be­ing – that the per­son in­ter­view­ing you is as in­com­pe­tent as you. You need to look into their eyes and see the blag­ger star­ing back at you. This is cru­cial.

Con­fi­dence in your fu­ture em­ployer’s be­muse­ment at how they ended up here is as im­por­tant as your own. You are the same – two clue­less bod­ies en­twined in a sur­real em­ploy­ment dance. Nei­ther party know­ing quite how the plan­ets aligned, en­abling this mo­ment to be. Any doubt in the per­son op­po­site’s in­com­pe­tence will ren­der this process in­ef­fec­tive.

But don’t mis­take (your own or oth­ers’) in­com­pe­tence for lack of tal­ent. Tal­ent comes in all shapes and forms, and the as­cen­dance up the cor­po­rate lad­der is a tal­ent in and of it­self. The nu­anced vari­a­tions of your hus­tle up that lad­der are yours alone; all I’d say on the sub­ject is when you see an op­por­tu­nity, throw your­self at it.

For me, my life changed one grey Oc­to­ber morn­ing in 2008 when I ar­rived un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally early at the Guardian of­fices in Lon­don, and was greeted by a ring­ing phone. On the other end of the phone was a man called Jim Kelly, who’d been sent some work I’d done years be­fore. He was look­ing for some­one to re­design a magazine called Busi­ness­week, and won­dered whether I’d like to throw my hat in. A door opened just a bit, an am­bi­tion to work in New York that felt unattain­able now seemed gras­pable. I never thought I’d get the re­design, that would surely go to an agency, some­one who knew what they were do­ing. But – they’d need a new cre­ative di­rec­tor to im­ple­ment the de­sign, that was my aim.

Some­thing hap­pened over those few weeks be­tween that phone call with Jim, and when I ar­rived a few weeks later in New York to present. I started to be­lieve. I felt that con­fi­dence you get when you un­der­stand the brief bet­ter than your client does. So when I woke up early that morn­ing right at the end of De­cem­ber on a frigid, New York, clear-as-crys­tal win­ter day, walk­ing to the Bloomberg of­fices, I knew the magazine they wanted for­ward, back­wards, side­ways. I be­lieved so strongly in it, that I was able to talk about it in the present tense, rather than fu­ture. Like it was there. That it was to be.

At times like this, it’s also use­ful to em­pha­sise the im­por­tance of ‘the jour­ney’. Jour­neys sound op­ti­mistic, ex­cit­ing. And they’re nice cov­er­alls too. A jour­ney im­plies ad­ven­ture, for­ti­tude, ob­sta­cles and vic­to­ries. Van­quish­able op­po­nents cre­ated, tar­gets tar­geted. Some­one once said of one place I worked that noth­ing good ever hap­pened that wasn’t a con­spir­acy of some sort – a rene­gade oper­a­tion op­er­at­ing on a counter-nar­ra­tive. Peo­ple love that shit, it gives pur­pose and shape to oth­er­wise es­tab­lished and cal­ci­fied daily rou­tines. Be the ad­ven­turer. This in­stils quickly a tight bond of trust with those you’re pre­sent­ing too. We all want to feel part of some­thing. Some peo­ple are happy for that to be our fam­ily, a sports team, church, po­lit­i­cal per­sua­sion, oth­ers seek this per­sonal nar­ra­tive through cor­po­rate af­fil­i­a­tions, where com­pa­nies be­come a cypher for a need to be­long, in­vest­ing emo­tional cap­i­tal and self-es­teem in the tri­als and tribu­la­tions of the of­fices they work in. You may be re­pelled by even the sug­ges­tion of that, but I would sug­gest it’s not an un­help­ful strat­egy – when seek­ing em­ploy­ment – to at least pre­tend to buy into it. If noth­ing else, it shows the sort of com­mit­ment that might be oth­er­wise lack­ing in the or­gan­i­sa­tion.

In­deed, pre­sent­ing your­self as the ad­ven­turer might be your only strat­egy if you find your­self in a sit­u­a­tion where none of your skills have any ap­par­ent ap­pli­ca­tion to the po­si­tion you’re in­ter­view­ing for. This is when you need to pivot into ex­plain­ing how your skills, ap­plied to a dif­fer­ent form, will have a hith­erto un­fore­seen trans­for­ma­tional ef­fect. I got hired by MTV pri­mar­ily be­cause of the Busi­ness­week cov­ers, and the hope was that sim­i­lar think­ing could be ap­plied to short an­i­mated bumpers. That I had never an­i­mated any­thing be­fore was less im­por­tant than the im­pli­ca­tion we were en­ter­ing a brave new world where print and TV could in­form each other.

Did I know what I was do­ing? No. But it sounded like a good idea at the time. And we learnt – well, I learnt. And what you learn over and over is that no one knows what they’re do­ing. If they do know what they’re do­ing, the chances are that thing they’re do­ing will shortly be­come ir­rel­e­vant at best, ob­so­lete at worst. Things move quickly in the cor­po­rate world whilst never ac­tu­ally chang­ing much, but flu­id­ity mat­ters, or at least the il­lu­sion of flu­id­ity. Pic­ture a fast mov­ing, un­du­lat­ing river, full of en­ergy and mo­men­tum, life, fish, chil­dren at play, ca­noeists; an artery of life for the land it touches. Now pic­ture a large crum­bling con­crete dam (built in more pros­per­ous times) travers­ing that river, har­ness­ing the en­ergy, stopping it, pre­vent­ing move­ment. Wel­come to cor­po­rate life.

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