Have you ever shown up to an interview, hoping no one could smell the damp heat emanating from your traitorous armpits, and had the interviewer inform you with a casually lifted eyebrow that:
"You don't exactly fit the profile of the person we're looking for."
If you've ever been in this situation, you know how soul-crushing it can feel; how quickly that well of confidence dries up and leaves you feeling stranded.
(And if you haven't, is it possible you've protected yourself from having to feel it, by NOT applying to jobs for which you lack the "required" qualifications -- even when you know, in your heart of hearts, that you could do the job well?)
Either way, you can probably relate to the aspiring CEO we met in last week's story, who was wondering how to get recruiters to pass his name along to hiring managers -- given that he didn't have the merchant background they were looking for.
To pick up where we left off, we have just affirmed the power of putting things in your own words for showing others how you have already done what they need you to do, regardless of titles (a very powerful storytelling tool I urge you to use early and often).
Then, our hero decides to play devil's advocate:
"... But you know, there are people who have famously said, like Mickey Drexel of J.Crew for example, that they will always have a merchant CEO."
(As we continue, dear reader, I invite you to think of a time when you knew you didn't exactly fit the profile they expected -- nay, demanded! -- you to have, and consider how this could apply to you.)
Of our hero, I ask:
"Does it make you feel a little insecure, to NOT have the background Mickey Drexel thinks you should have?"
(Did it make YOU feel insecure, to not fit the frame you were supposed to fit into?)
"Yes," he admits.
"And do you think there's a chance that this apologizing energy, about NOT being who you THINK they want you to be, shows up at all in the way you conduct these conversations?"
(Is it possible that the interviewer felt an energetic apology from you, for not fitting their frame?)
"Huh," he muses. "Probably."
"Do you think that helps or hurts your credibility?"
"So can we agree that you should stop doing that?"
A laugh. "Yes."
"Great. Now let's look at it from another angle. For the guy who will always 100% hire a CEO with a merchant background -- do you think he's running any risks, potentially missing anything important, by being so committed to tradition?"
(Is it possible they might be SO focused on what they THINK they need, that they could be missing the forest for the trees?)
"Oh," he pauses thoughtfully. "Definitely."
I push on: "In light of your background, do YOU think it's wise to insist on doing things one way, because that's the way they have always been done?"
"Actually," he says with conviction, "I think there's a huge danger of getting left behind, of becoming obsolete, for companies that don't put technology and e-commerce at the top of their list."
"Ah," I say, grinning.
"Now, remind me -- don't you have a competitive advantage in that arena?"
A matching grin enters his voice. "I do."
"And when you get that decision maker on the phone, do you think he or she will be AT ALL interested in staying ahead of that rapidly changing curve?"
My reward for this line of reframing is his knowing chuckle.
Which is to say:
A voice that has mercifully stopped drawing from a well of anxiety about not fitting the frame, and started drawing from a deeper place of self-assurance as to what the frame should be.
This is precisely the reason I got into storytelling in the first place.
Because there is always a choice of which well to draw your stories from.
And because which one you choose in a critical moment?
Has the power to reframe the way others see the challenge...
And therefore, whether or not YOU can help them solve it.