When I told a youngster that confidence is not something you buy in a shop, he looked at me and probably thought I was too old to understand the point of view of people of his generation. When I explained it is never taught in the classroom either, he left the room. As I was watching him leaving, I thought perhaps I got my explaining tactics wrong. But he came back a couple of minutes later and sat where he was in the first place. I knew then I had to get the explanation right this time. The young man was looking for wisdom and not some random words that would confuse him.
He had failed three job interviews and he was due to attend the fourth one in a week’s time. The last thing he needed was another lecture, the kind he had heard so many times when he was an undergraduate student in the university.
I thought I should use some practical examples instead of the typical academic jargon he was used to listening to. When I thought I was ready for him, I said a few words then stopped. There was something in his face that told him I was about to assume a parental role, worse than the academic one.
That is the problem when we deal with youngsters these days. We are just too authoritative at a point that their minds shut off. By the time they graduate, they have been through more than two decades of instructions.
They don’t need to go through the same thing each time they turn up for advice from an elder. So, I started navigating my words carefully. I told him they are not looking for clever words during his interview presentation. He must use “regular” words. He started to show interest because his face suddenly lit up. He raised his hand and asked “why?”
I told him he would not be interviewed be robots but human beings. He needs to make a “human connection.” He needs to speak sincerely and every word that would come out from his mouth should make an impression on their minds.
I explained that the level of intelligence the job interviewers look for was the “everyday” language that comes from his heart. Moreover, they would look at how he could relate to the real world because if he landed the job, he would need to deal with the real world of employment.
It took me only a few minutes to do that. He wanted to hear more but I told him that was all he needed to hear from me. The rest was up to him as long as he put both hands on his heart while he was presenting.
When he raised his eyebrows, I added quickly and with a smile, “Not literally, of course.”
For the first time since he was with me that afternoon, he smiled. He left a happier person than when he entered the room. Three weeks later, he sent me a casual message saying he got the job.
I am not sure exactly how he responded to the presentation but for me it was not just a “job done” but an important lesson learned.
I learned that youngsters must be treated as equal when they reach a certain stage, especially when they are armed with a degree. They just need a mentor to guide them on the right path. Not another lecture.
In that, without them knowing at the time, they will take that experience with them years later to become mentors themselves to another youngster. It is a way of paying back a compliment. It will also be our way of passing the legacy forward without really being obtrusive to them.