Be realistic

You’ve found your dream job, the one you’ve always wanted – it is just perfect. Are you sure about that, or are you overlooking some important detail? How do you respond when a few potential problems emerge?


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I was recently in the coffee shop of a small animal sanctuary in rural Devon; the sort of place which attracts families with young children because of the access it provides to the animals. A place where children can get close to animals they perhaps haven’t seen before, and maybe even have a chance to feed them.

On the next table there were three people chatting and I became aware that a job interview was in progress. The Head Keeper and a younger Team Leader were interviewing a women who appeared to be in her early twenties. From what I could glean, she was passionate about the job and was doing a good job answering their questions. They seemed quite keen on her – but there was a problem. They asked her where she planned to live, and this is where it all started to go wrong.

She explained that she would rent a place in the nearby town. At this point it appeared that she was having to think on her feet, making it up as she went along. The young woman didn’t drive, didn’t have a car, and didn’t have a driving licence either. The rural location meant that public transport was not an option. She said she planned to cycle to and from work but didn’t have an entirely convincing response when the Head Keeper told her it was a very long uphill cycle on the way to work, and previous trainees had found it wasn’t much fun at 6am in the depths of winter.

The interview finished with an agreement that they would be in touch. She appeared excited and hopeful, but the Head Keeper’s body language and the Team Leader’s manner suggested it wasn’t going to be a happy outcome. Once past the early interview questions about skills, experience and fit, they had moved on to trickier ground to establish whether it was realistic that the candidate would last. Could she really rent accommodation and live on the salary they were offering? Could she be relied upon to get to work every day? Could she succeed where other successful candidates hadn’t? She certainly hadn’t convinced me, the anonymous fly on the wall.

Now I’m certainly not advocating that ambition is a bad thing. Nor am I suggesting that one should shy away at the slightest sign of a challenge. Absolutely not. Ambition is a tremendous motivator, and challenges are an opportunity to stretch and develop.

But when overcoming challenges, it important to be realistic with the solutions. Are they sustainable? Or are they just a temporary “fix” which will quickly become another problem? In the case of the young woman at the animal sanctuary it was clear that she hadn’t thought it all through when initially applying for the job. Where would she live, and how would she get to and from work every day? Moving away from living with her parents would be costly and not something she had adequately thought about.

I admired the way in which the young woman thought on her feet. She was keen to get the job and her quick-thinking was impressive. But it would have been even more impressive had she anticipated some of the questions before attending the interview and prepared realistic answers. Things like how to get to and from work, and where to live are important to understand. And the interview isn’t the right place to start such thinking!

Further reading:


Feel free to comment on this post – I’d be interested to hear your views.
Inixiti – Improving graduate employability. Click here to visit the website.


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