Searching for meaning and a job in Silicon Valley (in no particular order)

By Arwa Kaddoura

 Everyone remembers his or her answer to the age old question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Few of us can actually tie our current careers back to that hopeful answer. And let’s face it, that’s probably a good thing. None of us imagined careers beyond Doctor, Lawyer or Firefighter. The words venture capitalist didn’t yet enter our vocabulary, and neither did entrepreneurship, analytics or marketing. Our view of the world was limited to people who wore nice looking uniforms.

As I find myself navigating the world of recruiting again I remember two things. First, I hate sharing facts about myself multiple times in a short sitting of back-to-back interviews. Secondly, I really despise interviews. I love conversations, connecting and brainstorming but absolutely hate twenty questions. I certainly can’t be alone in this.

My current career search has sent me down a fun path of many interesting conversations. I categorize them as follows:

Desperate Headhunter trying to make quota:  These are the conversations with the recruiter at an agency who is desperately trying to tell you what a fantastic fit you are for the position they probably don’t yet have. You will get excited, tell them your salary range and potentially even land a screening. But many of your expectation will fizzle as you find out you were the wrong fit with the wrong salary expectation.

Busy Bee Hiring Manager: These are the Hiring managers who are in desperate need of help but somehow are too disorganized to keep the details about your interview straight. You wait for the interview phone call, ten minutes pass so you assume it’s cancelled, but when you least expect it, your phone rings. They start the conversation by asking, “Is this still a good time”. Now you are standing at a Starbucks ordering your latte and have to think of some clever to say that also accomplishes ordering your beverage.

Talent & Culture Royalty:  These are the internal HR coordinators who want to sniff out any chance that you might not be hip enough for their joint. They naturally call this ‘cultural fit’ and can expertly detect it by asking you questions such as “What’s your favorite food” and “What do you do with your free time”, both questions that I still haven’t found perfect answers to.

Surprised Colleagues: These are the colleagues who were barely briefed on the position or what they should be asking you. They may be used as fillers to kill the six hours they asked you to come in for. Most will not know what the role or job description entails, so to make the time pass they ask open ended questions like “Tell me about yourself”. This is your chance to dominate the conversation and get the scoop on what this company is really like.

To get through these conversations I find it helpful to inject myself with a healthy dose of humor and a slight bit of optimism. I have to admit though; I have been very fortunate to have had some great conversations and connections during my search.  The business leaders I have most enjoyed meeting understand the value of hiring good talent and building great teams (not just individual contributors). They disrupt internally what has become comfortable/safe/familiar and externally what has become conventional wisdom in their industry. These leaders share a strong dose of optimism and are far more likely to achieve disruptive results as compared with leaders who call themselves “realists”. Further, this optimism is executed with discipline that leaves enough room for creative teams to execute with flexibility. It is that leader I feel fortunate enough to be working with next. Wish me luck in my new endeavor! Maybe I’ll share some stereotypical first day experiences with you next. Who loves orientations?