You can’t always get what you want

Anyone else singing the title of this post? No?  Be happy – that probably means you are younger than me!

I’ve posted before a few times on the theme of resilience, usually in the context of kids feeling it’s the end of the world to get their second choice university rather than their first, or to have missed out on that starring drama role they wanted.

This one’s not about kids though – it’s about adults.

We’ve recently had a few internal posts going at school – some replacing colleagues who’ve relinquished a specific responsibility or retired, and some new roles. The normal procedure, as you might imagine, is that the availability of these posts is announced, expressions of interest/applications invited, interviews happen and the choice is made. I’ve had a bit of involvement here, as I’ve been on the interviewing panel for one of the jobs, and an applicant for another.

My usual approach to these things is to have a careful read of the details of any role that looks even slightly interesting, speak to the existing postholder (if there is one) to find out more, and if, on balance, I like the sound of it, to apply.  (Rereading that, it sounds like I apply for almost anything going – I don’t! What’s “interesting” to me as something to apply for is quite limited – nothing pastoral, for a start!)

The process after the application is then to prepare for the interview, which involves trespassing on the good will of my friends to be sounding boards for my thoughts, then go in and do my stuff (which probably involves talking the hind leg off a donkey!), come out and think I probably said all sorts of stupid things, and wait for the result.

What it never ever includes is some sort of expectation that I will get the job, or feeling totally upset or devastated not to. Disappointment, of course – if you didn’t want it you shouldn’t go for it. But surely, that’s as far as it should go?  People shouldn’t be angry not to get it, or even worse, act funny with those who do?

I guess I can see being upset if you are the only applicant, have the requisite experience for the job and still don’t get it. Or if they decided to appoint the school cat  over you. It’s probably also only human to think that you’d probably have done a better job (though in truth it’s more likely you’d have been good at different parts).

Now don’t get me wrong – none of my colleagues have gone around ranting or threatening the successful applicant! But some have been genuinely upset.  I think some people maybe have the mentality that when they apply, they imagine the job as already somehow theirs, and so when they don’t get it, they feel robbed. Seems a bit of a shame if so, as that must also dilute the pleasure in getting it.

My personal thought processes are more like:-
Just after applying: I want this, it’ll be really interesting
Week before interview: Oh ****, I better prepare properly
Just before interview: Why am I doing this to myself?
Immediately after interview: Phew, it’s over
Half an hour after interview: Oh ****, why did I say that? And that… and why didn’t I get this in? Not only will I not get it, they’ll think I’m an idiot!

So being turned down is then not unanticipated (and so, though disappointing, not devastating). But being offered the job is a pleasant surprise!

It’s the same with exams. Immediately after I come out of an exam, I am usually feeling OK with it (well, assuming it’s an exam I’ve prepared for). Then my perception of my performance goes through a steady decline until results as I think of more and more things I could have messed up. By the time I get the results, I am always thrilled with them!  Whereas I think some people allow hope to overcome experience, and convince themselves they’ll be getting what they wanted in the results,and then reality comes crashing in.

Should we be encouraging people to visualise failure a little more? I don’t know – that sounds negative – but to me rehearsing things can take the sting out of them.

P.S. I did get the role I went for – more on that later!

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