Every job promotion I earned through my long career at the IRS was a competitive action. Today’s story is about a job I didn’t get due to my own mistakes and how those mistakes help me in my voice-over career today.
Once upon a time…
I started working at the IRS as a teenager. Daddy worked there and encouraged me to apply for a part-time job on the evening shift after school. It was a data entry job in which your output was measured against that of your peers.
As a fast typist, the work was easy for me, plus I made more money and had a more structured schedule than my friends who worked in restaurants. I never thought my job there would evolve into a career, but I eagerly applied for every position that had potential for more money.
Given the procedures involved, the high number of applicants, and paper blizzard of job applications, jobs typically weren’t filled for 3-6 months after the announcement. I would apply for a job and then forget it (kind of like doing an audition today).
One evening, my manager called me to her desk and told me that I had a job interview. I think she ended this exciting news flash with something like, “Oh, and it’s 5 minutes from now, so you better start walking.”
I worked in a 1-story building spanning several acres. All of the tax returns for several states were processed in that building, so you can imagine its size. I didn’t know where the interview room was and, after several wrong turns on various hallways, practically had to run to get there.
Even though 3 decades have passed since that day, I still remember the interviewer’s face when she saw me.
There I was, fashionably dressed in my lovely tank top, overalls, colorful toe socks and flip flops, out of breath and probably a bit sweaty as I burst into the room.
She looked me up and down and most assuredly thought, “Um, no.”
She asked me a few questions, and my answers revealed my complete lack of knowledge about her organization. I didn’t even know which job I was being interviewed for! I’m sure she thought that if her other top candidates were as prepared as me, she’d prefer to leave the job vacant.
Someone else’s job “interview” story
I thought about this incident recently when I received an email from someone who bemoaned a mistake in an audition. That person kindly gave me permission to reprint their words here:
I am on ACX. I made the mistake of submitting an audition from home with horrendous lack of quality and only put in the comment, “please let me know if there are issues.” Ha . That must have been like comedy for them. I did not get any comments. So I have been making all the mistakes that teach me what to do next. Still looking to figure out how I recover from such embarrassing mistakes.
I learned 3 things from my bad interview experience that may help you get past your own mistakes:
1. You have to prepare for what you want.
Louis Pasteur said, “Chance favors the prepared mind.” In my case, preparation would have included dressing the part and being familiar with the organizations where I had applied.
However, a big part of your preparation involves learning what NOT to do. Like showing up for job interview dressed like a hobo and submitting an audition with horrible sound quality, we all have to learn some things the hard way!
Being in a learning curve is a scary place to be. The best article I’ve written about being in a learning curve is 12 lessons from Dancing With The Stars. If you read that article and absorb the lessons, you’ll find it easier to give yourself permission to learn and grow from your experiences.
2. You’ve got to bring your A game.
My friend Dave Courvoisier writes an excellent blog about voice-over, equipment, and social media topics. He recently wrote an (Embarrassingly) True Story and the subsequent Feedback Follow-up in which he described a producer’s reactions to 400 auditions for a pirate voice.
I encourage you to read these illuminating articles as they offer a producer’s exact comments about the auditions he heard. In short, he felt most people didn’t make an effort to impress him or do good work, with half sending “terrible recordings” and others sending “laid-back and lazy” auditions.
The good news is — to quote George Eliot and a title of one of my audiobooks — “It’s Never Too Late To Be What You Might Have Been”.
Every day is an opportunity to grow and improve. As you learn more and improve, your A game is going to change.
You may have lost one chance to make a good impression, but you haven’t lost ALL of them. You have to shake off the negative thoughts and hold the attitude every day that you are working to the best of your ability. Your actions will follow your thoughts, so you might as well think thoughts of progress and victory!
And remember, people on top of the mountain didn’t just fall there.
3. Things happen for a reason.
Sometimes you figure out the reason, and sometimes you never do because it wasn’t about you. If I could go back to that blown interview, I wouldn’t change a thing. I learned something valuable that day.
I can look back at the closed doors in my life and see how they led to something better. I’m reminded of another IRS interview story.
In 2008, I had an interview with the multilingual office. I really, REALLY wanted that job. It would have been a promotion, and the work was something I thought I’d be very interested in doing. For some reason unknown to me, they were delayed in making a decision after the interview.
Meanwhile, my best friend Mike asked me to work on a temporary promotion for 4 months in his office in Applications Development. When I said yes to that opportunity, my life changed in ways I couldn’t imagine:
- I wasn’t selected for the job I thought I really wanted. It turns out I never missed it.
- I loved working with Mike again! I was his assistant manager, and I felt pride in contributing in a meaningful way to the organization.
- Although I had been desperate for years to get out of the IRS and into voice-over full-time, I actually ACCEPTED my life for the first time. Acceptance of your life is a key to moving forward.
- My original manager in Network Operations was incredibly generous. Since I loved the job with Mike so much, she let me continue working in Mike’s office for a year after the temporary promotion ended.
- Tax Exempt and Government Entities (TE/GE) is an IRS business unit that deals with taxes for those groups. TE/GE was one of our main clients in Applications Development, so I learned a lot about their organization.
- In 2009, I had an interview for a project manager position in TE/GE Business Systems Planning. They didn’t select me for the job.
- Instead, TE/GE actually offered a communications job to me! It was my dream position at the IRS!
- In 2011, the IRS offered early retirements to a very small number of employees, mostly in areas of communications and training. Guess what? I was one of them! If I had stayed in Information Technology, whether with Mike in Applications Development or my original job in Network Operations, I would still be working at the IRS, with no end in sight.
My life would have turned out very differently if I had gotten that job as a teenager. I love my life and wouldn’t want to change it!
When you know that things happen for a reason, you place less emphasis on any one thing that happens. This knowledge takes the stress out of any perceived mistakes of the moment.
Don’t dwell on those “mistakes”! As I discovered through my many IRS interview experiences, what we think are mistakes are often the catalysts we need to take our lives higher.