The Distorting Power of Perception

In 2008/2009 one of the best things that happened to me was that I applied to over 30 placement opportunities and got rejected. This series of rejections gave me the opportunity to request feedback and use it to refine my interview technique. Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of being part of a conversation with Alex Depledge (former founder & CEO of Hassle.com). She shared similar sentiment when she was rejected by VC’s when pitching early iterations of her idea. The rejection helped Hassle refine their offering, look at their data, perfect their pitch and eventually their product.

Similar to this story, I feel that perception matters a lot. Rather than challenge or going on the defensive when you get rejected from an interview or pitch, get curious and find out why. This helps to refine your story when attending future interviews or pitches.

Story of Me

During interviews in the past I used to underestimate my story e.g. I was from a low income, low opportunity and disadvantaged background…..or so I perceived. When in truth, I had been to university, worked for and with some great VC’s, corporates and startups brands and traveled for work as well as leisure to over 30 countries in the last 5 years. Therefore, I have above average income, a wealth of opportunity and an advantage rooted in overcoming adversity.

How?

Typical example, in an interview one of my favorite questions when starting out was: Tell me about yourself?

This is a license to get creative with your story. The start of my answer was as follows (I literally ripped this from a doc I prepared in 2010):

  • I grew up in Tottenham, the most cosmopolitan ward in Europe where over 300 languages are spoken and over 90 nationalities exist. This helped me to understand multiculturalism from a young age, and how to value differences and work alongside other cultures constructively
  • Didn’t have much in terms of material possessions to call my own growing up so it was important for me to adapt and be flexible so I could integrate seamlessly into different social circles to enjoy the company of others and leverage lessons from their experience for my own. This inquisitive nature led to me backpacking across South America for 3 months and camping for a month across east Africa

Introductions like these set the scene, and usually grab the interviewers attention as they know they are in for that 1 interview in 30 that is actually fascinating and different. Similar to this, Alex shared how being the rare face of woman in tech as a founder made her more noticeable when pitching, and therefore remembered. Linked to perception is the influence of incentives, when you are genuinely passionate about a role you are applying for or a business you are pitching — no doubt it will come across and people will recognise and value it. I could dove tale here into the importance of finding your niche (striving for self actualisation) but I’ll save that for a future post.

“The rabbit runs faster than the fox, because the rabbit is running for his life while the fox is only running for his dinner.”

— R. Dawkins

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