The Principle’s Office

 I am sitting at my desk overwhelmed with work. The paperwork in the “Inbox” is stacked higher than the single envelope in the “Outbox”. There are four Styrofoam cups of coffee on my desk. Each cup of coffee is unfinished (Like most of my work) I stare at the screen on my computer as my achy fingers wait for it to download at the speed of flowing volcanic lava.

 The telephone rings. I look at the extension on the screen, and my heart sinks because I recognize the number from corporate leadership upstairs. Four seconds later I pick it up.

 The call is from the president’s office. He wants to see me immediately. It’s 4 p.m. on a Friday afternoon and that can mean only one thing. I grab my briefcase and stuff it with as many of my personal things as I can. I button the top button on my shirt, tighten my tie, and head down the hallway – all the while trying not to appear defeated.

 Thoughts are racing through my mind as I walk towards the elevator. The emotions now evoke the memories of my younger school days when I was called to the principle’s office a number of times. I wasn’t a bad kid – I was just bored with most of my classes. My disruptive behavior was a way of telling my teachers to teach me something more challenging. I was way past the multiplication tables – I wanted to launch rockets into space! The long dark corridor to the principle’s office only meant one thing.

 Once in the elevator, the only thing I could think of was – “When was the last time I updated my resume?” That was six or seven years ago. It was good enough to get me this job. I’ll dust it off and print out another one this weekend. Better yet, I’ll add a couple of details here and there and Bingo! I’m ready.

 Not so fast man of steel. A lot has happened in the past six or seven years. Technological advances have moved at light speed in the business world. That resume you have may not cut it. When was the last time you updated that LinkedIn home page? How about other media platforms people use?

 Are resumes a thing of the past? How much information can you load onto a couple of pages that adequately describes you and all your quirks? Unless you get an interview, how will they know that your true passion is to be the head of the company? What steps have you taken to become the transitional leader you want to become?

 Companies today are using social media to find out more about you than you care to tell. Remember those drunken birthday party photos you posted of yourself at the neighbor’s pool party? How many off-color jokes have you posted on Facebook, Twitter, or Believe me, if they’re out there in a “Cloud”, they’ll find them.

 Turn the tables in your favor. Remove the frat photos and replace them with photos of you and the family at home, on vacation, or maybe during a holiday function. Include photos of you when you volunteered at the homeless shelter or the food bank on Thanksgiving. Give them a true sense of your core values you can’t find in a resume. 

 Most importantly, be prepared for the interview. Preparation is key and dressing the part may seem “old fashioned”, but I think there are a lot of “old fashioned” HR people still out there. I often tell an old story that I think still has some merit.

 Driving into Austin, Texas for a night on the town, my older brother was telling my kid brother and me about an upcoming job interview. It was a position at an industrial fabricating company that pretty much meant a line job. Along with the position came great health, life, and disability benefits, retirement pension and stock options (in a Fortune 500 company!) It was an opportunity of a lifetime for him.

 I turned to him and asked him what he could tell me about the company and who his competition would be. He laughed at me and said he had this thing “in the bag”. He said there were about forty people interviewing for 2 positions. He had met several other potential employees at a preliminary testing session to qualify for an interview slot. Well, he made the first cut, which to him meant, “I’m in”. Was he confident or cocky?

 My kid brother, who was driving, turned to me and grinned. It wasn’t one of those I agree, but rather more of a “boy, is he in for an awakening” kind of look.

 Again I turned around and asked him the following questions; What are you wearing? What have you read about the company? Who is their Chairman and what is his vision? What is the company’s vision, mission statement, and are they fiscally sound?

 He looked at me with those big brown country eyes, bewildered, and awestruck that I dared ask him things like that given ALL of his experience. Yes sir. He had this thing in the bag.

 I couldn’t restrain myself and exploded with recommendations like wearing a suit to the interview, exploring the company via the Internet, and searching through for employee comments. I even went on a limb and suggested he memorize the company mission, get a haircut and even a shave. He laughed the remainder of the thirty-minute drive and kept saying, “he had this in the bag.”

 We arrived at our restaurant destination, hungry and thirsty. We sat at the bar and ordered lots of food and drinks. During this whole time I noticed my younger brother had become rather quiet. He didn’t say much, and I was starting to feel bad for having laid into him so hard. We finished our dinner, had a few more drinks then headed to my kid brother’s condo for the night before heading out the next day.

 Months went by before I received a call from my kid brother. He was calling to let me know that our brother had gotten the job! I said to myself, as I started to feel like a big chump, “so he did have this thing in the bag.”

 And by the way, my kid brother continued, he wore his suit, memorized their mission statement, had a list of questions to ask them, and knew everyone’s name in corporate. I just shook my head and smiled.

 I reached the top floor and the elevator door opened. I walked into the president’s office and was greeted with a big smile by his secretary. She asked if I wanted something to drink, and I politely said no. I sat and waited five minutes while looking down at the floor the whole time. At 4:30 I was escorted into the president’s office. I thought, well this is it, and took in a deep breath.

 He came from around his desk wearing a big smile, shook my hand and proceeded to tell me how pleased he was with my job performance. As a result, he was promoting me to Senior VP of Productions. It took me all weekend to recover from the excitement of that Friday afternoon.

 Monday morning I held a meeting with my staff and thanked them for their support. I charted a path to another project that they fully supported. After the meeting, I quietly sat in my chair and gazed out the window. My memory about that Friday afternoon seemed so fresh.

 Not every trip to the principle’s office has to be feared for the worse. But just in case, a good second or third pair of underwear didn’t seem to hurt!



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