Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Self-Delusion, Self-Loathing and Al Jazeera - Part 1

One of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do was when I was recently asked to complete a self-appraisal exercise. This was one of several parts of a personal and professional evaluation, aimed at helping to guide me towards the next step in life and more specifically, my career.

Now, although the appraisal was an essentially for-my-eyes-only guideline, at each section I found myself faltering and becoming increasingly exasperated with the task and most surprisingly, with myself.

“Am I really that passionate about writing?” “Do I have a promising career in television?” “Should I really jot down the London Triathlon?” All these questions and many more were playing on my conscience and although I did complete the task, I wasn’t close to satisfied with the end result.

Most of us, even the luckier ones, have at some stage been faced with the ugly truth of how difficult the job hunt has become. Asides from having plunged myself into the deep end of an unbelievably saturated industry, where I often feel like the Tim Burton version of Alice in Wonderland, i.e. utterly in awe with my counterparts, I am also attempting to do so in markets that are still recovering from the bellowing hammer fall of the economic crisis.

Unfortunately, unlike Alice, I do not have a wise, hookah-smoking caterpillar called Absalom to ask for advice. I suppose I could be happy with the opportunity that I’ve got and continue to live my life knowing full well how many people would kill for the career choices I’ve been afforded thus far. However – and although I do love a good fairy tale – I refuse to allow these circumstances to anchor my ambition.

Today I received my daily dose of blogger genius via revolutionary entrepreneur, author, public speaker and THE authority on permission marketing, the inspirational Seth Godin. Having recently been introduced to Godin’s work, the no nonsense, make it or break it attitude that would usually have put me off – refer back to my liking fairy tales – continues to intrigue me with each new blog post delivered to my email inbox. Today’s topic, ‘Self-delusion and self-loathing’, needless to say inspired this piece of self-reckoning.

Now, you can all read the post for yourselves (as you should, as well as subscribing to his everyday feed) but this got me thinking. “Support yourself with the truth” says Godin. Yesterday, I contacted one of the executive producers at the Al Jazeera English offices in London. I told him who I was, what I was looking for, the reason I want to join AJE & the shows I could see myself becoming a part of. I also noted my work experience, the appropriate references and all that jazz.

Said producer came back to me with an incredibly polite, concise and to-the-point answer, “thank you for your interest, but with no experience in television, we can’t hire you in the news department.” Side note: I never stated any desire to work in the news department and had formerly been offered an internship at AJE headquarters in Doha, Qatar. I turned this down because as a fresh BA graduate, I felt I still had more to accomplish before joining the ranks of a network as prestigious as this media giant.

Three years, one postgraduate degree and a handful of intense work experience later, I'm not what they are looking for? Take a second guess. And tomorrow, I'll tell you why.


  1. Loved it! I can relate to it on many levels both professionally, as an individual in the twilight of his twenties and as an angst-ridden, jaded New York City writer.

    I reposted it on my Facebook page. Please enjoy your 15 mins! ;)

  2. "You have no experience" is such a lame excuse not to hire someone. And it's a knife-edge between that and "You're overqualified".

    I frequently have to interview people, and I often find that their salary expectation is not in keeping with their qualification (paper & experience). I have to think about placing them within my organisation.

    "Can I sell this person to customers?"

    Well, not if they're asking for a director's wage and offering intern experience, no. These people we have to decline, we have to say that they have not been able to sufficiently demonstrate their skills and experience.

    And, not if they have no experience at all. How can I sell someone who hasn't ever worked in the field? Who hasn't seen the technologies that we need to sell them as "gurus" of? These people we have to see if we can sell in as juniors, and if we can't I take the time to help them understand which companies to apply to in order to build up their experience. It takes me 2 minutes to help someone map out the next three years of their life.

    The trouble is that most people seem to have forgotten that they too used to be standing at the base of the ivory tower, not sitting atop it.

  3. I love the way you write. You have an effortless command of the English language and present your thoughts in a manner that is both easy to understand and interesting at the same time. It is ludicrous that you are having this much trouble finding a better work situation. I will continue to send you good vibes and hope that soon I can start reading about all the great things new things that will be happening for you in the very near future.

  4. To the first comment - thank you so much for posting this on your personal space. I appreciate you taking the time to do so.

    Giles - this is exactly my issue with the recruitment process thus far. I never expected it to be easy, or to happen overnight, but professionals' lack of empathy has really put a bitter taste to my experiences thus far. I only hope I come across someone with your mindset soon. Thank you for your comment.

    Neal - its because of people like you that I get an extra kick up the arse and remember why I enjoy writing so much. Thank you for your lovely comment and I also hope that soon you'll be reading much more optimistic posts from this Employed 20 Something.