The Recruiter Who Told Me the Truth and Helped Me in the Most Bizarre Way

Tim Denning

What this recruiter said goes deeper than the hiring world.

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It was a lunchtime phone call that I was five minutes late to — I’m almost never late to a meeting because of my obsession with time. These few lines he told me on the phone were harsh, brutal, true and simultaneously completely false in every sense of the word.

“The trouble is you have a career gap of two months and your last role only lasted six months. In the world of tech, this is a massive problem and shows that you have failed at hitting your targets and are not committed.
People who move around before twelve months are our worst nightmare because we invest so much money in you up front to train you.
That’s not what you want to hear, but that’s how people in my position will perceive you and it will answer many of the questions you’ll have about the silence you have probably received and some of the rejections you’ve copped. We’re not going to hire you on this basis”

What he was really trying to say in his own messed up way was:

You failed or made a mistake and that’s *not* okay.

Career gaps and short stints in jobs are common. Sticking around when your work life is hell or the job is not suited to you is the problem. The best thing you can do is leave and do something else.

What this recruiter said goes deeper than the hiring world.

By suggesting failure was a problem, he was asking me (and people like me) to live in a world that doesn’t exist. I grew up in the world of startups and entrepreneurship without ever intending to. It took countless failures to ever make any money. Every failure led to the eventual success I’d have, which people saw in isolation.

To me, failing in my career was just like startups. Leaving a job before 12 months was good. Having a career gap to think and experiment made sense. If it’s okay to fail at startups and win fast or lose fast, why was the same not true in one’s career?

Losses turn to wins

The whole point of making mistakes and not getting what you want is that it’s part of the process.

You have to work for a company you dislike, be micro-managed into the ground, and experience a toxic work culture to know that you will never settle for this way of life again.

You can read about what you don’t want but experiencing it is what leaves a lasting impression. Lasting impressions become the basis for future decisions and that’s how you turn a perceived loss into an eventual win.

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My early days as a writer demonstrated this idea to me as well. I started out writing entrepreneur interviews disguised as tacky press releases that inspired no one. I had to live this life and write these really bad articles to understand that it was the last thing in the world I ever wanted to do. When I started, the fantasy felt real, though.

My early days on Medium were similar. I had to publish a bunch of articles that were badly written and had errors all over them to eventually learn how to change my style. Other writers on the platform helped me discover a new style right down to the way I format articles.

The start of anything, including a new career, is almost always not what you want and that’s the whole point.

Casting blanket judgments are destroying you

The feedback from the recruiter carried with it:

  • Assumptions
  • Ignorance
  • Bias
  • Zero empathy
  • And blanket judgments

To say that everyone from a specific country, industry, company or gender is one way or another is wrong. Every human being carries subtle differences and a blanket judgment ignores that fact. If you are walking around making statements about entire groups of people, you are leaving a whirlwind of devastation in your path that you probably can’t see.

Maybe most people that have career gaps like me are stupid.

Maybe most people that work a job less than twelve months are failures.

And maybe they’re not too.

There are people who have worked a job for six months and gone on to start multi-billion dollar businesses. There are people that have career gaps due to children, illness or startup endeavors that are some of the smartest, brightest, and kindest people you will ever meet.

I too am guilty. What has caused me to make blanket judgments in the past — that end up being false — is to think that my own examples account for 99% of all cases outside of my experience.

Maybe this recruiter hired fifty people over the last ten years who had career gaps and all of them ended up being fired. Those fifty cases still do not account for all cases.

The moment you think your isolated experience is the reality or fact, you’re screwed.

Blunt feedback is not a justification for being an asshole

Now we could rejoice this recruiter for saying what he believed to be the truth and having the courage to be blunt.

The problem is by allowing them that satisfaction, we’re saying that being blunt is okay because in this case, it was helpful (in the sense that I will never work for this company and can move on).

Being blunt and delivering the truth is not okay if it means that you are being an asshole, incredibly bias, discriminatory and ignorant all in the same sentence.

Final thought

It’s okay if you have messed up.
It’s okay if you keep changing your mind.

It’s okay if your resume is not a perfect succession of wins, brand name company’s, and evenly spaced five-year blocks in jobs.

It’s better to demonstrate that you are comfortable being uncomfortable, exploring, failing, trying new things and testing new career paths. This list of traits could be described as innovation at its finest in some circles.

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Aussie Blogger with 100M+ views — Writer for CNBC & Business Insider. Inspiring the world through Personal Development and Entrepreneurship www.timdenning.com

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