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Monday, April 4, 2016

Timing and Opportunity: They Matter

I felt I was so ready for the change - to become a parks and recreation director, but had started thinking that maybe it just wasn't in the cards for me. Every interview (if I got one) was ending with the same result; "it just doesn't seem like a good fit for us".  Right when I had pretty much given up, it happened.  I get a call from a City Manager who wants to talk about his Parks & Community Services Director opening (thanks to a strong recommendation from a colleague).  We chat briefly and he asks me to send him my resume and complete an application, which I do.

Then I wait.

And I wait.

If you've ever waited for something to happen (movie to arrive in theaters, package to be delivered, Red Sox to win a championship), then you know it can seem like forever to get any news . . . not just good news . . . ANY NEWS!  
I finally emailed the City Manager to ask if he received my resume and application (Do you need anything else?  Any questions?).  He said yes, it looked fine, and we should talk soon. "OK, when's good for you?"  We agreed to meet at City Hall for a very informal discussion. Two weeks later I'm in his office with him and the Assistant City Manager and, while the discussion was informal, it felt anything but informal.  It went well and I felt good leaving the building (almost a bat-flip moment after hitting one out).  He asks if I could attend a meeting to meet with the rest of his executive team so they can get a feel for my style and if there's a fit.  Of course!

Two weeks later I'm meeting with the executive team.  I want to seem confident, articulate, knowledgeable, friendly, and professional.  The City Manager asks me to introduce myself. Not one-minute into my spiel he says, "Andre, this isn't an interview."   Oh, OK.  So I do my best to shift gears and be a bit more casual.  I don't know how I did, but left feeling good. Afterwards a few of the department heads stopped me and said "hi, nice to meet you", including the Public Works Director who told me he hopes we get to work together.  Great! Now what?  The City Manager said he'd be in touch.

So I waited.

And I waited.

Now don't get me wrong, the City Manager is on top of things, but when you're anxiously awaiting news . . . any news . . . it can seem like an eternity. In the meanwhile, I'm interviewing for an executive position in my old department. Truth is, I didn't want to stay in that organization - I was ready for a new adventure and I think the organization needed a change, too. Meanwhile, I'm waiting to hear from the new organization - will they be my new employer or will this end as another disappointment?  Have they forgotten about me? Have they met someone else?  Did my meetings with them not warrant a bat-flip?  Had I unknowingly ruined my chances and didn't know it?  Did I have something in my teeth? What? What?  WHAT?!

Right before the holidays I get a call from the Assistant City Manager asking me something - I'm not sure what it was.  She asked me if I was excited. "Yes!" I replied, "I just wish I knew where I stood with the City Manager."  Not three-minutes after that phone call I get a phone call from the City Manager "I hear you're wondering about the position.  I don't want you going into the holidays wondering about this - you got the job."  Finally - I knew. I'm not alone in all this. If you've ever tried to get a job anywhere, you've felt the same anxiety and doubt. We've all experienced this.

Looking back, all the signs were there; I'm just too dumb to connect the dots and have some faith.  It was that way with my wife, too.  She pretty much thought I was an idiot before we started dating because she says I couldn't pick up on her signals.  She's right, I pretty much am an idiot.

Back to becoming a director.  I'd been trying for over five years to get a director's position.  I knew this agency was hiring, but when I saw the job posting months ago I dismissed it. "Too far to drive (takes an hour) and I'd rather work in the area I live."  The position never got filled.  The City Manager decided to going looking for someone and asked my good friend and colleague if he'd take the job. "No, but I know someone who you should talk to about it." Looking back, the timing couldn't have been more perfect.  As much as I wanted to be a director, I just wasn't ready until the time came. Timing and opportunity are so important! And so are friends who think you have what it takes.

So to all those people out there who are wanting to make that career move, hang in there. Do what you need to do to prepare yourself.  Rehearse your elevator speech.  Write out your terminal and instrumental values . . . and know them. In my case it wasn't my knowledge, experience, or professionalism (or lack thereof) that were holding me back, I really believe that the right opportunity just hadn't come along at the right time.  Now that I'm here I'm so happy (one-hour commute each way and all).  And it's not what I thought it would be - it's better!  It's also early in my career here, so I'm sure things will get busy, hectic, and challenging, but I'm ready for it.

And about those 2004 Boston Red Sox . . . prior to 2004 they had always had talent, fan support, history, and a modicum of success, but even when they had it all, timing and opportunity were necessary to win that elusive World Series after an 86 year championship drought.  At least that's how I see it. Timing and opportunity - key ingredients that are necessary to make happen what you thought might never happen.  Or as my old boss always said, "when the stars align . . ."

And . . . . . . . . bat-flip.