A Terrible Job Interview Taught Me How to Leave My Comfort Zone

It was the most uncomfortable situation I’ve ever been in.


Max Phillips

3 years ago | 3 min read

So, I’m a graduate looking for my first job out of university.

I’ve applied for what must be hundreds of positions, all to no avail.

All of a sudden, I get a phone call out of nowhere. An agency rings me, asking all sorts of questions. Towards the end of the call, the recruiter says:

“Congratulations! You’ve passed the first stage of this process!”

Unbeknownst to me, it was an interview. The recruiter invited me to attend a day in London, whereby potential employers would be watching on, intent on finding their next salesman or woman.

Now, I didn’t particularly fancy being a salesman for a technology company. I figured the experience would be helpful.

The recruiter advised me to prepare a short speech, detailing my most notable achievements — whatever they may be. After, we would be put into groups, solving a business problem presented to us.

To say I was out of my comfort zone would be putting it mildly.

Here’s what happened.

Realizing that perhaps I’m out of my depth

The day arrived.

I got out of bed and commuted to London. Hot and flustered from the underground tube system’s baking conditions, I arrived at the swanky skyscraper. The lift had a touch screen to operate it — my first shock of the day.

I make my way up to the correct floor.

In the lobby, about 60 well-dressed graduates sat, most of them talking and looking far beyond their years.

“What am I doing here?” I thought to myself. Besides, I was the only guy without a blazer. It’s not much, but it left me feeling like I was on the back foot right from the get-go.

Yep, I’m definitely out of my depth

The time had come for personal speeches. As my surname is in the latter part of the alphabet, I had the fortune to sit and listen to what the other graduates had to say.

Some started a business while at university, and one girl had traveled the world and written a book, and on it went. You get the idea.

I couldn’t match that. My most significant achievement didn’t compare to theirs at all. I gave my speech — nothing to shout about.

Moving on, we were put into groups and tasked with solving an issue.

While I did put my voice forward, it became a contest of who could talk over the other person the best.

It came as no surprise when nobody came out to call me in for an interview with the employers.

Even so, I was disheartened. No one likes losing.

Discomfort showed me what I want to do

There’s more to life than earning money. I knew from the outset I didn’t want to sell computers or whatever it was. I just suppressed those thoughts “for the good of my career.”

I look back and think, why?

Yes, we are all keen to get on in the world. As a recent graduate, I was as eager as anyone can be.

While the rejection did hurt a little, I was slightly relieved. I didn’t have to go any further with it and potentially ended years of career pain.

It opened my eyes to what I wanted to do with my life. While it took me a few more months to admit that I could pursue it, it awoke the passion for writing that had been brewing.

Author Roy T Bennett puts it nicely:

“Real change is difficult at the beginning, but gorgeous at the end. Change begins the moment you get the courage and step outside your comfort zone; change begins at the end of your comfort zone.”

By taking a step out of my comfort zone, I learned what I didn’t want to do.

The change began there.

I learned a lot about myself

For starters, you can learn what you don’t like. I didn’t like the roles I was going for, nor did I particularly like the commute.

However, I did learn that I need to be more assertive and not compare myself to others. I let the other graduate’s achievements belittle my own, so it made me doubt myself.

While it is worthwhile to compare yourself to others if you’re trying to emulate their achievements, it can drag you down.

Finding the right job for you is all about finding a good fit. In this instance, it was a two-way thing. I didn’t think I was a good fit for them, and it was the other way around as well.

The thing is, that is perfectly okay. You’ve got to put yourself out there to find out where you do and don’t fit. Staying in your comfort zone will probably keep you chugging along at a safe speed for some time.

So do yourself a favor; get out of first gear and take the unknown road.

This article was originally published by Max phillips on medium.


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Max Phillips







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