I’ve never been great at shining the spotlight on myself. So, when companies during their recruitment or interview process specifically ask me to do that, I begin to fumble. Now don’t get me wrong; in several ways, I am just like any other person and love to talk endlessly about things that I am passionate about and love being asked questions about myself. However, these are situations where there is no right or wrong answer. In an interview on the other hand, regardless of the claims that the potential employer just wants to ‘get to know you better’, there are if not wrong answers, less correct answers. The thought of this throws me off, especially when I know what is at stake: an opportunity to truly and genuinely show them my worth, my potential, by getting stuck in and working with them.
With careful reflection, I’ve realised that there are aspects of my personality that can sometimes be mistaken for something else. For example, I’ve come to see how humility can be associated with the lack of confidence. Another one is associating one’s preference to be concise and short in conversation with an innate shyness to speak. I understand that we live in a world that encourages extroversion, but no one lies on one specific end of the introvert-extrovert spectrum. Instead, there is a continuum in which you could lie anywhere. So, what does one do when there are some desirable traits that lie outside your operational envelope?
I was once sitting in a lecture on the Failure of Components and Materials. I learnt that all materials, no matter how well manufactured, have a certain defect level that could be a potential liability. We as engineers can address these issues in several ways: reduce their size, prevent their proliferation. I also learnt that a material never comes with the best intrinsic traits for its application; we can increase the materials strength and toughness by several refinement and work hardening processes. I apologise for the drabness in comparing us beautiful people to a block of metal, but there is a lesson to learn from them. Through these processes, what we are essentially doing is taking the metals out of their comfort zone and thus making them better equipped to handle the conditions of their use.
I’ve come to understand that I have, on several occasions, limited myself from growing and developing more fulfilling attributes due to a guise of being true to myself. ‘That’s not me’ I’d say. But this is limitation. It is depriving me of access to scenarios that could open new doors, personally and professionally. However, it is difficult to consistently put yourself out there and be in these pioneering and stimulating environments. For me, I have always been in pursuit of developing a balanced set of skills; a certain flexibility and pragmatism to be adaptable and effective at any given task, a generalist if you will. But I have recognised that there is a level of resilience and patience necessary to make this possible. I have tried my best to adhere to these learnings and have genuinely surprised myself. I have come to see that I do not lack some traits that other people seem to have been born with. It isn’t a question of manufacturing a new dimension to my personality, instead, it is about exposing myself to the right stimulants that ensure that those traits within me are honed and developed so that I can make them actionable. Some are lucky to make this process quick, some others such as myself take much longer.
To conclude I say that there is no such thing as an attribute, or a task or a goal being outside one’s operational envelope. A person is only limited by the factor of comfort he/she sets for themselves, and raising these limitations of comfort requires one to speak to themselves in the right manner, not be too harsh on themselves and show resilience and patience until it inevitably happens.