What I did next

Published on 23 October 2011 in , ,

Seeing as some of you have asked about work stuff since I left the BBC…

“What do you want to do when…” is one of those questions that follows you around life and almost haunts you wherever you go. It starts with “…you grow up”, carries on to “…leave school”, “…leave university” and probably only really ends when you get to “…you retire?” The question can be phrased in many ways but ultimately no matter how you word it, it comes down to that core question.

Six months or so ago I had the “…you leave the BBC” which swiftly became “…now you’ve left the BBC”. It wasn’t just friends and acquaintances asking, but recruitment agents with their version of the same question but phrased in the inevitable “what are you looking for?”

To be honest, for a bit I was stuck.

I knew a few things. I wanted to be working with nice people on great products, but beyond that I didn’t really know.

After a lot of thinking I finally worked out some things I didn’t want. Anything with too much marketing or strategy wasn’t going to be for me; I prefer the implementation side. An interview with an e-commerce site convinced me that online shopping probably wasn’t for me either.

And then there was the first round interview at a company in Hoxton where I was told by the recruitment agent to “look as fashionable as you can and for goodness sake don’t wear a suit. Wear jeans. Please.” I was half way to the shop to buy a flat cap when I decided it probably wasn’t for me. Not cos I like wearing suits though.

Even when I’d worked it out, there was the simple matter of finding the right role and I can tell you that an amazing number of companies have forgotten that they’re not just interviewing someone for a role but the candidate is also interviewing the company as well.

When, at the end of one second round interview where the Spanish Inquisition had submitted me to two hours of detailed torture about why I got a third for my degree and what I got for my GCSEs and A-Levels (and why), the interviewers told me that there would be another two rounds, well I almost ran out of the building. The torture was too much. There was just no way I wanted ever to work for them.

In order to interview a company, I suggest you include one simple question. It’s a question I thoroughly recommend asking as it’s hugely illuminating. “What do you like about working here?”

During my years at the BBC I conducted quite a few interviews. I don’t recall anyone asking me that, yet what a question it is. You’re asking someone what they like about their job and the company.

The responses say a lot. The response might just say to you “no way”, but some answers showed me people with real passion and love for their job that was almost infectious.

And in one I didn’t even have to ask the question. The interviewers almost beat me to it, enthusiastically telling me about the place before I even got a chance to phrase the question. I asked it anyway because it was either that or asking if the office had a microwave and a shower. They’d completely sold it to me, even if the commute was longer than I wanted. Plus it was the first interview, perhaps ever, that I came out of it thinking “that was a really nice way to spend an hour.”

I started there on Monday 17 October on a three month contract. It’s a company you may have heard, called LOVEFiLM and I’m working on their video on demand products. And if you’re wondering, they have microwaves and showers too.