No Image Available

Ben Young

Read more about Ben Young

Diary of a misfit: The perfect place??!!


I feel like a teenager again. Not because I’m filled with youthful exuberance, but because I’m waiting for the phone to ring – and it doesn’t.

I am transported back more than three decades.
I am sitting at the kitchen table pretending to busy myself with homework but unable to concentrate because I am willing Liz Irvine to call to say she can’t live without me (at least during school and Saturday afternoons in town).
And now, just like then, I find myself picking up the receiver just to check there is a dial tone. Then I double-check my email to ensure that the connection is still live. I press the Send/Receive button too, just to make sure.
But it is not undying love that I am looking for (Liz never did call, by the way). It is the offer of a job.
Yes, this wildcard managed not only to make several shortlists, but actually progressed to preferred candidate on one, while being actively considered on a second. This information, gleaned from recruiters at two different agencies, is music to my ears – and just a couple of weeks away from my impending unemployment.
The interview process itself has been enlightening. In 1993 when I applied for a sub editor’s job on the features desk of the Daily Mirror, the interview took place in a pub and lasted for approximately two pints before we discussed terms.
My next interview – at the Daily Express in 1997 – was slightly more formal in that it took place in an office and lasted about 20 minutes before they told me I had the job.
Pretty much every role that I have ever done has really come about after a simple conversation as opposed to an elongated interview process.
Not anymore.
Elation and deflation
Apparently, in these risk-averse times, it is not uncommon for there to be up to seven stages in the process, involving several lengthy face-to face meetings with everyone from the potential line manager to the HR director, and even the chief executive.
Mercifully I only had four stages, two of which involved the novelty (to me) of a Skype call from my mobile phone.
When I tell Nic, my long-suffering wife, that I am a preferred candidate for a job at a dynamic creative agency and can expect to hear news in just a couple of days, her delight mirrors my elation.
Three-and-a-half days later, my elation becomes deflation when I have heard nothing.
But my colleague Alex has also taken an interest in my quest for a new role and begins to rival my wife in terms of assertiveness.
“You’ve got to call them,” she says. “What does Nic say?”
“To call them, but I’m sure they will call me when they have something to tell me,” I reason. After all, they have my best interests at heart, don’t they? Don’t they?
It may be the deflation that I feel from no contact but suddenly I am filled with doubt. Are they working on my behalf or on behalf of their corporate clients? Are they loyal or would they drop me like a, like a…like a misfit at the first sign of trouble?
Relationship with recruiters
My paranoia ignites. They were just pretending to make me feel special. They’ve found somebody else and don’t know how to tell me.
They’ve read my HRZone piece and have discovered that, not only am I a misfit but apparently proud of it. They just don’t like me. I’m useless. Everybody hates me!! Oh god, it’s just like the angst of teenage love all over again!
“Chill, Winston,” Alex tells me (Apparently this is a reference to a Lenny Henry sketch show). But she is right, I need to get a grip and take control.
In truth, I feel slightly uncomfortable in my relationship with recruiters. For a start, I am seeing two (even three) at a time and that feels a little adulterous. Am I allowed to see other people?
Also part of my CV tells how I have improved the life of my organisation by cutting down on the amount of pesky recruiters that I use – and their fees. So now as well as being an adulterer, I am a hypocrite to boot.
Despite my extensive HR network and a growing number of conversations over lunch, drinks and email, it is my relationship with a handful of determined recruiters that has brought me to the brink of a new role.
I pick up the phone and call…my wife.
The perfect place?
“Have you called then?” she asks. “What does Alex say?”
“Look, first of all, as much as I might like to think so, I am not their only client,” I point out. “Second, people are running businesses and not consumed by the need to manage my expectations every five minutes. Third…I’ll call!”
So I do and it gets me nowhere. Both agencies tell me that they will chase.
One, who I determine never to deal with again (unless they find me a job), even follows the conversation up with an email pretty much telling me to ‘jog on’ in Alex’s parlance.
And so follows a few fretful days of uncertainty and yet more self doubt. I imagine other possible directions for my life – sitting in that beach bar in Barbados, taking a camper van through Africa, becoming HR director for the Syrian government.
Then, after a week, the phone rings. They want to make me an offer, but don’t tell me what it is.
Then, two days later and almost three months to the day that I first began my epic journey, I get an offer. I have a new job, 12 months’ maternity cover as an HR director at a brand consultancy, working with a diverse range of insightful thinkers to deliver a highly creative service to the world.  
Surely it must be the perfect place for a hybrid like me??!!!

Get the latest from HRZone.

Subscribe to expert insights on how to create a better workplace for both your business and its people.


Thank you.