The chips have fallen, the outcome has been decided. I posted a few weeks ago about my job hunting and interview experience. I wrote that I was close to a Disney like ending. I had put all my chips into two baskets and I was genuinely hopeful for it all to work out. I’ve never really been keen on the idea of working, but these jobs somehow instilled that motivation into me, which meant that I was making the right decisions and moving in the right direction.

After each of my final round interviews, I wrote down my thoughts before hearing from them. I thought that was the best way to be impartial. I wasn’t going to be influenced by hindsight. This is part of what I wrote after my interview with Bain;

Overall, I think I did ok. I didn’t do amazingly. I didn’t crush the interviews and I could have done better. But these are interviews, and it’s rare to reach your true maximum potential in an interview. I can say that I had fun. I enjoyed all of the cases. In the second case when everything was going wrong I was still having fun. I enjoy these cases, this way of thinking, so whatever happens I definitely think I’ve found a vocation in which I would be really happy.

I came down off the mountain and I walked into this world of work with nothing more than a passion. I’m a passionate person, and when I want something I chase it fearlessly. I’m not afraid of giving everything to something, and I’ll deal with the outcome as and when I need to. I try hard. I’ve always tried hard. If I get this job then I’m convinced it’s a combination of who I am and what climbing has taught me. Climbing has been my love. It really has. I gave it everything. But beyond all of this I’ve always followed my heart. I think people know that. I don’t do things because I should, or even because I need to. I do things because they are the things I love. I was crazy to drop out of UCL and go climbing. Genuinely crazy. But I followed my passion. For better or for worse. Many times I have written the quote I once heard  “look after what you love, and what you love will look after you”.

The outcome was negative. I didn’t get the job offer, and to be honest I was totally gutted. I wanted it so much. Some might say too much, but I don’t know if I would agree. I had found a job I’d like to do, I’d met people who I’d liked to have worked with, and I felt like the challenge of it would be so rewarding. So yeah, I was gutted. Dealing with failure is a really interesting process, but more on that later.

So the McKinsey interview rolled around and it was something very different. A few excerpts from what I wrote a couple of hours after the interview probably give you an idea of what it was like;

Having just had my interviews this morning I am now sitting at a crossroad. A huge one. I do know one thing thought and I trust it immensely. Trust that whatever happens it’s all for the best. This attitude is one which puts you in a good place no matter what happens and allows you to make the best whatever/wherever you may come across. I’ve tried to live by that.

Starting at 7am was a big ask as I’m not usually very sharp in the morning. It takes me some time to wake up, but I think the adrenalin spike this morning was far more effective than the coffee or croissant. Trying to explain my life to a 50 something Partner at McKinsey wasn’t easy. With age comes experience and with experience comes a lot of hindsight and understanding. How they view my life is quite fascinating to me. I think it’s clear that I’m driven, or as he put it “mildly obsessed”, but what to make of the disparate pieces of my life. I feel like I have interests from all over the field, ranging from small boulders in Switzerland to the process of reducing the size of die’s in CPU production. I’m a climber and a nerd. I love solving problems and I was hoping I would be able to get that across.

I think I made a number of errors in my cases. I missed some obvious insights and the insights I did make were painfully slow. That’s also annoying because I think I should have done better. That’s the mildly obsessive coming out I suppose. I always think I could have done it better. I could have prepared in a different way, I could have thought about it from a different angle, there are many “could have’s” . I did learn a huge amount. That was good for my brain because I like learning insightful things, but bad for my interview because I should have known them already!

Being rational and thinking I wasn’t good enough doesn’t mean I don’t hold out any hope. I have a huge amount of hope. Perhaps they saw a spark, something that indicated I could actually be very good at this consultancy lark. I am trying to stay positive. What I have definitely done is made peace with the process. Last week when I got rejected by Bain I was really dejected. I felt really disappointed. I think I put so much pressure on myself, which with hindsight I would class as unnecessary pressure. Pressure is good, it creates diamonds, but trusting in life’s processes is how I’ve always lived. I’ve always landed on my feet and I don’t know how or why. I just know that everything has always worked out. When the rejection from bain arrived I thought I hadn’t landed on my feet. I thought I’d been punched to the floor. But I was wrong. VERY wrong. It’s not a knock back, it’s an opportunity to take a different path. This might sound like some very desperate “I’m clutching at straws” point of view, but it’s one which I’m cool with.

Now, whilst I’m sitting here waiting for the result of today’s interviews, I’m cool. That’s a big change from last week. I trust myself again. I trust my ability. I think I was too desperate for validation in my Bain interview. Desperate for someone else to tell me I was “good enough”. Truth be told, I am good enough. I am arrogant/confident enough to say that. If I don’t land this job with McKinsey, my world won’t end, not at all. I’ve learned so much from this process and that’s with me forever. When I look back on my life I see big shifts, big shifts which I couldn’t have predicted. Those shifts are the natural rhythm of life’s plan. I know I’m going to end up doing something cool. I know that because I won’t settle for not doing something cool. If that’s at McKinsey, great. If not, it will surely only be another kind of great.

Unfortunately McKinsey came back to me today with a negative response. I had an interesting chat on the phone with Hugh Harper and I got the impression that they thought I could probably do the job at McKinsey, but they weren’t 100% certain, and they weren’t certain because of my academic record. It’s a tough break, but it’s one I can understand.  I have a 2:2 from open university. Had I been exactly the same but had a first from Oxford, I’m under no illusion that I would have got the job. I would have been able to show a track record of being smart. The thing is, I know I’m smart enough, so it’s all about proving it from here on out. Re-applying was most definitely not out of the question and Hugh sounded quite positive about it, so if I really want this then I need to crush my Masters, get a GMAT of 750, then seal the deal. It’s not out of the question. And this leads me on to what I mentioned up top, about how people deal with failure.If you’re a long time reader of this blog you probably have a good idea about how I deal with failure. I learn. I digest. I improve. Failure makes me stronger.

But how do you deal with failure when you only have 1 chance? It’s fascinating. In climbing, you can go away, train harder, focus more, and come back to crush your project. With a job interview you can’t do that. I have been measured up, and I fell short. What can I do now? Well, I can go away and train harder, I can sharpen up, get a track record of being smart on paper, and come back to all of this. Is that what I want? This is the burning question. I enjoy problems. I love challenges. I like to have my mind sharpened and honed by complex ideas. This is no secret. I love being tested because it’s only when you’re pushed to your limits that you realise just how far away your limits really lie. I came down from the Mountains because I found something else I genuinely wanted to do. Getting knocked back hasn’t made me want it less… if only it had! It has made me want it more. I don’t really know how I’m going to get there, or where “there” is, but I’ve once again got an unknown path in front of me and I’m starting the process of taking the steps into the unknown.