What I am watching: Schitt’s Creek
What I am listening to: Episode 684 of This American Life, Burn it Down
What I am reading: The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
This month I was honored to interview for a town manager position in an incredibly beautiful Colorado mountain town. When I saw the position announcement, my heart skipped a beat because this town holds a special place in my heart, and I knew I had to apply.
However, I thought this position would be a stretch. (The keyword here is thought. When I read the job description and wrapped my mind around the org chart and budget, I knew I could do it, but I still assumed I was reaching.) So, I didn’t necessarily expect to hear back on my application.
Throughout each step of the process, I was thrilled to advance, and before too long, I found myself prepping for in-person interviews. Now, before I get too far into the story, let me spoil the ending, I am not going to be the next town manager. However, the entire experience was extraordinary, and I want to share what I learned along the way and express my sincerest gratitude for the opportunity.
First of all, apply. I know you have heard this advice before, but it bears repeating. Last week, I had the privilege to recount this story to a mentor, who, when I seemed apologetic about applying, stopped me and reminded me that we should all always be looking. What stellar advice! Stay curious; know what opportunities are out there, and what is trending. Keep your resume and LinkedIn current, and when you see an opportunity that moves you, apply! Even if you are happy in your current role, what do you have to lose?
Now, I am a true local gov nerd. I like following the happenings in multiple local municipalities, picking up local papers on my travels, and have even pulled up municipal budgets on vacations, just out of curiosity. Yet, preparing for this interview was a genuine reason to dig-in and embrace my nerdiness. I read the entire town website, lots of past articles in the local paper, the budget, the most recent audit, many previous meeting packets, the comprehensive plan, and most of the town code. I talked to anyone I could think of in my network with a connection to the town. When else are you going to make time to do so much learning about another local government?
After all of that homework, the in-person interview was the icing on the cake. Touring the town facilities, watching an entire board meeting, and walking around town and meeting the locals and staff all added additional context to the learning. Interviewing with three interview panels and doing a public meet and greet helped me sharpen my interview responses and shake off some of the interview cobwebs.
Even after I determined that the opportunity was not a great fit personally for me, the learning continued. I was fortunate enough to get great feedback from a couple of the interviewers and even a few town residents! I was also grateful for my reflection process on what I need to be successful as a manager and leader.
Interviews require you to picture yourself in the role and sort of try-it-on. By their very nature, interviews can help your better ideate your possible futures and expand your perception of your own skills and abilities. I walked away from this process with new clarity about myself and what I want for the future.
It was never my intention to pursue this opportunity as professional development, but it was honestly a fantastic learning opportunity. Ultimately, I returned to my current organization better prepared to serve, and that is an outcome for which I am truly grateful.