I had a big job interview last week. How did it go? Well, given that the only notable highlight of my week was receiving a message on ‘Draw Something’ in which a friend enthusiastically applauded my drawing for ‘spinach’, with the words: “Your Popeye was epic!” – you can perhaps guess. (Which is to say: I didn’t get the job – just in case any of you are struggling to keep up.)
I was genuinely delighted with the ‘Draw Something’ feedback. Had I been going for a job as a courtroom artist within the Royal Navy’s court martial system, with carte blanche to depict the key protagonists in every courtroom scene as characters from Popeye – perhaps with Judge J. Wellington Wimpy presiding over every case – I would have been even more thrilled. And if my friend had been on the interview board for this entirely imaginary position, I might even have been successful.
But anyway, I appear to have tearfully digressed.
Back in the crushing disappointment of the real world, one of several reasons cited for my failure at the interview stage was a lack of confidence – which actually cropped up a few times. I didn’t sell myself enough or blather on about my achievements to the point where the interview panel was just a blur of gushing nosebleeds. And even when I thought I was selling myself, I was really only talking myself up to the level of a Star Trek ‘redshirt’; the kind of insignificant, supporting character whose career development entails being devoured by a giant alien plant on a Kew Gardens-esque planet, before being puked at Kirk’s feet in a steaming pile of phlegm-covered bones.
Funnily enough, I couldn’t even bring myself to write “lack of confidence in my own abilities” in the opening sentence of that last paragraph, because to write such a thing would require an unshakeable belief that I have ‘abilities’ to begin with. But even if I had those abilities, surely it would be vulgar in the extreme to crow about them?
Yes, I am afflicted with a terribly self-defeating condition.
I’d love to be able to transfer the confidence and success I enjoy on computer games into reality. After 14 [game] years in charge of Fiorentina on Football Manager, I was recently informed by the club’s board that they’re starting work on a new stadium in my honour. In fact, I’m considered the greatest English manager ever to have managed in Italy. Even when the game has conspired against me in the past, littering my path to glory with extensive injury crises (Physio report: Your goalkeeper has been struck down with the Ebola virus / Your 30-goal-a-season striker is now blind after looking directly at an eclipse), I’ve continued to make a success of my virtual self. And it’s always felt superficially great! Meaningless, obviously, but satisfying.
It reminds me of the scene in the ‘Bart Gets Famous’ episode of The Simpsons in which Lisa momentarily loses herself in a daydream about her glitteringly successful future. When Bart calls for her to return to reality, she simply responds: “Why? I’m so much happier here.”
I often feel the same. In the gaming world – Football Manager, in this instance – I’m successful. I can be confident because there’s no risk involved. No one is judging me. And if I make a rare bad decision, I can just quit and start again – until I get it right. Real life, on the other hand, is completely unforgiving.
When I walked out of the interview room last week and ‘jokingly’ asked the panel to forget about two of the questions I’d laboured over, it felt like I was trying to quit the game without saving. It was a bold, but ultimately futile, attempt to purge my failings from the record. But this being the real world, I obviously didn’t get away with it.
Fleeting moments when I have tried to be confident have often backfired terribly in the past. I remember having a doctor’s appointment once, when I was asked to “slightly lower the waistline” of my jeans so I could be examined. Unfortunately, as I was so determined to be a confident adult, unfazed by the doctor’s instructions, I decided instead to unzip my jeans – with the excruciating sound of my zip’s metal teeth echoing provocatively around the room – hook my thumbs through my belt loops, and pull my jeans and underwear down to my knees. The doctor (who, to my obvious relief, was a gentleman and not an opportunistic sexual predator) immediately covered my startled penis with a sheet, explaining that such exposure wasn’t necessary for him to examine a waist-level skin blemish. I subsequently apologised and led on the examination table, partially covered, like a spurned lover. Damn you, fake confidence, I thought. Damn you.
At nearly 38-years-old – with virtually no career, and success in anything (aside from football management computer games) looking increasingly unlikely – I fear that genuine self-confidence is probably now unobtainable. And even I fake self-confidence in my next job interview, it will probably feel unnervingly like I’m walking into the interview room with my pants down. Still, at least I’d be the memorable candidate…for once.