Failure Finalists Announced

There were many compelling failure stories contributed to our competition this semester. Four entries have been chosen for the final round. Remember finalists you have to enter via video. I will email you instructions tomorrow. The finalists are:

Nikki Lonergan– Mommy’s little secret.
Clayton Prichard–Failure is to Blame
Lillian Hobson– Fear of Shirley
Deon Whitfield –Fail to Realize

Good luck to reach of you!

I Got Nothing

I had Nelson Marchioli, UCF alum and former CEO and President Denny’s Corporation speak to my leadership class about making tough decisions. Nelson stressed the importance of data, dealing with facts and understanding that when the right choice is clear that leadership isn’t a popularity contest. So true.

But sometimes the data is equivocal, your perspective fuzzy and wisdom forsakes you. Trust me, this happens. When you got nothing, go with kindness. People remember kindness more than genius or vision. Kindness builds goodwill and a reservoir of goodwill is the best asset anyone can hold.

A failure story from alum Spencer Dewald

Hi Dean Jarley,

Hope this email finds you well. I have seen some of your recent posts highlighting failures as a growth tool and thought you may find value in sharing my story with graduating job-hunters.

As this year’s seniors graduate, they will come to know a couple of their friends that are drowning in job offers. I was not one of those people. By all means I had the resources to do it; I was a member of UCF’s Professional Selling Program (PSP) which is highly recruited by some very successful companies. Unfortunately, I lacked the proper interviewing skills that were needed to close the deal. So I interviewed and failed, failed, and failed again. Some of the companies that I had interviews for (but no job offers) included:

Aerotek, blown out in first interview
Gartner, final round (5 of my peers got this job, pretty sure I was the only one that interviewed that didn’t get it).
Pepsi, final round
Cintas, 2nd round
Tom James 3rd round
Google SMB adword sales, final round.

It’s hard to put into words how bad it hurt to not get that first Google offer. I had my mind set on Google ever since I joined PSP (they are one of our top sponsors) and always thought I would be a good culture fit for them. Problem was I had a track record of getting far in the interview process but never actually received an offer. I had one more shot to interview at Google for another position (which happened to be my dream job) but had little to lean on in terms of results. The day I graduated from UCF I had zero job offers while many of my friends were beginning their new chapters in less than a month. It was sobering to say the least.

It was right around graduation that everything started clicking for me. I began to understand the true meaning behind interviewer questions and how to side-step questions I wasn’t ready to answer (i.e. is our company your top choice?). I only learned these skills and tactics through 20+ failed interviews I had had throughout senior year.

To make a long story short, I eventually got my Google job offer (and a couple others) after graduation. Today I sell Google cloud solutions to the largest companies and government entities in the United States, an unparalleled opportunity for a new grad out of a state school in Florida. My closing advice would be to find a mentor, have a plan of what you want, and interview until you are blue in the face (preferably with your dream position as one of your last interviews). While I didn’t know it at the time, every failure I had was actually a step closer to making my greatest professional dream a reality.

Best of luck to all the job hunters, may YOU make the odds forever in your favor :).

Tell Me A Story

Normally I would spend a March Saturday in Lakeland scouting my team and buying more Tigers’ apparel than a respectable adult my age should. But this Saturday, as the students left town for Spring Break, I went with Kelly to see our friend Robin Cowie who has started a story-telling group in Orlando. You can learn more about the Orlando Story Club by clicking here.

Attending an event like this was a new experience for me. I went in the hope of learning something that would improve my communication skills. If you want to be a leader and motivate people, good story-telling skills are a must. I also hoped the event would help Kelly’s tales. In her short but adventurous life, the woman has amassed a million of them, more frankly than seems possible. We spend lots of time together on the road. The better her stories, the better my road experience.

It was a fun evening. Ten people told five minute stories of adventure, the night’s theme. Three judges from the audience scored their efforts. Prizes were given for win, place and show. The stories varied widely in their details and scope from a trip through the South American jungle to a trip through three stalls at a roadside bathroom. The winners were all well practiced and had developed the ability to pull you in through detailed description, convey the emotion of the situation and then surprise you with the ending. Good “facts” alone were not enough. Style and imagery played roles equal to substance. The audience was enthralled. The emcee, part magician, part comic but always entertaining with his quick wit, stole the show.

One of the best things about getting out of your comfort zone and interacting with people different from you is that you more clearly see the costs of your own choices. As scholars we are trained to doggedly pursue the facts and to stamp everything else out of the account of our quest for the truth. We then pass these same qualities down to our students, demanding logic and data stripped of emotion and sometimes even experience in the narratives that report our work. Story-telling is seen as anathema to science. But I fear that in this process we are sacrificing too much: detaching knowledge from intuition and the emotions of the quest. In passing these values on to our students we leave too many unable to tell their own story in compelling ways that will land them jobs, build commitment to causes and lead others.

I am not advocating a retreat from the scientific method, but a parallel effort to promote better story-telling skills in our students as well as in how we convey our work. I thought Amit Joshi did a great job of story-telling in the Q&A part of his Citrus Club talk on Friday. Getting faculty off script sometimes helps. If you missed him in action, it was your loss. As for students, our co-curricular experiences are one place to develop these skills. For students entering my failure competition, realize that I am asking you to tell a chapter of your story. It is not so much about a linear description of the facts as it is about evoking a visceral response in the reader. You want them to feel like they are in the middle of your life, experience the failure you did at a gut-level and connect them with a surprising lesson you have learned. That combination will win the failure competition, just like it did Saturday’s Orlando Story Club event.

Off to four days with Kelly in Texas….