SOMETIMES what seem to be disasters in your life or career turn out to be nothing of the sort.
Like, in my case, not getting a job I felt I really wanted.
Newly back in journalism after a spell in a government job (which turned out to be a big mistake, but that’s another story), I saw an interesting ad in a national newspaper. A respected orchestra was looking for a press officer. It seemed perfect for me, as music has always been one of my passions and I had the right background.
I sent in an application letter and in due course heard I had an interview with the general administrator the following week. When we met, there was instant rapport.
According to recent research, job applicants have just eight minutes to impress in an interview and eye contact is the most important factor. Without knowing any of this, I must have unconsciously done all the right things.
I haven’t always been brilliant at interviews, but it’s enough to say that on this occasion everything worked well. I felt I knew with an inner knowledge (as they say) that if it was up to the general administrator, the job was mine.
So far, so terrific.
I sat back, confidently expecting a confirmation that I’d got the job to arrive in the post.
Instead, I got a letter asking me to attend a second interview with the orchestra’s board. Oops! I was still optimistic, however, as I imagined my new friend the general administrator would have enough influence with the board to sway his colleagues and carry them with him.
Unfortunately, I presumed wrongly.
Looking back, I’m sure I made the mistake of being over-confident. But after the interview I thought I had a reasonable chance. If enough members of the board happened to like me-and if the general administrator hadn’t changed him mind about me since our first meeting-I believed I was still quite likely to emerge as the chosen applicant.
Sadly, this obviously wasn’t the case. A few days later, I got another letter delivering the bullet.
“I am very sorry,” ran the words of doom, “but you were not the successful candidate.
“We had great difficulty in making up our minds but in the end decided that there was one candidate who was a little better suited to the post than you were. With every good wish… ”
It felt like a dagger in the heart, although, looking back at it now, it was as tactfully worded as could have been hoped for. However, the shock was terrible. I’d really convinced myself that the job was mine.
I fell into black despair for a time. I felt I had blown my one opportunity to get into PR with an arts organization, which I had now decided was my mission in life.
Then one day, for whatever reason, I decided to pick myself up and do something positive. I started my recovery campaign by phoning and writing people I thought might be able to suggest possible alternative work in the arts field. One of my letters was to the general administrator with whom I had gotten on so well.
And sure enough, as soon as you apply kinetic activity to anything you want to achieve, things start happening.
Out of the blue, I got an invitation to apply for a job with a ballet company. This was totally unexpected. I felt I knew quite a bit about orchestras, but next to nothing about ballet.
Nonetheless, it was quite exciting. The letter enclosed an attractive brochure which opened my eyes to interesting new possibilities-and there is no doubt that ballet companies present lots of ideas for promotion that orchestras don’t.
I telephoned right away and arranged an appointment for later the same week.
This time everything went incredibly well, most likely because I was determined that nothing-pay, working conditions, whatever-was going to stand in the way of getting this job. This, by the way, is a pretty good mindset to adopt for any interview.
I flew through both this and the inevitable second interview and it was confirmed shortly afterwards that the job was mine.
That was just the start of the good news. What it boils down to is that with no disrespect whatsoever to orchestral players, ballet is infinitely more promotable than an orchestra ever could be. The key difference is that dancers-and ballets-are photogenic and orchestral musicians, irrespective of how talented they may be, are not.
Also, an important point: dancers perform in theaters, which are places of magic, whereas orchestras are consigned to concert halls, where magic is hard to find.
I found no difficulty in marketing picture and story ideas to newspapers, magazines, radio and television. Judging by the results I was able to achieve, the right choice had been made for me.
The four years I spent with the ballet company were some of the most interesting and stimulating of my entire career in arts public relations.
So the moral of the story is, in the often-repeated words of the inventor of the telephone, when one door closes, another opens. And often it’s a door leading to infinite possibilities which you couldn’t possibly have anticipated.
There’s an ironical twist to this story. Several years later, I found myself in the odd position of being approached and offered the job of press officer with the orchestra which had turned me down. By that time I had established myself a freelance operator with my own consultancy. Going back to being an in-house employee didn’t appeal.
So this time it was my turn to say “no”.
P. S. “When one door closes, another door opens” is a quotation by Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922) Scottish-born scientist, inventor, engineer and innovator who invented the first practical telephone.
The complete quote is: “When one door closes, another door opens; but
we often look so long and regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not