There was only one problem. The chess instructor had to know how to play chess. The last time I played chess was in first grade. I remembered the names of the pieces but not where most of them went on the board or, really, much else.
I was told I had to come to the interview prepared to do a chess lesson. This was almost as scary as if someone told me I had to impersonate Beyonce in front of a couple thousand fans.
But here is the thing. When your back is against the wall but you really want something, that’s when the fun begins. I got creative.
After scouring the internet for all I could find about chess, I learned the moves and some of the basic strategies. If you ever played the game of chess, you know that it’s a complex game, which favors those players that can think ahead, plan their moves in advance, and deploy numerous strategies based on the different position of the chess pieces. It’s no wonder it is popular in schools and after-school programs – it teaches self-regulation, problem solving and critical thinking – the kinds of skills that position you for success in life.
I got to the interview wearing my nicest black suit, and carrying a portfolio with my resume and cardboard cut-outs of chess pieces. I was ready!
I am pretty sure the turning point in the interview came when I pulled my arts and crafts out of my bag to do the chess lesson.
A few days later I got the call. I was hired!
I should have been elated. Here was my chance to move on to doing something that was meaningful for me. I knew I would enjoy the teaching component. Working with older kids would be rewarding – I’d mentor and encourage and help to position them for their next phase, college. From my experience in the interview, I knew I’d like the team.
But instead of celebrating, I was worried.
The job required substantial travel. The hours were irregular. My enthusiasm would carry me in the beginning, but was this a good long-term plan?
I said no. It was the first job offer I turned down. It was also the first time I made an intentional choice in my career rather than following the path that was unfolding before me. Saying no to things I didn’t want after this became easier. A few months later I quit my banking job.