Saturday, February 4, 2017

Questions You Really Can't Answer

Patricia Kahill, (Below) is an online content creator and marketer. In one of her tweets, she poised a question that many of us can’t answer. She said: “I have never mastered a response to this question – ‘Where do you see yourself in five years’”.

“Where do you see yourself in five years” is an interview question – if not, one that Uncle, who is a career academic, will ask whenever he comes to visit. I don’t know what answer Ms Kahill gave and if she was at an interview or being grilled by Uncle.

I too, was asked that question by Grace Muguluma, who in the twilight of the 90s, was head of sales and marketing at Kampala Sheraton Hotel. I had applied for a job as the hotels PRO, and as the interview drew on, I kept on waiting for that one ‘curve ball’ question – you know, the one that derails you, scatters you, throws you into panic and sees your hopes of getting the job agonisingly slithering away.

Ms Muguluma was ‘nasty’ in throwing the curve ball question in the last minute of time added on. I mean, it was the end of the interview. It was a done deal and the job was mine. She had already gathered up her notes. All that was left was for her to say: “TB, thanks for coming in. You are going to an asset to Sheraton Hotel.”

Instead, she asked: “Where do you see yourself in five years”, that the balls of sweat were out of my sweat pores well before she’d finished asking the question. I tried to compose myself but couldn’t. Sweat trickled down from my armpits and the back of my neck. My mouth dried up like it had spent ten minutes in the microwave while the thinking side of my brain shut down with the lights off.

I glared at her in disbelief. What kind of person asks such a question and just seconds to the end of a successful interview? She looked back at me and smack in my eyes and with no inclination of bailing me out. Like Ms Kahall asked, what do you give as an answer?

I thought I gave a good response as it dribbled out of my mouth – “to be sitting in your chair.” And I thought I gave a suicidal response when she responded - “err, really? Hmm!”

I didn’t hear back from her. I didn’t get the job.

One thing Receptionist has on her desk, is a Visitors Book that has two columns designed to derail you. One is headed ‘From Where’ and the other, ‘Reason’. The first time I filled in a Visitors Book, was when I called in on Maria Kiwanuka, (Below) at Radio One.

Receptionist flipped the book open and hovered her ample bust over me – almost as if she was making sure I answer correctly. At the ‘From Where’ column, I didn’t know what to write, so I sought guidance. She said: “Jot down where you came from.” Well the taxi had just dropped me off at the Post Office and before that, I was at home. I opted for ‘home’. The Post Office option smacked of ridicule.

And the reason for visiting? Mrs Kiwanuka, had been explicit with the invitation. “TB, pop in for a coffee and a chat.” I wrote just that which, irked Receptionist who was ready to lash me had the phone not rang when it did. 

These days, in the ‘reason’ column, I write: “To pass time”. And Ms Kahill, five years after the ‘where do I see myself in five years’ question, I was with New Vision – though at the time the question was asked, it would have made Ms Muguluma think I was ridiculing her if I had said just that.

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