(Austin, TX, USA)
"If you were to die six months from today, what would you do?"
I'm sitting in a room that's steaming hot, staring at a man who absolutely does not like me, (I could tell) and I'm thinking great, I'll speed it up so it's over in the next minute or two.
That thought cleared in the next instant and my mind completely shut itself off as I realized that I didn't have an answer to that question.
I had done everything right. I had prepared for the meeting; I'd looked up all the potential questions that the interviewer might ask: team building, leadership, struggles, victories, grades, interests and previous work experience. I had ironed my clothes for a half hour the night before, and I had showed up 15 minutes early for the interview.
I was graduating in the spring and I was desperate to get a job. The economy was bad, but did this guy really had to take it to that extent?
Forget asking about what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, he was asking me what I would do before my death.
I breathed and I said, that's an interesting question. (Another trick I try to use to buy some time when I've been given a weird or tough question).
I guess it would change a lot of my attitude. Thus far I've been trying very hard to graduate and find a job and settle in. I guess knowing that the long-term is now the short-term would change my outlook and my priorities.
For one, I would probably graduate still, I said. He raised his eyebrows. I said that college had been the greatest time of my life and that I had learned a lot. I came here to study and learn and that was what I was going to do, until my dying day.
He smiled, and wrote something down. Hope springs eternal for this poor business student.
I talked about impact and achievement. I mentioned to him that before I died I wanted to change something for the better. I wanted to leave my own mark on this world. I said I would start working with charities in the area. I mentioned a few of the community service activities that I had done as a student and talked of how I would do an even better job now that I had so little time.
I could tell he was impressed by my answer. He had wanted to see how I thought and wanted to gain an understanding of what motivates and inspires me. He wanted to see if I would do something with my life, if I truly were going to die in six months.
Interviewers like to see decision makers, people who are quick at arriving at important choices and sticking by them.
I guess they wanted someone like that because four weeks later I found out I had gotten a job offer from that company. I will be working there now, and every time I think back to that question I laugh.
A question where I focused on what I'd end up doing before I died had ultimately shaped what I would now end up doing as I began my life.