05/02/2013 05:42 pm ET Updated Jul 02, 2013

How I Made Peace With a Hiring Mistake: Me

When I was fresh out of college, supervising a dozen or so telephone company technicians, I held a weekly meeting.


Someone told me to do it, so I did it.

I can't remember what the focus was. Something about safety, if memory serves. Maybe the latest change to our escalation policy -- which was a fancy term for deciding which squeaky wheel got greased first. When there was a snag getting a circuit installed, a technician appealed to his bosses -- who appealed to their bosses -- to appeal to the managers at the other end of the problem circuit to get their technicians to fix it.

It's been many years, so I don't know if I characterized anything correctly in the last paragraph. I do know that as those meetings were happening I couldn't have imagined a bigger waste of time, whether we were talking about a safety issue or a policy change.

Though just in typing that last sentence I changed my mind.

Can you imagine how entertaining it must have been for my technicians to watch a naïve young woman try to hold court for a half hour or so once a week? Even people who love their work -- and some of them did -- need breaks for comic relief.

In that respect I was perfect.

The techs came around. I had one thing over so many others who'd come before me. I hadn't pretended to add a single thing of value to the group. I'd won them over by admitting I was a waste of space.

I'll probably always wonder why I didn't challenge the manager who insisted I hold those weekly meetings. My guess is that it would've been quite the project. A culture shift. Was I really up for that? Apparently not. At some level I was going through the motions. I took the job out of college that paid the most and gave me the most number of windows on the world. I wasn't ready to plant myself in one office for the rest of my life and devote that life to solving problems that didn't hold any meaning for me.

After a year I got promoted. I'll never forget one of the brightest technicians, whom I respected above all others, howling with laughter at the news. I laughed along with him, because I knew I hadn't made enough of a difference in this department to get promoted to another one. I had a good gig and I was going to enjoy where it took me. But I'd also stayed humble, worked hard -- at what, I don't remember -- and according to the techs, made it more fun for them to come to work every day for a year.

I don't know how much I'd helped, but I certainly hadn't hurt.

For a fresh-faced young thing with the capacity to demoralize just from the unfairness of it all, I'm filing this in the win column.