Ogilvy & Mather in NYC was the job I really wanted and was a big part of my WHY for moving to NYC from Walnut, NY. *
I had been working at a small business-to-business agency for several years, and just felt it was time to get to a big agency. Plus, Ogilvy & Mather had a highly-regarded training program.
I made it through the initial vetting process and interview with HR, and was escorted to the office of the senior manager who ran the training program and was the ultimate decision-maker.
As I entered his large office, he sat in his executive chair, back turned to me. He started talking to (at?) me, not turning around, presumably reviewing my resume.
He said something dismissive like: "So you want to work at O&M, eh? And what do you bring that makes you different from everyone else?" He hadn't moved. I'm still looking at the back of his comfy executive chair, and the tippy top of the back of his head.
Brain Voice says: High stress interviewer here. Gotta' go for it. High stakes.
I muster up some audacity and offer: "I can juggle."
"Juggle? J u g g l e???" Taken by surprise he kinda' snorts, and says: "What? When? Where?"
I respond: "Right here, right now."
"You're saying you are prepared to juggle right here right now in this office??" He is curious + incredulous. "How are you going to do that?"
I ask: "Do you have a pad of paper?"
He turns around for the first time in his chair, with an expression at the intersection of confused, curious and half-smile, and hands me a pad of paper. I tear off three sheets, crunch them into balls, get up from the interview chair and stand there holding three crumpled sheets of paper in my hands.
I toss the first crumpled paper in the air, holding two in my other hand, then toss the second and third. With three crumpled sheets aloft, I juggled in his office for a minute or two.
He's smiles and says "Okay, Okay!"
He asked how I learned to juggle, and seemed to appreciate the story that one summer between jobs, I taught myself. Keep in mind this was in the time before cell phones (BC), so it was without benefit of Google search or YouTube videos. I laid three tennis balls on the ground and thought about where each one had to go to juggle. Then it was a matter of practice, practice practice (Did I mention growing up in Upstate NY without a lot to do?*).
The interesting thing I learned from juggling is that it's the throwing that really matters. Put the ball repeatedly in the right spot, and it will come down predictably into your hand.
Similar to communicating: Much like throwing the ball to juggle, the responsibility for communicating is on the sender, not the receiver. Meaning, if your message doesn't get through, it's on the sender to recraft it so it hits the mark.
He probably wasn't expecting to encounter a juggler from Wherever, NY angling for a job that day. But an unexpected, out-of-context juggling performance turned out to be the key that unlocked the job.
* "Walnut" was my husband's smirky misnomer for Webster NY, my hometown in Upstate NY. Since he was from the posh Darien, CT, "Walnut" also painted it with an offhand brushstroke of "not much there." The first time I corrected "It's Webster not Walnut," his response was "What's the difference?"
Fact is, in when my dad first moved us to Webster, NY in the late 60's, it was still mostly a farm town, and the newly plowed farmer's field that became our suburban tract didn't offer much to do. Since I wasn't allowed to do much anyhow, self-taught juggling was a perfect way to fill a few long summer days.