Remember the moment in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory when Charlie peels back the wrapper of his candy bar… to find a golden ticket? He waves it around, and dashes home to tell his family and then everyone breaks into song. Because at that moment, he knows that he’s found exactly what he’s been searching for, and all his problems are solved.
A little later in the movie, it seems like the entire world is gathered at the entrance of Willy Wonka’s factory to watch the gates crack open for the first time in decades. Willy Wonka dances out to welcome the five lucky children who are the owners of Golden Tickets and those five selected children are let in as they brandish their gilded piece of paper. As they rush in the door, it’s official: they’ve made it and all their dreams (of chocolate) have arrived.
Our own golden tickets
Isn’t that we all hope for? That when we send off our resume, the recruiter will pull it out of the envelope (or email attachment) and realize they’ve found it. That they’ve opened up hundreds of emails, only to be disappointed over and over again. But then, there’s that moment when they open the email containing your resume…! And then, when you arrive at your dream company, you’re welcomed at the door with great fanfare because you’re holding that special piece of paper. And, just because of that gilded piece paper, you’re given the opportunity you’ve always dreamed of! Wouldn’t that be wonderful?
But that’s not what happens – either in the real world or in the fantasty world inside the chocolate factory. Because like interviewers, Willy Wonka isn’t looking to make people happy, he’s actually looking for the perfect person for a vitally-important job. (His job!)
The golden ticket in the real world
Just like a resume in the real world, that Golden Ticket isn’t enough to guarantee a job. All the Golden Ticket does is get a child in the door of the factory – and then the real testing begins.
And like many real-world job interviews, it quickly becomes obvious that most of the children are woefully unprepared for the tests and questions they encounter. One-by-one, their weaknesses emerge in a glaring way – and Wonka sends them packing. At last, only Charlie remains – and he still has to prove himself before Willy Wonka selects him.
From what I see, too many of us are under the impression that when we apply for jobs, our resumes are our Golden Tickets. We spend hours polishing them up so they’re as bright and shiny as can be, and then whenever we see an opportunity we’re interested in, we send them off with the expectation that our resume will be golden. Then, when we find out that we’ve been invited in for an interview, too often we think that we’ve made it.
But we haven’t. All the resume does is to get us in the door. Then we have to prove ourselves – by demonstrating our interest in the field, our passion and how we can help our interviewer solve their company’s challenges.
And that’s where I see so many friends and aquaintances fall short when they’re job-hunting. They spend most their time working on their resume, and discovering where to send it – instead of spending their time learning everything they can about the job, the interviewer, and the industry.
There’s no excuse for that. The children in Willy Wonka didn’t know they were auditioning for the job of their dreams when they arrived waving their Golden Ticket. We do – and the sooner we realize that what happens after we get in the door is the most important part, the better off we’ll be!