In recruiting, you can feel like your hair is on fire 24 hours a day. Today was one of those days, so as I grabbed the stack of JVR’s (that’s Job Vacancy Requests, y’all) cluttering my desk to add to my ever-expanding pile of “Priority One” tasks, I managed only a quick glance to see the Meeting Reminder populating my computer screen: “Staffing Strategy Meeting, 1:00pm, C101.”

Not good. I had roughly two minutes to make it to a meeting room five minutes away.

Blue flame following me, I managed to get to the room just as the door was closing, my eyes focused on the one empty chair remaining in the room. Avoiding eye contact with everyone, I quickly sat down, still breathing heavy from the sprint. I slowly gazed up at my meeting partners and saw something unexpected. Suits. Ties. EVP’s, SVP’s, VP’s, and other very important, distinguished looking gentleman with whom I had rarely, if ever, had the opportunity to meet. I didn’t know what meeting this was, but it most certainly wasn’t a “Staffing Strategy Meeting.” 

Holy Christ, I was in the wrong meeting, and I was wearing khakis. I looked like the cabana boy at an Executive Retreat.

If you know me, you’d know the thought of standing up and gracefully leaving the meeting was an unthinkable option. Nope, I was just going to act like I was supposed to be there.

Deftly avoiding more than a cursory glance up from my copious note-taking, I managed to survive the hour without having to say a word. As the meeting adjourned, I left a contrail in my wake. I was a ghost.

Back in the warm bosom of my own office, I couldn’t help but laugh deliriously at my experience. Apparently, I wasn’t alone – as I sat there, I received a call from Nick, our CIO. “You were in the wrong meeting, weren’t you?” Busted.

“Yep, I was actually hoping someone would pull the fire alarm.” After he stopped laughing at/with me, he made the moral of the story crystal clear – “Act like you belong, and I guess you do.” 

Prologue: This little escapade happened to me over 15 years ago, but it’s obviously one that stuck and it never fails to get a chuckle. I like to remind my boys (12 and 9) about things like this to share a few pieces of “wisdom” they might retain:

  1. Everybody screws up, get over it.
  2. Roll with the punches, you may end up with a cool story to tell.