Getting the Job
Getting the Job

Makail JohannessonThis past spring I attended a workshop titled, “Getting the Job” as part of an event tied to an academic extracurricular I was involved in with my University. The workshop was put on by an HR representative from a large firm and was meant to offer us tips on resume writing and interviews. During the presentation, I found myself a bit irritated at the narrative of the discussion. They were telling us that in order to maximize our chances at landing a job, we should scrub our social media accounts, tailor our resume to include the same buzzwords from a given job description, and write a phoney cover letter. 

To me, the presentation came across as a guide for how to market yourself as some caricature of an ideal, but inauthentic, candidate. The spirit of inquiry resides in genuine curiosity—we should be inclined to ask the questions that we are genuinely curious about, not to ask what we think we people want to hear. Perhaps I’m being cynical, but it seems a bit hypocritical of the corporate world to champion diversity, and then tell you to be someone you’re not.

Fortunately for me, I was able to avoid this culture by landing a summer internship at Fresh Squeezed Ideas. This fall, I’ll be heading to the UK to get my Master’s in Cognitive and Decision Sciences and couldn’t have landed a more fitting gig than with the behavioural science team at FSI, also known as, “Brainium.”

When I walked in on my first day, I could tell things were a bit different from the previous companies I had worked for. Music played in the background as Oso, the office bulldog, welcomed me into the vibrant work area. Structurally, of course, there is a hierarchy within FSI, but socially there is little. Snacks and tea in the cupboard and food in the fridge are for whoever is hungry or thirsty. Wellness walks down to the lake with Oso are for whoever has time. And brainstorms and collaborative work sessions are for whoever has insights to share. Before the internship began, I didn’t expect to be able to offer a valued perspective in a firm full of Master’s degrees, PhD’s, and industry experience. But when I had a thought or idea, people were extremely open, actively listened, and subsequently discussed.

It is this form of comradery and openness that instils a distinctly different creative work environment at FSI. With virtually zero inter-office competition or politics, everyone is able to work together and take advantage of each other’s personality, and area of expertise. As an aspiring behavioural scientist, I’m aware that we all have an ego. But it is the conspicuously cynical ego, the popular term people refer to when they say, “check your ego at the door,” that is nonexistent at FSI. This allows us to collaborate on challenges by coming up with methods for how to solve a given problem as a group rather than asserting our own individual anecdotes. Our ideas, after all, are freshly squeezed—refined, tested, and crystallized. We don’t just take the low hanging fruit and run, we make juice (and occasionally, super cheesy analogies as well).

This wouldn’t be possible without a team, high in intellect and curiosity—the same curiosity that sparks myriad questions and strives to find their roots, however nuanced and ambiguous they may be. It is why FSI’s fusion of Cultural Anthropology and Behavioural Science works so well. By embracing both evidence and equivocalness, and by applying both the scientific method and empathy, we are able to think about challenges more creatively.

What did I learn this summer at FSI? Well, too much to write in one blog post, to be honest. But I would say one of my biggest takeaways was not to take anything for granted. Academia always preaches acknowledgement of ignorance, but it is one thing to think that’s what you’re supposed to do, and another to genuinely practice it.

At FSI, I never felt compelled to be somebody I wasn’t. Because of this, I am grateful for my internship time with Brainium and with FSI, for I am not only able to think more creatively about business challenges, but also about the world.

I do question whether the narrative of this post is a manifestation of my very own criticism—an attempt at signalling my way of thinking to impress others. The answer is probably not unambiguous, but some blend of cultural and psychological forces. I am comfortable in saying, however, that these are thoughts I wouldn’t have had four months ago.

Written by Makail Johannesson, Behavioural Science Intern at Fresh Squeezed Ideas, May – August 2018.