The most truly terrifying and deeply embarrassing moment of my career.







This post was first published in Cosmopolitan Australia magazine.


Why is it that I can’t recall the many ordinary or successful days in my working life but the most truly terrifying and deeply embarrassing meeting of my career is etched into my memory like a prehistoric fossil?

Here’s how it went down.

I was 25 and acting in a position far more senior than my own because a long recruitment process was underway and someone needed to cover.

Not gonna lie: I was thrilled to bits with my newfound power.

I was fearlessly making the tough decisions a leader needs to make (read: bought a new suit from Saba), I was managing my staff with a kind but firm hand (read: bribing them with chocolate) and I was the master of solving problems (read: played a lot of Sudoku on my phone).

But then came the part of the job I was less confident about: The fortnightly Big Scary Meetings.

I decided the only way I was going to get through, was to set a goal.

I will say something at least once and it will not be dumb, I promised myself.

That’s right young Jamila. Reach for the stars.

When I walked into the room, intimidated by the big wooden desk and the limited lighting, I marvelled at the ease at which all these people who were Big Scary Meeting regulars conducted themselves.

“I will say something at least once and it will not be dumb.”

There were about 30 other people. The average age was twice my own. There were two other women. Everyone wore a suit with pants and I became suddenly very conscious of my bare legs.  Stupid skirt-suit.

“So we’ve got young Jamila sitting at the big kids’ table today,” chuckled one of the blokes. Ugh.

The offhand comment, which I’m sure was intended to put me at ease, just made me want to curl up under the giant wooden table and inhale a packet of mini Cheezels.

Instead, I put my brave face on: “Yeah, I suppose I should have brought my sippy cup,” I joked back to the very unfunny many behind me.

Except that’s not quite what happened… because in my nervousness I had spoken so rapidly that I sounded like a character on Gilmore Girls. And for everyone else in the room it came across like I’d said ‘I suppose I should have brought my ducky up’.

…Except replace the D with an… ah, F.

Everyone stared. There was an uncomfortable silence. No one laughed.

At the time it felt like a career-ending disaster; a fail of epic proportions but thankfully a few weeks and a bit of perspective changed all that.

All of us will have wonderful wins in our working lives.

And also some spectacular losses. That’s just how it goes.

What was your most embarrassing career moment?

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