Nkem Ndem: When intelligence is just not enough

Every girl has her ‘goody bag’. For some, it is facial beauty, or the way her body looks. For others, it is the ability to “quickly remove clot”, or cooking skills; for some girls it is how eloquently she speaks, or how much money and intelligence she possesses. It is a long list actually.

For me, I have always considered mine to be intelligence. When it comes to certain aspects of my persona, people are conflicted: you are beautiful vs you are not beautiful, you are an introvert vs you are super extra, but one thing everyone has agreed on is that I am intelligent. It is the one thing I have always been sure of my whole life.

It started with me being book smart. I came between 1st -3rd all through primary school. Secondary school was more competitive. I never studied, hardly did my assignments (I instead spent time reading novels, watching movies, filling in my diaries and writing novellas that I charge my classmates a paltry sum to read) and I graduated with very good grades.

It was not until my university years that I realized that I am much more than just book smart. I actually also have an intelligent personality: I am organized, disciplined, Inspiring, I can easily connect seemingly unrelated concepts, and I can influence other people…even to the point of manipulation if I wanted to. Basically, I know my strengths, I also know my weaknesses and how to compensate for them.

This awareness was a good thing… but also a bad thing. Good, in the sense that it made me much more hardworking: I can take on so many responsibilities at once and still excel in each. I had 3-4 full time jobs with ‘lit’ appraisals. It gave me the kind of confidence that encouraged me to never back down from any challenge and handle impromptu/last-minute tasks without flinching.
Bad, in the sense that the awareness that I could literally wing anything and I didn’t need to put in as much hard work or discipline as others to achieve an even better end product, sometimes made me lazy. I would easily disregard ‘preparation’ and ‘process’, and it had me living life with the wrong impression that intelligence was all I needed.

Intelligence was enough; or so I thought.

I have learned now that in some cases, intelligence is not enough.

A couple of days ago, I received a message to attend an interview for an organization. Upon receiving the text, I searched the name of the company on Instagram. A personal page popped up. There wasn’t much information on it, so I turned to Google. Unknown to me, I had misspelt the name of the company in my haste, so nothing came up. I figured, the position for a job I had done for years and was good at, so I wouldn’t have any difficulty no matter. I could always wing anything. I went on to call the number and get the address for the interview.

I arrived for the interview on time. 1 pm prompt. I even managed to put on lipstick and fill out my brows. Just after a few minutes of waiting, I was ushered into the room. I stretched my face in a smile as the lady introduced herself to me. She looked prettier in real life than on Instagram, but my lips went numb and wouldn’t budge when I tried to mention it to her.

“So, tell us a little about yourself?” She asked. I had pre-empted the question, so it seemed like an easy start. I talked about myself and my past jobs. When I mentioned that I wrote a column on BellaNaija, she cut in and said: “You write Nkem Says. I actually read that column.”  That got me feeling nervous. I started to wonder: did she like the column or is she one of the many who loathe my guts?

Next, she asked me to tell her what I knew about the company. The question pulled the rug from under me. Somehow, I hadn’t imagined she would ask that. I decided to go with honesty, so I explained how I had Googled the company name, and nothing had popped up and I only saw her personal account on Instagram. As I uttered the words, I felt a fool. Maybe it was the expression on the lady’s face that screamed: “you are a pathetic liar” or perhaps it was the realization that I was extremely unprepared for the interview. I don’t know. The lady did not hesitate to let me know everything about the company and all it had achieved, hinting at how it was absurd that I would not find it on Google.

After that, she said to me that the position was full time and would demand a lot of time from me. I cut in and said to her I had assumed the position was remote and I was not looking for a full-time day job. She paused and stared at me as though I was deformed or something worse. “Why didn’t you ask to know if it was remote or in-office when you received the invitation? A lot of people called in to find out and we did not have schedule an interview.” Although her voice was not harsh, it was clear she was pissed. I would be too. I had clearly wasted her time: I was unprepared, and my responses so far had just been…daft.

To my surprise, she continued: “So…if we were to offer you this job, how much would you like to be paid?” I was in shock.  Why was she even asking me this? If I was in her seat, I would have ended the interview since. I didn’t know what to say.  I was already disoriented by the fact that I had come off as ‘below average”. So, I stammered and said: “I’ld prefer that you make me an offer”. Her face contorted into a shallow smile and she said: “That’s alright Nkem, we will get back to you.”

She may have smiled, but the look in her eyes was one I had never experienced before. No one had ever looked at me like that…like I was the most unintelligent human that ever lived. It may all be in my head, but that was the vibe I got. I felt really sick leaving the office. Never had I been so humiliated. And worse, I set the stage for it!

All through the drive home, I considered messaging her to apologize for wasting her time, and also let her know that I was also better than what she had experienced. But, I realized there was no point to it, I would just be making it all worse.  I kept asking myself: why did I even had to go for that interview? I could have asked to know if it was a remote job and I could have avoided the entire episode. However, if I hadn’t gone to the interview, I wouldn’t realize that intelligence is actually not everything. It is indeed a narrow blessing.

I guess the bottom line is: you may have all the intelligence in the world, but essentially, you still need to prepare and follow dues process. Always. That is the only way to ensure that you stay on top always. You cannot go through life winging things just because you think you can. Sometimes, intelligence is just not enough.

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