Universal Placement

How do you see yourself in the context of the universe?

Universal Placement

Can I see your toes?

A little while ago, I had an interesting conversation with a colleague about job interviews, our talk was pretty varied and we covered the recent revelation of one interviewer where he checks to see if the interviewee returned their coffee cup to the kitchen, and the dress code debacle (apparently toes are now offensive), among other things.

Your placement in the context of the universe

The part of our conversation that has stayed with me all week has been the unexpected existential question she has been asked in an interview of “How do you see yourself in the context of the universe?” We both agreed that it would be unlikely that you would be prepared for this question and so would have to answer on the spot (something I’m guessing was deliberate on the part of the interviewer).

How to answer while meeting the criteria of remaining professional, letting your personality shine through, and not appearing too outwardly puzzled by this mind bender?

My thoughts over the course of the day on this matter have flick-flacked between what I would like to answer, and the truth. Ideally, my answer would be something along the lines of;

The ideal response

I am an active humanitarian that advocates for the environment and its creatures, I ensure my work and contributions to others lives are beneficial. I seek to help those in need and to treat everyone fairly and to make the world a better place.

Basically, what I have done here is made myself into some wonderfully altruistic being akin to a fairy godmother.


In reality, I am an active humanitarian that advocates for the environment and its creatures; but I will not hesitate to grab the fly spray and attack any winged or other insect that comes into (or too close to) the house. While I do recycle I do it quietly, I certainly don’t advocate for no more single use plastic (though through my silence I support the movement) and I have a cupboard overflowing with plastic bags because I forgot to take the canvas ones shopping…

I ensure my work and contributions to others lives are beneficial; through my job, sure I help others and contribute to the overall organisational goals and at home I enjoy cooking dinner which I guess is beneficial to anyone in the house that wants dinner (sometimes it’s definitely not beneficial). But am I really contributing on a universal scale?

I seek to help those in need; if those in need seek me out directly, or alternatively I poke my nose into a conversation and offer unasked for advice, either way, I am not really sure this is helping those in need…

The pickle

So far, you see my conundrum, none of the above actually answers the question (neither is it a thought process I would run through aloud in an interview).

There are definitely some people in the world who could truthfully respond with an answer like my ideal one above but I think that if I were to define my place in the universe it would simply be something along the lines of:

I try to be a good person that cares for others and the world we live in.

Now my issue is that I have responded with the blandest thing possible that could apply to anyone…


Back to the drawing board…

I am interested to hear how others would respond to a similar question, not only fellow interviewees but also, interviewers—are you prepared to answer the question if it bounces back to you?

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Sam Carlson
See all posts by Sam Carlson