Teddy Dimitrova

Freelance Tech Recruiter

1. At what age did you become an adult? What happened, and how did you know?

Honestly, I still don’t feel I’ve completely become an adult. I also don’t know when and what will make me feel like I’m finally one – and secretly I’m not sure I’d like to be 100% an adult. I can tell you when I thought I was becoming one and in retrospective, these were grown-up milestones that are helping me become an adult but are not the final destination. First, I moved to The Netherlands when I was 19 – moved in with my boyfriend back then and started a new life – university, job, serious relationship. I “played” adult and desperate housewife for 4 years thinking that was adult life. Then he left. My whole world broke into pieces together with my heart. It took a while to put it back together but then I move to Amsterdam (from the small Leeuwarden) and started my first grown-up job. I thought, ok I’m an adult now. Then I got fired in the first month. Aha – this is what happens in the adult world. Then I got rejected from 100 applications for sales jobs. Aha, thats what happens when you’re an adult. But I still felt I was a student rather than grown up. Fast forward couple of years later, having a kick-ass career for one of the most awesome startups in Amsterdam – being part of a great community of recruiters – speaking at local events – getting double the salary I was getting a year and a half before. Man, I feel like …an adult?!!? Mwah, looking back at it – nope. The problem was that everything externally was growing towards adulthood – career, relationship, social status – but inside? Very.far.away.from.growing. Until last summer when I read a book. And got a coach, and got a therapist. And then, I started working on the “inside” growth. A year later, still in the process, I finally can say that I am becoming an adult. How do I recognize it? I’ve finally started transforming from a self-centred individual (not meaning egoistic, but more of me, myself and I against the world) to someone who is open, vulnerable, curious, respect others people worlds, wants to understand, before being understood, wants to help and make a change. And I’m very far away from excelling in these topics, but I’ve made huge progress in it for the past year and I’m very happy and thankful – and slowly becoming the adult/person I want to be.

2. Do you remember a time when you were happiest as a child? Where were you, who were you with and what were you doing?

I love simple things. Always loved them. The biggest happiness was when we would go to our house in the mountains. Bulgaria has such a treasure in terms of nature – anything you could wish for – from mountains to the sea. Our house was in “Stara Planina” – the old mountain. Close by Gabrovo and Veliko Turnovo. Next to being historical places, those cities are situated in one of the most beautiful mountains in Bulgaria. We used to spend our holidays there. I’m originally from Sofia, the capital, where I also grew up. But the house in the mountains – that was the place where I have the best memories from. So beautiful, peaceful, just in the middle of nowhere. Only nature, fresh air, the sound of the river nearby. Hikes without knowing where we’d end, campfire, collecting mushrooms, the smell of the grass when you roll over the lawn we just discovered after walking for hours through the forest uphill. The sky and the stars, the sounds of the forest. Hours-long conversations with friends. There was only a feeling of freedom and it felt time stopped.

3. What habit or behaviour or belief have you recently acquired? Why is it now in your life?

Self Reflection. It’s weird how small your world is when you’re not reflective. I’ve recently figured out that I’ve been living with a lot of principles and patterns that I’ve built growing up, which have been working against me for quite a while. What changed was that I was asking the wrong questions and was looking more to the environment than myself. Whenever I’d look to myself I often wouldn’t know what to do with the findings as it was often scary, so I’d push these somewhere back in my head. Not self reflecting has brought me to a lot of learnings, but not really anywhere far. I used to joke “people learn from their mistakes?! Yeah, not me, I’d like to repeat them all the time and not to learn from them”. Funny thing is that its’ not funny. After numerous breakups, wrong jobs, lost friendships (don’t get me wrong – I see these as learnings, not as fails) I finally got myself to dig a bit deeper inside to see where all these came from – but then looking at myself and not who’s fault it was and what went wrong. It’s tough you guys, takes time and it’s scary and the amount of resilience – pfff don’t get me started…but it pays off! P.s. Still does not guarantee that there won’t be mistakes or downs – just the way I deal with them is different. There is no failure, only feedback!

4. What are the three books that you would unhesitatingly recommend to others? Why?

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

I grew up reading books fanatically – there was nothing more important than my book and I would often end up sleeping just a couple of hours a night as I wanted to finish the chapter. Always been such a big fan of Dumas. I love the Renaissance, the cavalaire, the high court, the royal life and the drama. The Count of Monte Christo was the book from Dumas that left a big imprint. I’ve learnt that money and success can’t erase loneliness, that seeking revenge can ruin your life in terrible ways. I remember reading it and expecting a happy end, being so amazed by the progress the character was making and the disappointment and bitterness from the end of the story.

Principles by Ray Dalio

By far the best book I’ve read about success.

Don’t be scared by the size of the book, it’s quite thick, but the learnings from it are worth your while. Once you’ve put your goals and values straight, those principles are going to help you to operate and navigate in life much easier. Sometimes zooming out and looking at things from another perspective could be extremely challenging, especially when we feel strong emotions. These principles are your buoy here.

Liefdes bang – Hannah Cuppen

Love Phobia -> (soon to be released in English as well) – this is the book that changed my life completely and not only mine but also everyone who read it. It’s a book that describes fear of commitment and fear of abandonment and how they both are the reason for our unsuccessful relationships. For me, this book gave a lot of answers on why I was not able to find the love I wanted, always went for the “bad boys” and the ones that were not available. Why once someone was head over heels in love with me, I’d end the relationship and mark it as boring and dead end. It opened up my eyes for a lot of my flaws and gave me the tools to improve. This book is the reason why I’m finally with the person that makes me happy, in a healthy relationship with mutual respect and understanding. I can’t stress enough – READ IT! You’ll thank me!

5. Imagine: if we were to go to people who don't think very highly of you, what do you think they would say about you?

I’m choosing this one for the sole reason that this is really something that I care about a lot. What people think of me is often the first thought when it comes to doing something new or something that I don’t have enough experience, or something daring or just anything. For the people who know me and follow me on insta – I’m sharing a lot and it sometimes might seem that I don’t care. But I do. Too much. Ray Dalio (book “Principles”) says that we shouldn’t care what people think, we should focus on the goal. Ok, good point. How long is it going to take me to get there? No one knows. Anyway – to answer the question – I imagine things like : She’s superficial, materialistic, not much of a content – more of big words, small content; arrogant, egoistic, cold, too much, attention seeker… Haha I can keep on for a while. So crazy to see my insecurities written black on white.

6. What personality trait has got you in the most trouble? What kind of trouble does it get you in?

Oh where to start? I think I’d go for the emotional part. More specifically – taking things personal. I feel sometimes I can take anything personal. And then react super emotional on it. I have to say I’ve been working really hard on this one and it’s getting better, but I’ve been often in situations where I’d get in a fight or even getting fired on the spot for refusing to do something I find that doesn’t make sense. Most recent example, when a candidate publicly bashed me on Linkedin for sending a template (per accident). The drama around it brought me more positives than negatives I have to say (thanks to the 100s of friendly messages from recruiters, managers & candidates who were sending their support to me) but when I first read it – I swear I EXPLODED. But like – for real yelling and …well I’ll save you the picture. Luckily I was at home and was able to breath to 100, write 8 versions of my response, sleep on it and finally decide to react on the post (in the most thoughtful and grown up way I’m proud of myself). But the old me – would have gotten into a grandiose Linkedin discussion with that person.

7. On what topic would you never make a joke? Why?

On someone’s health. It might sound simple and obvious, but people sometimes don’t realize how they make comments or fun about someone’s appearance or health and how much it can hurt someone.

8. When was the last time you felt like an outsider in a group? What/How did you learn?

At school I was feeling quite the outsider for many years. I’ve never been part of the popular gang and I wanted it so badly. When I came to Amsterdam I remember joining a group of other interns who were all about raving. Back then I had no idea what that was and was not prepared to see the underground picture I saw once we arrived at the construction side. I really felt i didn’t fit in – my clothes, my make up, I really really didn’t fit there and most importantly – I really didn’t like the music. Since then I can’t remember really feeling an outsider – what I’ve learnt is that it’s ok that I’m not everyone’s cup of tea and I’m the happiest when around like minded people. That’s why I stopped trying to become part of other groups when I would realize that they are not my cup of tea. Don’t get me wrong – I love love love diverse people and love to have people around me that challenge my beliefs and opinions. Just trying to become a raver myself in order to “fit in” is what I don’t like 🙂

9. What’s the last image on your camera roll? Can you explain?

A picture of the book “Take a break” by Sara van Geloven. Sara is a colleague of mine and wrote this fantastic book about sabbaticals. I found a copy in the office and made a picture to remind myself to buy it and also to schedule a call with Sara to talk about the process of writing the book. Next to the fact that I’ll use the book to prepare a sabbatical some day, I’m also curious to hear how she went through the writing. She’s a travel editor so for her is more natural to write, but I hope she can give me some useful tips since I am a bit stuck with the book I am currently writing.

10. What is the best purchase you’ve made recently? Why?

A bullet journal. It’s funny how something that small can change your life so much – in a positive way. I’m using mine for building habits and tracking them, to structure my week, to write down my daily achievements and improvement points and to reflect on my personal development.

11. If you were to survive the zombie apocalypse, what role would you play in the new society that would follow?

Most probably a lead role in rebuilding the economy. I’m definitely a person who is always taking the initiative and sees myself as someone who will quickly sober up and start putting things in order. Helikopter view, what can we do with what we have, make a plan, divide tasks and start rebuilding from the ground up. Sounds like a cool project 😀

12. If you were to own a bar, and you could design it how you wanted, what would it look like?

Ah that’s a tricky one. It’s a tough choice to be honest… I grew up reading fantasy books – from Tolkien to Robert Jordan… no idea if a place like this exists, but oh my – if I can make a mix of the Middle Earth and the nations of the Westlands – it will be a dream. And most probably I will focus on the Westlands. As Lord of The Rings is filmed, it has left very little to the imagination (back in the days when I read it for the first time it was mind blowing for my imagination and after that I had some issues with the movie…). Ok, final verdict – A bar where the cultures of the different nations of the Westlands meet (from the books The Wheel of Time – strongly recommend if you haven’t read them and you like fantasy – you’ll fall in love. P.s. There are 15 books 🙂

13. What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve ever received?

“You can’t convince anyone in anything, so don’t waste your time and energy on it. Focus on achieving your goals and don’t mind the rest.” My coach, Ali, is a very very wise man. I have to say that he helped me see a lot of things I was quite ignorant of, not only in my professional life, but also in my private life. It’s been an amazing journey, I’d advise anyone to get themselves a coach! Thank you Ali!

14. Can you give an example of a time when you had to learn the lesson the hard way?

I’m guilty of working for many years with the belief that I know very well what I’m doing and when I do something, it better be my way or the highway. It was not helpful that many of the times my way would be the fastest or most effective one. That kept feeding my ego and I would end listening to the needs of my client but not executing it in a way that would suit their way of working, but the way I find it best. People may or may not have tried to warn me that this is not the best way to operate, especially when you’re hired as a consultant – but hey, my ways were working so why would I listen to the advice of others?!. Till one day I got fired on the spot from my client because I did not respect their request to run my social media posts through marketing before I’d share them online. It was a big shock. But I was doing a great job?!?! I’ve made a hire in 2 weeks, the rest of the projects were running smoothly – what was their problem? Well, a good wake up call. I have to say that I’ve sobered up quite quickly after that and realized that indeed, if I want to be successful in the future, I’ll need to respect other people’s way of working and follow the expectations and guidelines that were set by my clients, even though I sometimes might find them less successful, more time consuming or ineffective. Very good lesson. I don’t think I’d be where I am today if I didn’t have that wake up call.

15. When was the last time you changed your mind about something really important? What was it and what led you to change your view?

Not sure whether it’s changing my mind about it, but it was definitely a big change in me. Since my 16th I’ve been in long term relationships until my 23rd. Then I found myself single and pretty lonely – with one mission – to find a new boyfriend. If I was single – I was unhappy – so naturally, the equation was boyfriend=happiness. My standard line was “ I’m just not made to be alone. But every time I’d find someone who (most of the time) was “my soulmate” I’d end up being ghosted or heartbroken or I’d end up driving away that person with my behavior. I’ve been wondering for years what was wrong with these guys? Why do I always end up falling for the “bad boys” and every time when I’d on purpose would date a “good guy” I’d always end up bored and would kick him out of my life.

The past 4 years I’ve been dating someone – on and off – who clearly did not want to commit to a relationship with me. But yet – I’d let him be in my life and hoped he’d change his mind. Last summer I was at the office talking about that someone and complaining that he stood me up again. I was so fed up but again, against all advice of my friends, I still didn’t up whatever we had. One of my colleagues came up to me and asked me “ If I’d give you a book that might give you some answers, would you read it?” “Of course I would!!!”. Three days later I was on the train on my way home, reading that book… and crying my eyes out. This book was written for me, about me and was mirroring my love life – as if someone read the WhatsApp messages of my past 4 relationships and threw it in a book explaining what was wrong with it. And it was written black on white: I have a HUGE fear of abandonment. I’d always go for the guys that are not available in order to protect myself from being abandoned. On their side, the guys I’ve dated the past couple of years didn’t want a relationship – they wanted to have fun. And there we were, dancing the dance of fear of abandonment vs fear of commitment.

“As if someone read the WhatsApp messages of my past 4 relationships and threw it in a book explaining what was wrong with it”

I’m telling you, this was the biggest eye-opener in my life. I finally got the answers I was looking for. But whats next? It’s great to know what’s going on, but how to fight it? I started seeing a therapist. My friend with benefits back then was the guy from the book. Our relationship was textbook one – but he wouldn’t listen. I asked him to read the book. He refused. In March, I finally gathered the courage to end it. Ironically, that’s what took him to get an eye-opener, read the book, get a wake-up call – and start fighting to get me back in his life. I’m a person who is all about second chances, but I’ve given him 100 chances. I wouldn’t change my mind. And then, I asked myself the question – what if all the hard work I’ve put in the past 4 years goes into the trash just because I’m stubborn and I wouldn’t change my mind? So I’ve decided to let him do his best to change my mind. I can tell you that this was the biggest fight I had to put up against myself. I realized that the moment he said he wanted to commit, my body and mind freaked out. I started pushing back in any possible way – I was saying yes, but everything else in me was screaming no. I had to work hard on mindfulness, talking with my therapist, and a lot of patience from mine and his side, in order to destroy a wall that my fear of commitment build. Yes, you’re reading right – my fear of abandonment turned into fear of commitment once he wanted to become serious. And this is a pattern I’ve recognized in my past relationships – and realized that although I’ve always said I wanted to be in a relationship, I was never ready. I can’t say I am ready now, but I can say I found the partner who is ready to build together against our fears…

16. What’s the one bad quality you wouldn’t mind in a colleague? Why?

This is a tough one. I used to not be able to tolerate the weaknesses of others. Some kind of perfectionism I guess. I think I’d go for procrastination. Ahhhh the scary monkey.

Been suffering myself my whole life. I would mind it in a colleague as I could relate and I believe that it has taught me to work well under pressure. Honestly, what I’m trying to do is every time when I would see a quality in a person that would trigger some negative emotion in me, I’d think: How can I utilize that in our relationship and there must be something positive behind this behaviour. Also, best lesson in case your colleague annoys you with something:

Step 1. Imagine there is a glass lid that you put around yourself and it doesn’t let any negativity or annoyance in. Only positivity.

Step 2. Kill the annoyance with being nice

Step 3. Remember that you can’t change the person, the only thing you can change is how you react towards them. REPEAT. If it doesn’t work – get yourself a punch sack.

17. What role do you find yourself playing when you join a newly formed team? Can you explain why this happens?

Definitely the leader/organizer. I’m always the one who would take the initiative. I see the strengths and weaknesses of people around me quite quickly and manage to give them the right responsibility in order to utilize those strengths. It’s like a puzzle – I would outline what has to be done and then use the inner pieces to get it done. My parents thought me to be independent and get things done, so with this approach and little to no patience, I usually end up taking the lead. I’ve noticed that often when I’m in a group of people like that I’m taking the initiative, although sometimes it takes time for me to earn their trust (note to myself, still forgetting that part) but eventually it all works out. It’s funny to see when there are two Alpha’s in a team – myself and one more person. The things are not that simple. I used to “give away” the alpha role easy as I usually avoid confrontations. However, that couple of times didn’t go well, so now I’d first evaluate who of us has more knowledge experience to lead and would keep a close eye on them throughout the project if they’d take the leadership role.

18. What’s one industry challenge you don’t actually think will ever get solved?

Treating candidates like numbers. It’s just not possible. The more we push for #behuman approach, the more pushback we get in terms of performance requirements. The problem doesn’t come from “bad recruiters”, it’s a combination of factors. Think of high pressure to fill roles, hiring managers wanting to see more candidates, recruiters working on 20 roles at the same time, automation, thousands of applicants, etc. In a small start up where they want to hire 10 people a year – yeah, sure. But the higher the demand for talent – the less personalized the approach, the higher the frustration in candidates and recruiters in the end. Sad story. This is also what scares me the most – an automated world where we hire based on keywords, chat bots, automatic rejections and k/o criterias and less and less human contact. Less and less human contact. That’s it. That’s the scariest thing.

19. Aside from your parents, name one person who has had an extraordinary impact on your career. What did they do and what did you learn from that person?

There are so many people I’d want to mention here. I have to say that there are 3 people who need to be mentioned and it’s not possible to choose as each of them has had a major impact.

My best friend’s mom – Miranda de Jonge.

She partially adopted me (figuratively) in my last year at University. She was the one who helped me and motivated me to chase what I wanted and apply for an internship that everyone else was saying I won’t be able to get. Miranda spent hours talking with me about my ambitions and how I can be successful. She helped me write my first motivation letter in Dutch and helped me prepare to nail my interview. Thanks to her, I’ve got the spot and my career took an amazing push! Not only that, but she has been always there for me when I needed a listening ear, shoulder to cry on and just a place to feel safe. Thank you, mama! You are such an inspiration!

Daniel Krewinkel. He was an L & D specialist at my first hotel job. This was probably 8 years ago. I jumped right after graduating in a supervisor position in a hotel and was experiencing a lot of challenges with my team. Back then I was not familiar with what a coach does, but now when I think about it he was amazing in coaching. I was so inspired by his approach, by the fact he dared to leave anything and in his 30s just start all over again.. But it was not only his inspiring success story that I admired (and the lesson that if you want something, you go ahead and get it). It was the super power he had of talking to people, motivating them , and helping them see things from a different perspective and become better. “Omdenken” (in Dutch – verb, flip*think*ing; flip-thought; a (thinking) technique which is used to transform problems into opportunities) he would always ask me to flip thinking and this has helped me improve a lot throughout the years. Secretly, I’ve always wanted to become like him. Also, being meaning to call him for a cup of coffee for a couple of years now, maybe is about time to do so?

Last but not least, it’s you, Hung Lee.

I remember when we met and you asked me how I like the event (SOSU?) I’ve told you that I’m absolutely amazed and I wish one day I can inspire an audience the same way the speakers blew my mind the last 3 days. You turned around and you said “Why would you wait for “one day”? You can do it now!”

I’ve told you that I don’t have anything to speak about and you said everyone has a story. But you didn’t leave it there… you started recommending me here and there and before we knew… I was on stage!

Thank you for believing in me and for pushing me to take the steps 🙂 I’m always saying you’re the godfather of my speaking career!

20. Who would you recommend to do the next 20 Questions With … and why?

Dov Zavado….because he has such an amazing view of the world, his story is unique, he’s such a kind and unique soul.

Thank you to Teddy Dimitrova taking 20 Questions for The Brainfood Tribune. Connect with Teddy on LinkedIn

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