You’ve heard the phrase before. You might have even used it yourself, “… doesn’t pass the smell test.”
It’s generally employed when something – an explanation, a business offer – makes you suspicious.
To be very literal about it, when something doesn’t pass the smell test, it usually seems fishy or rotten.
At least, those are the two smells that come to my mind when I think of odors deserving a failing grade.
I like thinking in terms of a “smell test,” because it encourages right-brain thinking. And right-brain thinking helps you get in touch with your intuition, which in turn can lead to better decision-making.
If you get a job offer or a business deal, and you’re wondering whether or not to take it, accessing your intuition by implementing the old smell test can be a big help.
But why limit the smell test to seafood past its prime or those scary things I sometimes find in the back of my refrigerator? I think there are lots of other smells that can cue us in to the essential nature of something.
Take the old basement smell… You know what I’m talking about. It’s a mixture of wet cement and storage, with a little dirt and dis-use mixed in. Variations include the old attic scent and the library smell.
I once worked for an organization housed in a wonderful old building, with an office that seemed stuck in time and really did smell like an old library. The charm wore off when I realized that those comfy feelings were the off gasses of an organization which had no idea of what to do with itself.
If you walk into a business and get a similar feeling, walk right back out again. That place put its ambition in shoe boxes long ago, and you won’t do your career any good by staying.
What about fried foods? There’s nothing like the scent of a deep fat fryer to activate the part of your brain entranced by the quick and easy. Of course, it’s also not good for you. If you get a fast-foody feeling at a job interview, take a closer look at what the company actually does. Maybe there’s not enough nutritional content in its mission…
And I really mean that. I briefly worked in an office where everyone went about his or her business in a crisp, “we’re a business-like business” kind of way. They seemed very focused and energized. After a while, as I was struggling to determine their mission and reason for existence, I started wondering what they were focused on and energized about.
Eventually, I decided they were focused and energized on looking focused and energized, and that was it. That’s what I’d call the business equivalent of empty calories, and I’d avoid it.
Have you noticed any other smells that take you back or clue you in?
by Danielle Dresden