I recently had an opportunity to do help graduate students work through mock job interviews. I had 4 international students, all with impeccable credentials. The first young man was charming and humble. A musician by avocation, he’s looking to help the world be a better place. He was a sharp contrast to one of my other interviewees.
When I asked this next young man what he wanted to accomplish from his ‘mock’ interview, he said that he needed direct feedback about how he could improve. I started by asking him about his strengths. He mentioned that he felt that working with people and getting things done were his strengths.
When he described how he led teams, he mentioned that when an employee did something wrong, he would tell them, “You made a mistake,” and then he would tell them how to fix it.
While I didn’t like how he described his supervisory style, I couldn’t argue with directness in employee coaching.
In giving him feedback, I pointed out that the way he spoke about subordinates was different than the way I would do it. That didn’t make it wrong but I wondered if he was being too direct, and perhaps it was cultural.
When I read this post, “The 2 Most Important Words in a Job Interview,” I realized that perhaps what I sensed was too much “I” in the discussion of his success and not enough “we.”
The entire experience was, for me, uplifting, as is all my work with young people. I get the feeling that the world is going to be in good hands.
I studied French and German as an undergrad. I always thought I wanted to be a French teacher. Once I became a secondary school teacher, I realized I liked the kids, didn’t like ‘school.’ Ok, so now what?
I had worked in the University Library for my work-study money and I loved it. So next thing I knew, I was in a Master’s of Library Science program. I didn’t have any idea what I was going to do with this degree. I didn’t really seem like all the other ‘librarians’, but I loved all the adult learning, bringing order out of chaos, etc.
I moved from Washington, D.C. to Rochester, N.Y. and finished my degree at SUNY Geneseo. Now what?
The point of the story is not… what I did. The point is that it’s surprising and amazing how all the skills I learned along the way, helped me gain my future positions. Whether it was teaching that turned into training, or knowing a foreign language that turned into translating; I had a background that others didn’t. That brought me opportunity. That brought my skills and personality to the attention of people who could help me in my career.
Just when you think your weird/odd range of interests could be of no possible benefit to anyone… suddenly you find that you are the person who can get the job done. Make your career long by doing the following:
- Constantly be learning
- Learn different things than other people (stamp collecting? uni-cycling?)
- Expand your network by deliberately including people of various ages, ethnicities, professions, etc.
Do not be discouraged if you are in a job (or looking) that isn’t exactly what you want or if you feel that your diverse skills aren’t appreciated. Hang in there and never give up. With patience if you come to see where you fit. The world needs you just the way you are.
Photo credit: Somersault Netjer-Lelahell
When I worked at Kodak in the 1990’s (and before! yes, I’m that old)… a new program was introduced called, “Shift Happens.” And yes, the pun for “sh?t happens” was deliberate.
The emphasis of the program was personal responsibility for change. It was, of course, ironic that a company that made obscene amounts of money and (while good to its employees) was incredibly risk/change averse; suddenly wanted everyone to embrace the ability to change. A noble effort. Too little, too late.
Clearly the dilemma of “change” is part of the human condition. Socrates wrote the above quote around 400 B.C. So Kodak and the rest of us are all in the same boat.
It took me all long time to learn to want to change, to understand change is important and necessary.
My favorite quote is, “Change is good, timing is everything, patience is the key.”
What are you changing about yourself? If you’re not sure, if you need help, reach out and ask someone. If they can’t help, try someone else and keep trying until you find the person who is right for you… for right now. Happy changes.
Photo credit: Socrates quotes
When you are interviewing for a job… probably one of the last things on your mind… is why and when you might leave. You’re thinking… I don’t even have the job… why would I think about when I might leave?
Great companies make this complex question part of the interview process.
In an insightful article by someone I admire, Charlene Li of Altimeter Group, How I Hire: Figuring Out Fit — And The Exit Strategy… she outlines the criteria and process for assessing candidates based on culture, skills and my favorite and what I consider relatively unique… sense of purpose.
“As part of the hiring process, I also talk with people about how they will leave Altimeter one day. The idea of lifetime employment is dead, so why not face up to the reality that this person we’re hiring will one day leave? It’s a core part of us living the value of Integrity — that openness and transparency develops trust.” Charlene Li
The last regular, ‘show up in the office’ job I had, I actually negotiated my departure date as part of my hiring package. When they offered me the job, I told them I would stay one year. It allowed me to focus on getting the job done without worrying about how I’d leave. It was very empowering.
I am not suggesting that every time you take a job, you should negotiate your exit. What I am suggesting is that you think about what you want to get from the assignment… even it it’s just to earn some money or stay for 6 months. Be conscious of what it will look like when you have reached that goal.
By the way, this takes courage and it puts the responsibility for finding your next ‘step’ right where it belongs; with you.
Image credit: Diane Arbus Moving On
Have you ever tried listening to someone who is annoying you? Have you ever tried going a whole day without giving your opinion, not even once? If you’re an introvert, this may be easier for you. But for outgoing people, this is a big problem.
And, by the way, it can be a problem for all of us. Most of us love to hear ourselves talk. We love to tell our side of the argument, our thoughts on other people’s lives etc. That’s why people love stories. It satisfies the need we humans have to know about others and compare ourselves to the them.
But the truth is WE CAN’T LEARN IF WE ARE TALKING.
Put a sock in it. The more important the relationship, the more we need to work on listening. Try it and let me know how the experiment works for you. I’ll let you know how I’m doing.
(By the way, if you have a job interview and the question comes about areas of self- improvement; a statement about the sincere desire to improve one’s listening skills for both personal and professional reasons can work. Just be prepared to talk about what you are doing to improve and make sure you are really practicing!)
Photo credit: Shhh Vox Efx
I recently gave a talk in front of a group of senior executives (older folk) who are ‘in the hallway’ (looking for work). I was talking about the collaborative economy and I made a reference to Porter’s 5 forces model. Now, you may never have heard of this, no big deal. But for a group of people over 50 who made over $100,000 in their last corporate job; it surprised the heck out me that only one them had heard of it but couldn’t accurately describe it.
Let’s be clear, on any given day… there are 1,000’s of things I don’t know and this has nothing to do with Porter’s paradigm specifically. My comment to them was, “good thing this isn’t a job interview.”
I work as a consultant so I go on a ‘job interview’ several times a month. As I’m networking, I never know who is going to be a connection to a gig.
Fuzzy Tennis Balls? This article, “13 Weirdest Interview Questions – 2014” offers us some of the oddest questions people were asked (submitted via Glassdoor). If you got this question in an interview, how would you answer? Maybe you’re thinking to yourself, thank goodness I’m not looking for a job or I’m going to pray that I don’t get a question like that. That’s one approach.
How about this? What if you use these odd questions as a chance to stretch your mind? Just for exercise. Talk to someone about it over lunch. Ask your kids what they think. Have fun for crying out loud.
For those of you who are looking for work, old or young, remember the goal of these questions is for the interviewer to see how you think, how quick you are on your feet, what happens to you when faced with a (small) challenge. Do you stumble and stutter or do you let your creative juices flow? Creativity requires practice so I suggest you play games, answer silly questions, get out those crayons; maybe you’ll get that job after all.
Photo credit: Tennis Kevinzim
I am thinking of two mid-30’s business leaders.
One went to Yale and had a lot of advantages in life. He’s good looking in an Abercrombie kind of way, soccer star… you know the type. The other is also good looking (by that same standard) and athletic. He has a degree from a state school. His parents are teachers.
If IQ or ‘what college you attended’ or grade point average were the measures of success – the Yalie should win. But something else is really at the heart of business ‘success’ and it relates to:
— whether you see obstacles as opportunities or things that slow you down.
One way to to learn about obstacles as opportunities — is to grow up WITHOUT advantages. This builds grit and grit builds success. I wrote a post a few year back about people who failed time and again. Michael Jordan and Ulysses S. Grant. I had a college professor tell me I’d never graduate from college. Haha. I showed him.
Bottom line is — if you think that people who went to Ivy League schools are automatically successful, I ask you to think again.
As a country, we are suffering from ‘elitism fever’ (we think we’re better than others) – but deep in our hearts we know – the American spirit is grounded in pure grit. So next time you go to hire someone, why not ask… what obstacles have you overcome to be here? That might tell you everything you need to know.
Image credit: Elia Locardi
The number one most common mistake at a job interview is:
failing to ask for the job*
WOW! Imagine if this is true. I took a few moments to think about how many times I wanted something– and walked away wondering why I didn’t get it and guess what I realized, more often than not, it was probably my own fault.
I didn’t open my mouth and say, “I’d like.. that job, that favor, that ‘whatever’…” but my own stubbornness or low self esteem or cowardice (ok, that’s a little strong) prevented me from getting what I wanted.
If in fact I want the job, why don’t I ask for it?
And if I want to be sure to get what I want, how do I get better at asking? The answer is; I practice. I practice asking for what I want. This requires me to know what I want. With some of us that’s the first step. Some people are completely clear about what they want (and some go to a lot of trouble to make sure EVERYONE knows and delivers). If you always are very clear about what you want and don’t have a problem asking for it.. then this post isn’t for you. But feel free to leave a comment!
However, if you are someone who generally knows what you want but sometimes hesitate to ask for it; I want you to stop and think about why that is.
Because every job is temporary.. we all need to be able to look for work and understand how our skills match a potential employer — efficiently and effectively. That includes opening our mouths and asking for the job when we find it. The worst that can happen is — we are told no. It may not be fun to hear no, but it’s better to hear no than silence. You can’t get a hit if you don’t swing the bat. You can do it.
Photo credit: brokenchopstick
*resource = How Interviewers Know
Are you ready to get on with the challenges that you face in your life? Your mouth says yes but your attitude and body language are saying no.
Now let me give you and me credit… we are doing a lot of hard stuff, everyday. Good for us. However, we live better than 95% of the people on the planet so let’s get to the heart of the matter. We’re soft.
If we’re soft… then we’re lousy role models and unimaginative workers/parents/business people/community leaders.
So pick one… any one of these and commit to stop doing it— even just for one day… today.
1) Blaming — what difference does it make who’s fault it is? What are you going to do about it? Sticky wicket relationship? I gotta do my part. Change my attitude. I’m not right. Who cares?
2) Judging – focus on yourself. Let others do what they need to. Live and let live.
3) Tilting at Windmills – when I get all upset over something I can’t change… it slowly dawns on me that I am wasting precious energy. I could be laughing. What the heck?
4) Defending – try listening instead.
5) Being afraid. What’s the worst that can happen? I can tell you that many people have lived through MUCH worse. You can do.
Here’s a good article on 10 things to stop doing. I believe in you.
Photo credit: broken glasses 1 Photographer jfg
Anyone who reads my blog knows that I have a very healthy skepticism of Facebook. I am not alone. We have 3 grandchildren under the age of 5; 2 are “on” Facebook, 1 is not. I support a parent’s right either way.
But I also know how much joy and connection Facebook brings to so many people and I respect and appreciate that.
When I read, Facebook’s Generation Y Nightmare, the article put into words what I sometimes feel is the dilemma of sharing your ‘present’ on Facebook and illustrating it with photos. The author of the article imagines a young lady, Tina, at 18 in 2012. The items she posts now will effect not only her future career opportunities but also her alternatives for health care.
Yes, it’s imagined and yes, this assumes that ‘nothing changes”, but it’s not hard to imagine judgements/decisions being made based on incomplete or ‘what’s readily available’ data.
So, I encourage you to review your Facebook ‘timeline’ – assuming that privacy settings didn’t work… (which I think is the reasonable thing to do these days) — what would your future employer or insurer learn about you might prefer that the whole world NOT know.
I know a young man who lost his job as a student teacher because of his ‘drinking a beers with his buddies’ photos on his Facebook page. He was over 21 and the pictures were harmless and yet the school district’s policy on ‘public comportment’ took away his future career. You may think this is unfair but the truth is… this is happening. The nightmare hasn’t even begun yet.. for those who can’t tell their parents… please don’t put me on Facebook!
Photo credit: Jack Skellington-O-Lantern randysonofrobert