How to Keep Your Foot Out Of Your Mouth When Interviewing

Foot in Mouth

Let’s face it – interviewing is no fun.  I could say that in a clearer and more colorful way, but my mother reads all my articles so I am being nice.

It is nerve racking and I always equate it to dating. Before my boyfriend I hated dating. It was no fun.  It was torturous having thoughts of:  

“Am I making the right impression, will he like me, will he call me back, do I want him to call me back, do we have anything in common, do I look alright, did I spill something on myself, have I made a complete fool of myself…” all in the first five minutes of your first date.

Interviewing is really the same thing. You are hoping to make the right impression and a good connection. If you research interviewing, you will find almost overwhelmingly everyone will tell you to research and practice. 

This article is not about preparation or speaking to your abilities and attributes as they align with the job or company.  This article is about keeping your foot out of your mouth when trying to establish a connection.  If you want help on preparing and nailing the interview, here is an article I wrote for Recruiter.com:  Interview Like a Pro 10 Tips to Boost Your Confidence.

We want the interviewer to like us, right? We try to find common ground or a spark that we can have a conversation and make that connection.  But sticking your foot in your mouth by assuming or saying something (there is not nice way to say this) stupid when talking about something non job related is when all your hard work of research and preparation can come crashing down.

I think examples would help illustrate this point, so let me give you a couple snippets from when I was interviewing candidates.

During one interview of a very professional woman, she noticed a picture of me and my son on my credenza. I don’t remember exactly how she asked, but somehow it lead to me being a single mom and divorced.  Apparently this hit a nerve for her because what I do remember is her saying something very disparaging about ex-husbands (translating to bitter) and tried to get me to agree that all ex-husbands are good for nothings and how lucky we are to get out while we can.  I simply looked at her and said that I was sorry, I could not relate as my ex-husband was one of my best friends.

During an informational interview a young man was trying to bond by sucking up.  I am not a fan of sucking up in general, but this kid was swinging for the fences.  The investment firm I was working for was affiliated with a bank. He told me that he had talked to someone in a certain department of that bank and they knew nothing, and how refreshing it was to talk to someone like me who was an expert and able to give him such great information (gag).  I asked him if he remembered who he talked to at the bank. Since he was trying so hard to impress and had apparently turned off his brain, he told me her name.  I told him that is funny, she is my best friend.

Here are a few ways to keep that foot out of your mouth:

Don’t try so hard.  If you have done your research, you might have been able to find out some information about the interviewer.  Use it like spices in a fine dish – sparingly, gently and appropriately.  You are not trying to be their instant best friend, just establish a rapport.

Be yourself. Do not try to be someone you are not or someone you think they want you to be.  If you create this illusion when you interview, how long do you think you can keep that up if you get the job? 

Be aware of your surroundings. You can’t prepare for everything, so be aware of your surroundings. If you are interviewing in someone’s office, scan it for possible items of conversation.  But do not assume!  They may have something with a college in their office but that does not mean they went to that college.  Maybe their kid went or goes there.  Maybe it is a lost bet.  I worked with a couple of guys – one went to Indiana University the other went to Purdue University – and during any sports season, whoever had the better record, the other had to keep their rival’s memorabilia in their office.

Just don’t. Stay far, clear and galaxies away from talking about anything anywhere near politics or religion.  Just don’t.  That is too dangerous a territory to try to build a bond in this situation.  Just don’t.

If you do find that you start dipping a toe in your mouth, stop.  If I was doing the college rivalry thing in my office and you saw a Purdue pendant which led you to say, “Hey, how about them Boilers!” I would let you know I graduated from Indiana University. At that toe dipping moment you could rebound by saying, “Oh, see what I get for assuming!” with a light laugh or “then I bet there is a really good story behind that Purdue pendant”.  Make light of it and yourself.

Some gentle reminders:

The interviewer wants you to like them, too.  This is not a one way street of building rapport.  Listen to them, observe their body language and identify when you have an opportunity to further a connection.

You are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you.  Ask questions, get a sense of the environment, culture, position, trajectory, opportunities, challenges – ask, listen and ask some more.

Building a rapport may not have anything to do with something personal.  It may easily come from your career history so run with that.

In summary – be yourself, mind your manners, ask questions and it will be much easier to find that nugget to start a rapport.

 

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I think they should have chocolate flavored shoes for all the times I have stuck my foot in my mouth!  I have plenty of examples of saying something awkward during an interview – what is the most awkward moment that you created for yourself in an interview?

 

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A little about me: I do what I love: help professionals break out of a suffocating job existence and into a career, position and place that renews their brilliance.

As the Founder and Principle of Career Polish, Inc., a national career personal branding firm, I am an Executive Brand Strategist, Resume Writer and Career Coach. I work with individual clients, companies, leadership and teams to identify, strengthen and effectively communicate their brand, engagement, commitment and most importantly – their value – by learning and leveraging personal branding as applied to LinkedIn, resumes, networking, communication, relationship management, presence and influence.

Click here – CareerPolish.com – to find out more about how we can help you.

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Keep The Conversation Going After The Interview By Saying This

Interview - how do they know you are still interested

Many candidates have performance anxiety about interviews.

Here is a very interesting tidbit I learned from a panel of recruiters and Human Resource professionals: they have performance anxiety, too.

They are not only trying to find the right candidate; they want to sell that candidate on their company.

The key thing the panel agreed on was the simplest concept: most of the time they do not know if a candidate is still interested at the end of the interview because they do not tell them.

The panel said unless a candidate tells them that they are still interested at the end of the interview they are more likely to assume they are not. Assuming incorrectly is costly.

Recruiting takes a lot of time, effort and money. If a candidate shows no interest at the end of the interview, they do not want to pursue a dead end.

They do not like rejection either. It is not a good feeling to think you have the perfect candidate, excitedly call them to set up the next round and be rejected with a flat “thanks but no thanks” response.

Perhaps you heard something during the interview that took the bloom off the rose for the position or company.  I have yet to hear one interviewee at the end of the interview say, “Thank you for your time, this job is not for me.”

Interviewers do not know what you think – you have to tell them. Just showing up and participating in the interview is not a demonstration of continued interest.

To keep the conversation going after the interview, say this one thing:

“Thank you for your time, after hearing more about the company and position, I am very excited about this opportunity.  I look forward to speaking with you soon!”

This ends the interview on a high note and the interviewer is clear where you stand and confusion eliminated.

Let them know even if you ask about next steps. Only asking about next steps is not the same as being interested. For all they know you could be asking because you have another offer on the table or might weed them out if it takes too long.

Job searching and career transition is difficult as it is without adding confusion, doubt or assumptions into the mix. A simple statement at the end of the interview helps clarify your position while letting them feel more comfortable about moving forward.

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As the Founder and Principle of Career Polish, Inc., a national career coaching and practice firm, I am a Brand Strategist, Professional Resume Writer and Career Coach. I work with individual clients, sales teams, leadership and companies to identify, strengthen and effectively communicate their brand, engagement, commitment and most importantly – their value – by learning and leveraging LinkedIn, networking, communication, relationship management, presence and influence.

I help people get from where they are in their jobs to where they want to be in their careers.

Click here – CareerPolish.com – to find out more about what we can do to help you.

5 Blunders That Could Ruin Your Interview

Head SlapOne of the biggest frustrations of interviewing, right after not getting the job, is not being told why you did not get the job.

It is a competitive market with a lot of quality candidates out there. However, what could have cost you the job are some simple mistakes that you yourself made.

From the moment you release your resume you are on stage. Everything you do from here on out with regards to the job is being watched and judged. Slack in one area and the curtain closes.

They Like Me

We like to be liked; I believe it is human nature. During an interview we really want the interviewer to like us. The problem in this is when being liked and or being likable trump being relevant. When you spend more time trying to be their buddy rather than demonstrate your value in the position, your experience, skill sets, expertise and being the solution to their problem.

Yes, you want to build a rapport and demonstrate that you are the right fit both in terms of qualifications for the position as well as within their culture.

Always Pick Multiple Choice Answer C

I remember hearing that when in doubt on a multiple choice question, you should always choose answer C if you do not know the answer. I am not sure who came up with this advice and I never saw the wisdom in it.

You might be asked a question and you immediately see more than one way to answer it. It is a mistake to assume you know the intention of the interviewer. Ask. Simply ask the interviewer if they are looking at the situation from perspective A or perspective B. The interviewer might not be aware that there is more than one possible viewpoint. This demonstrates thoughtfulness in your answer and an expanded view on the topic.

Not Even In the Same Ballpark

It is great to prepare for an interview and have examples to answer the “tell me about a time…” question. The problem comes when we have memorized those stories and relay them when they are not relevant to the actual question being asked.

Relevancy comes from addressing issues related to the position, industry, company and situation. You must demonstrate that you get their need and you can solve their problem. Do not leave them to try to connect the dots – show them so they can walk out of that room saying, “That’s our person!”

Unlike the financial industry, in the career industry past success is an indicator of future success.

It Is Assumed

Several recruiters, hiring managers and human resource personnel have told me that an interview could have gone well, but they never followed up because at the end of the interview the candidate never expressed that they were still interested or wanted the job.

Do Not Assume. Just because you showed up and answered the questions does not automatically equate to you still wanting the job. Your silence could leave the interviewer wondering if you did not like what you heard but you are being too polite to tell them you are no longer interested.

Speak up. At the end of the interview reiterate that you believe this is a good fit and are very excited to join their team.

Dead Air

You showed up early, were completely prepared, aced the interview and closed strongly with an “I really want this job” – yep, you have got it in the bag.

Nope, not so fast – your work is not done.

You are not done with the “I want the job”, that is your face to face closing but not the end.

Follow up with a professionally worded ‘thank you for your time’ correspondence. Be sure to highlight the strengths and positives from the interview. Thank them for their time and re-iterate your interest and excitement for the position.

This will reinforce all the positives that you have and give you an additional edge. Surprisingly many hiring managers will keep those follow up correspondence to put in your personnel file because it demonstrated a positive quality about you.

You should arrive early, be prepared, look the part – all the traditional wisdom for interviewing; however, you also need to pay attention to the details along the way. As the sayings go – the devil is in the details and it only takes one pebble to start an avalanche.

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I hope you enjoyed this article and it provided value for you. If so, please click on the follow button so I may continue to share valuable content with you or the share buttons to share with your network.

I help people identify and set a path to achieve their career goals by using the V Formula:

Your Value + Your Voice = Visibility

Visibility is the leverage to move in, move up or move on in your career; expand your book of business or territory, grow your company and strengthen your team.

–Lisa

Lisa K. McDonald, Owner and Principal of Career Polish, Inc. is a favorite speaker and seminar facilitator at colleges, professional organizations and companies around the US speaking to leadership, sales and athletic teams; transitioning/downsized employees and networking groups about personal branding, networking, creating executive presence and achieving career movement success. To find out more, visit Career Polish, Inc.

4 Things Not to Say to Your Dog or an Interviewer

luke suprisedOne of my top cringe-worthy sayings is “I’m a people person.” When I would interview someone and they would tell me this I would respond with, “That’s nice, I’m a dog person.”

Dogs are incredibly intelligent creatures. Although there are times that I challenge my own conclusion on this when they do weird things like eat their own waste or vomit, but overall, they are intelligent. They understand what you say not only in words but in body language and actions.

I cannot say, “I’m going to walk to the store” because the mention of the word ‘walk’ starts a frenzy in my house. Of course, when something has been destroyed in my house and I say the phrase, “Who did this?” I get a trio of blank stares and head turns with perked ears with the implied response of, “We don’t understand what you are saying, we don’t speak human.”

There are phrases or words I cannot use if I want to maintain an environment of peace and calm; there are also words or phrases that I have learned I just cannot say to my dogs. These just happen to correlate with phrases that you should not say to an interviewer.

You Understand

No, really, they do not. Dogs and people are going to understand what you tell them, not what you intended to tell them. Telling a dog, “I cannot play with you right now because I am too busy, you understand” does not equate to them getting the fact that you have a deadline.

What they know is you are ignoring them. Period. You might as well tell them that you don’t love them anymore. Dogs do not connect dots. Cats chase glowing red dots, dogs are oblivious to dots.

When talking to a hiring manager and they ask you about a situation, ending your response with “you understand” is the same as telling them “I really do not have a good answer to your question so I am leaving it up to you to fill in the blanks for me.”

If you are asked a question that gives you the opportunity to highlight a skill set or accomplishment for goodness sake take full advantage of it. They will not know how wonderful you are and what a great fit you are for the job if you do not tell them. Do not assume they are connecting the dots. You know what they say about assuming….

I Didn’t Mean To Put That There

My pack has always included big dogs. I had a Great Pyrenees, Sheppard/Husky mix and currently a Lab – pictured above. The thing about big dogs is there is nothing they cannot reach. My kitchen counter tops are clean and bare by necessity, not design. I can put something in the very back of the counter or lock it in the oven and as soon as I leave the room it is eaten. My Lab can unlock things. He laughs at child locks.

At this point it is of no consequence to the dog in telling them that I didn’t mean to put the food item there and that it wasn’t for them. They don’t care. If I put it there and it is within reach then it is fair game. That means if they can reach it, they will eat it. Plain and simple.

For an interviewer this equates to putting something on your resume that you do not want to discuss or highlight. Everything on your resume is fair game. If you list it and I am a hiring manager than I have full opportunity to explore it.

Often I have found people will include items on their resume that are actually weak areas or tasks that they do not want to do. When reviewing these items in resume reviews I am told, “I didn’t mean to put that there, I really did not have a lot of exposure to it but I thought it would look good on my resume.”

No, it does not, especially if you cannot speak to it with authority and confidence. I am not a technical genius to say the least. If I were putting a resume together for myself I would not mention proficiency in certain applications because the truth be told, I might have worked in them, but it was a slow and painful process.

Trying to make yourself look better by listing something you are not skilled at and then going a step further by trying to proclaim you are proficient in it is one sure fire way of discrediting everything that you have said to that point and everything after.

If you cannot speak to it as a value add then leave it off

Biscuits are Not a Priority

My dogs live for treats, and tummy rubs, but mostly food related items. Biscuits are a priority for them. I call all treats ‘biscuits’ because this is their favorite word. My dogs are spoiled, they get biscuits for things like going outside and pooping. What an awesome life they live, they get rewarded for doing what they have to do by nature. I would have a revolt on my hands if I proclaimed that biscuits were no longer a priority in my house.

You need to know the hiring manager’s biscuits. Factors include industry, clients, target markets, skill sets; what are their goals, mission statement, short and long term plans. If customer service is their biggest biscuit for the position for which you are interviewing then you darn well better come prepared with a box of results, value and accomplishments related to customer service.

If, on the other hand, you tell them that customer service is not high on your priority list or worse, tell them that you do not like it, you have just lost the job. One, you were not prepared for the interview; and two, you are not the right fit.

I once interviewed a young lady for an investment associate position, she would be responsible for tracking orders in the market, spreadsheets for clients and verifying costs basis. She was doing fine until she told me that she wasn’t really a math person. Math was a pretty big biscuit for that position.

I Don’t Have Time

I don’t know about your dogs but when mine want to go play and I am trying to finish something up and tell them that I don’t have time right now I get the look. One will give me the pathetic look, one will give me the disdained look and the other gives me a look of sheer confusion. This is important to them, how do I not have the time? Do I not love them anymore? Next thing you know I will tell them that I don’t have any biscuits.

Telling a hiring manager that you do not have the time to learn a new system, technology or skill set is telling them that their job and company are not a priority for you; now or in the future. You do not see it worthy to give them extra time to be a part of the team.

If you are asked about the company for which you are interviewing and you tell them you did not have time to research it, you are telling them you do not care. You are not engaged or interested in the position. It could very easily translate that you are only looking for a paycheck.

My dogs have taught me about unconditional love. No matter how bad my day, if I am out of the good biscuits and they have to suffer with the yucky ones, or have less time to play, they still love me. This is just one wonderful thing about dogs.

Jobs, on the other hand, not so much. Start slacking on the biscuits, giving less time or effort and they do not show unconditional love; they show you the door. You have to put in as much as, or more, than you expect to get back to reach that point of satisfaction, joy and success.

If you are going after a job you have to want it; and wanting it means you have to know the ins and outs and be excited to do that and more. This is best demonstrated by doing your homework, being prepared, communicating your value and be engaging in the process.

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I hope you enjoyed this article and it provided value for you. If so, please click on the follow button so I may continue to share valuable content with you or the share buttons to share with your network.

I help people identify and set a path to achieve their career goals by using the V Formula:

Your Value + Your Voice = Visibility

Visibility is the leverage to move in, move up or move on in your career; expand your book of business or territory, grow your company and strengthen your team.

–Lisa

Lisa K. McDonald, Owner and Principal of Career Polish, Inc. is a favorite speaker and seminar facilitator at colleges, professional organizations and companies around the US speaking to leadership, sales and athletic teams; transitioning/downsized employees and networking groups about personal branding, networking, creating executive presence and achieving career movement success. To find out more, visit Career Polish, Inc.

When Interviewing is Like Arguing with Your Wife/Mom

mom and kidI have yet to meet someone who enjoys interviewing. It can range from nerve-racking to humiliating. Oh sign me up!

The most common thing I hear that unnerves people the most during an interview is silence.

The dreaded pause after you answer a question; when that pause is dropped in the middle of the room like a big ol’ purple polka dotted elephant.

Our natural reaction is to fill that void. All sorts of things start running through our head, like: did I say something wrong, did they misunderstand, do I need to clarify, do I sound like an idiot, should I give more examples, can I stop talking, good gosh make the voices stop!

And the trench digging begins. We start talking nervously trying to answer unanswered questions, going down rabbit holes and pretty much derailing the original question and possibly the interview.

Stop, breathe, relax.

First, they may be pausing because they are thinking about what you said and, hey, not in a negative way. Maybe you triggered a different idea and they are thinking about how to approach.  Maybe you introduced a skill set that would be great and they are thinking about how to incorporate it. Maybe they lost track of what they were thinking. Maybe they are hungry and thinking about what they are going to order for lunch.

The point is, you just do not know what they are thinking. I highly doubt ‘mind reader’ is on your resume so what makes you think you can magically develop that skill right then and there?

I know it is easy for me to say stop, breathe and relax because I am not the one that feels like I am sitting in front of a firing squad.

So, let’s look at it from a different perspective. Think about that pause as the same as when you are having an argument – i.e. ‘discussion’ – with your wife or mom.

Caveat – I am going to make assumptions and generalizations here. I am not man or woman bashing, I am poking fun of each of us to help get you through an interview.

If you are one of the significantly low number of women who do not do this or have never done this to your significant other or child(ren) I applaud you. I am not. Most people I know hear this example align with it immediately. This is for demonstration purposes – don’t shoot the messenger.

When your wife or mom is upset with you, what do they do? They ask you a short, direct question. When you answer, what do they do? They remain silent, for an extended period. They wait. They watch to see if your body language screams out a little white lie or discomfort. We wait, we watch and then we determine how to proceed.  It is a girl thing.

Now, you know we do this, we know we do this so this is not new. You have probably figured out that it is best to respond in a way that answers the question putting yourself in a positive light while at the same time not making yourself look bad.

Then you wait. If your answer was received positively, you can expand on it. If it was not received positively, you have not said enough to get into really big trouble, so you can smooth it out and refocus it in a positive way.

It is not nice, it is not always fair, but as a generality, we do it; and we are good at it.

Normally, the question we are quizzing you on is not a deal breaker. “Did you eat the last cookie?” “Did you put my cashmere sweater in the washer with your shop towels?” Things like that. We may not be all that happy, but they are not deal breakers.

By the way, we also know most men ruin at least one article of our clothing to get out of laundry. We know you do it, you know you do it, this is not new and you are good at it. But that is another story.

The next time you are in that uncomfortable space in an interview, just think of it as having a ‘discussion’ with your mom or wife. You survived that; you can survive this too, with flying colors!

Interviewing: Challenge Yourself First To Convince Others

internal confusionThis morning I gave a presentation about interviewing. I am not going to write about dressing appropriately, showing up a few minutes early, having extra copies of your resume and doing your homework before you get there. There was a theme that came up throughout the presentation that I think would be more helpful to focus on.

I’m making an executive decision – it’s my article, I get to do that.

The theme was transition.

How do I transition into a different job/career/industry?
How do I transition from school to a new job?
How do I transition from a different career, earning a degree in what I want and getting there with no experience?
How do I transition from being a stay at home mom to back in the workforce?
How do I transition from being perceived as an older worker into a new position or industry?

Transition is a funny thing; it can be the most exciting thing in the world to you and scare the crap out of you all at the same time.

We want transition, we need transition, we long for transition and then when we get to the point of transition we stand on the edge of that cliff and say, “well….maybe I’ll go back to my safe place for a little while longer.”

Safe places are fine, but they are not always best for us, we outgrown safe places. We transition out of safe places without even trying.

Darn you, transition! Why must you be so cruel!

But wait, it gets worse! Now you have to try to convince someone else that you can do this transition, that you deserve it and can knock it out of the park.

Holy cow!

That worse fear of convincing someone else, dressing up and presenting in front of an audience about something that frightens us then leads us to shut down our brain a little bit. We forget to convince ourselves before we try to convince someone else.

This is where challenging yourself comes into play.

I give a lot of presentations on LinkedIn, personal branding, executive presence, team building, leadership – I am passionate about these topics, I love speaking about them and I thrive off the energy of the room. However, even though I speak often, if I do not prepare before a presentation, I will not give a quality presentation in my mind.

Interviewing is like that. We convince ourselves that we know we can do it and we can speak to it when we get into the interview; however, when that time comes, it does not flow naturally, evenly or convincingly.

Why? Because we haven’t convinced ourselves first.

I am a competitive person. If someone tells me I can’t do something, I find a way to do it. It is a driving factor for me. It would help me prepare for presentations and interviews.

I would sit down with the position requirements and description and create a mock interview right there in my bathroom. I used the bathroom because I had a mirror there that I could monitor my facial expressions and body language.

I would take each point and imagine someone on the other side of the mirror challenging me saying, “We need you to do this quality, skill or aspect in a job yet you either don’t have the experience or qualifications, what makes you think you can do it?” I also imagine them being very snotty when they say this, it helps in my mind.

Then I let it rip. I get myself started talking about skills I have used in previous jobs, how I used them, education, certifications, life experiences – anything that equates to the position in any way possible and make my argument. I get all riled up and get on a roll. I might even throw in a couple “oh hell no”s in there.

I also take notes. When I stop over-thinking something and let it flow, that is when the good ideas start coming to the surface. So I take notes and after I go through my rampage, I go back to my notes and start formulating a more business response based on the passionate argument that I just made.

I convince myself and in doing so I gain confidence and that is then expressed when I am asked a question in person.

Once you challenge yourself you can then convince yourself. Once you accomplish that, you can paint a very solid picture for anyone on how you can take where you have been and make it successful in where you want to go.

Marketable Skills – Look Outside Your Box

Manuel came home last night and gave me a sly smile and told me Jesse gave him a compliment. If you have a teenager you know exactly why he was smiling. For those of you without children or have younger children I’ll fill you in – teenagers do not give their parents compliments. Of course it was a bit backhanded, but it was there.

They were talking about going to the batting cages and hit golf balls this weekend because Manuel said he needed to get a couple of buckets in as he has a tournament coming up. Jesse asked if he even knew how to play golf. He told Manuel that if it were baseball he would not question it, he knows Manuel can play baseball, but golf? You see Manuel is a former ballplayer and has coached for years. But Jesse had never seen his dad play golf or known that he has played before so he naturally assumed he could not play. Ah, teenagers. In Jesse’s mind his dad was a baseball coach, not a golf coach.

This got me thinking about my class this week. We had a great discussion about how you may have marketable skills or abilities that you have learned even if it was not a part of any job description. Our personal lives offer us a multitude of opportunities that we can draw from in giving examples of skills and abilities during an interview. Volunteerism gives us these same opportunities that we can include on our resume.

One word of caution – if you are using a personal example make sure it is not too personal and that it is relevant. The examples should illustrate your point and be able to demonstrate rather than just tell a story. Sometimes people get a bit too comfortable during an interview and forget the whole point – to sell yourself to that person. You want to show them that you are the right fit for that job: you have the skills, expertise, experience and ability to be the solution to their problem. Telling personal stories with no point does not help you; this is not a social call.

It can be done and to help here is a personal example: Someone once asked me if I could successfully handle multiple projects that were outside of my comfort zone and, if so, could I give them an example. I explained that when I was first brought into the financial industry I was required to earn my Series 7 exam with the Series 9 & 10 to follow at some point. Within a short time period my ex-husband was also diagnosed with advanced aggressive non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Over the next twelve months I was successful at my duties at my position; earned my 7, 63, 65, 9 and 10 Series licenses; spend every night and weekend at the hospital learning about dialysis, chemotherapy, and various tests and treatments as my ex-husband successfully battled cancer all while managing my young son’s school and sports responsibilities and activities. The person looked at me and said, “I would say that is a definite yes.”

Even with our job we have opportunities to learn new skills that are not listed within our job description. We get so ingrained in our position and title that we forget all of the abilities and talents that we have developed that are not tied to a position. Just because it was not in your job description does not mean you have not done it. Think about your last position and what the job description was when you first started. Now think about everything that you actually did – I bet the two lists do not match.

Stop selling yourself short and start thinking outside the box. You are your hardest critic, but for today, knock it off. Start listing out your strongest skills and abilities and then go back to everything that you have done in work-world, volunteer-world and life-world. Start writing down all of the things that you have done, can do and have learned or achieved. Odds are you will see there is much more depth to you when you look outside your cubicle.

Mike Ditka, Wrestling and Interviewing

Success isn’t permanent and failure isn’t fatal. That is something Mike Ditka once said. Let it sit for a minute and it really is a pretty powerful statement. I like it so much I have it tacked on my refrigerator and it helps ground and motivate me all at once. I think it speaks a lot towards attitude. I hound on attitude a lot, but I think it is important, it is my blog, so I get to!

My step-son Jesse started wrestling this year, as a 7th grader. He plays football in the Fall and baseball in the Spring but had no plans for a Winter sport so he decided to venture into wrestling – mainly because his dad told him he needs to be doing something during his off seasons. The boy is full of energy and really needs to keep busy in a positive way, as most young teenagers, but that is another story. Jesse’s school system is know for their wrestling program, I mean known, enough that they are looking at the 6, 7 and 8th graders and talking about State Titles in High School. They take it very seriously. And this is his first year. No pressure there!

We talked about his first year he may get his rear kicked a lot, but it will be the best way to learn. He has been pinned, which he hates, but I videotape his matches and he watches them. I mean really watches them. We see him trying different moves that kids beat him on and trying to perfect moves he has learned in practice. His attitude has made him stand out not only as an athlete, but also a student of the sport. He went in with the attitude that he was going to do this.

And what has this attitude gotten Jesse – sixth place in Folkstyle State a couple of weeks ago in his weight class. His dad and I could not have been more proud. My goodness, he looked like little Rocky out there fighting! I am more proud and impressed with his attitude than how he places – the kid won’t quit.

I can’t say enough about attitude. You see; if Jesse started the year with the attitude that he was going to stink, then guess what, he would have. Or worse yet, gone in desperate to impress the coaches being timid then he could have been injured. But he set the right attitude that was the first important step – just as it is for individuals when they prepare for interviews.

Remember, you are interviewing them too. It is not a one sided gig, at least it should not be. And if you step into that door feeling desperate that you NEED a job, any job, than guess what, that desperation will come through loud and clear. Desperation is not a pretty thing. Now, do not get me wrong, I know there are times that sometimes you feel you will take anything that comes your way because you have bills to pay. I get that – remember two teenage boys to feed here! But even in that circumstance, you still want to remain confident and positive about the position and about you – and you do have limits.

Anyone who has ever attended one of my Resume Workshops will hear me compare resumes and interviewing to dating. The resume is your first date, you want to tell them the absolute best stuff about you and get them interested in finding out more – the second date, the interview. On the second date you expand upon all your great qualities. So keeping with this theme, how many times would you go on that third date if the other person was desperate? See where I am going here?

Be clear about what you want and why. If your goal is just a pay check well okay then, no problem. But what hours are you willing to work, what conditions are you willing to accept, what type of work are you willing to do, what are your limits? Face it; you will not take any job. Don’t thinks so, ok, what if I told you I had an immediate opening for a great paying job as an enema specialist for those with severe diarrhea? Disgusting, yes, but it makes my point. Get rid of the desperation, know your strengths and your limits and go interview them! Remember, it is all about you.

The Limits of a Positive Attitude

I consider myself a generally positive person and most people who know me I think would agree with that. I smile a lot, I have a lot to smile about and smiling makes me more positive. My dog, Misfit, even smiles (great picture of that, huh?) Although, keep in mind I do have teenagers, so it is often tested and the glass half full thing is sometimes hard to come by or there is a debate of what liquid is in the glass! The point is this: I try to be positive, look for the good, see the good in people and do unto others. Having said all that, some days it is the most magnificent accomplishment that I made it out of bed and I am okay with that.

Sound contradictory? Perhaps, but let me explain. You see, I believe in the power of a positive attitude. I do believe that your attitude going into a situation does have an impact on your result. However, I also realize there are other factors at play. For example, I have not worked out in a very long time – very, very long time. Now, when I become more active on the weekends, I see the effects. If Manuel and I want to go walk around downtown playing tourist in our own town, I am going to tire out very quickly because I am an out-of-shape slug. No matter how positive I want to be, I am a slug and I will be a tired, grumpy, sore slug after several hours of running around.

When you go on a job interview your positive attitude will absolutely serve you well. However, it will not take you far if you are not prepared. You can only smile and nod so much while the person across the desk realizes you have no idea about the company that you applied to and are now seeking a job from – they pick up on that pretty quickly.

Then there will be interviews that you are completely prepared and absolutely nail it. You know the history, the position, the key attributes they are looking for, you have all the right answers – you rock. Then you do not get a call back or they decided to go with someone else. It happens. And here is where the limits of a positive attitude come into play.

On one hand you can force feed yourself a positive attitude enough that you are so delusional that you think it must have been that you were not positive enough. You had doubts about some of your answers and that must have ruined your interview – just thinking those negative thoughts. Tomorrow you are going to be even more positive, force yourself to think only happy thoughts and never let a negative thought into your mind and THEN you will get that job. Oh, sweetie, you are in for a really long hard fall back to reality. You have lost the boundary line and now look like my little dog Misfit chasing her tail until she makes herself so dizzy she wobbles. It happens I have video to prove it.

On the other hand, you did not get the job, you are bummed and give yourself a moment to grieve….ok, time is up. Now, look back and see this for all sides. You had doubts, so re-examine those. Get back in touch with the interviewer and ask them your questions. If they did not tell you a specific reason why, then ask them – were they looking for a different training background or more experience? ASK! They may not tell you, but give it a shot.

You did your best. Let’s review that statement. You did your best. Pretty strong words, can we always say that about our actions? So you can be positive about the fact that you gave it everything you had and sometimes these things do not work out, but on to the next one! Be positive of your performance, your efforts, your research and your preparation, but do not take this to the extreme that your positive attitude alone is going to make or break you.

I walk into every situation being positive, that a wonderfully positive result will come of my actions. Guess what, it does not always happen. But I know there are other opportunities out there, and if I keep trying and working at it, those will happen. I am positive that I will fail, but I am also positive that I will learn from my failures and tomorrow will be a better day. Now, if you will excuse me, I really need to get off my slug butt and exercise!

Tools in Your Toolbox

My dad was a diesel mechanic, when he died he was head of the shop for CCX, a damn good mechanic. He could fix anything. I grew up around tools, the smell of oil, grease, tools, knowing the importance of keeping them clean, putting them away properly and taking care of them. I learned the importance of tools; you can do anything with the right tool. I was comfortable taking some tools and scraps of wood or whatever I could find and see what I could build. I knew how to use tools and what I did not know I liked to ask. (When I was 14 I asked him to show me how to hot-wire a car although much to my chagrin he did not). I have my own tool box, circular saw, jig saw and yes, I have used them well – a couple of years ago I built floor to ceiling bookcases with a bench seat in the middle thank you very much. But the point of this early rambling is that I learned the value of tools from my dad. I also learned the strength in the truth from my dad.

Now that I am much older I carry those same lessons from my dad to other tools. You will hear the message of tools in your toolbox. For a job seeker there are many tools – your resume, your elevator speech, your mentors, your fellow co-workers, employment agencies, recruiters, networking groups – just to name a few. Today I am going to focus on employment agencies and recruiters.

Let me clear up one thing right now – employment agency does not equate to Temp Agency, although there is a time and place for these companies as well. There might be negative connotations about agencies and recruiters and some of those thoughts might be well deserved; however, let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. I have met some wonderful people in both industries and they are very passionate about what they do and why. If you have not had a lot of experience with either it might be intimidating to try to figure out who to work with and why or even if you want to consider them in your toolbox.

First, go to the agency or recruiter’s website to check them out. There are many agencies that look to fill a need – a professional in a great industry and fantastic position. There are opportunities for office personnel, accounting, all level managers, to name just a few, for many different industries. These are top-notch positions. There are also recruiters who will not work with those seeking employment. This is a good thing to know, too. Any information is good information.

Companies work through an agency or recruiter because they trust them. A hiring company may not want the hassle of having to go through hundreds of resumes to find the right candidate. They utilize the agency/recruiter to filter out the cream of the crop, those that will meet their expectations and qualifications. A good agency/recruiter will have standards and rules that you must comply with so be sure to check this out. Think about it, if they have no standards how can you expect their clients to want the best? That would be you, by the way.

I know one agency that has a rule – if they offer you a set amount of positions within the parameters that you set and you refuse them all then you are no longer a candidate for them. I like this. It is a great standard and it makes you have a frank conversation –what do you really want? And honesty is important. I do not want to hire anyone that promises me the moon. I want someone who is going to be honest and tell me the positives and challenges and then helps me help myself.

A benefit of working with an agency/recruiter is you can be honest with them to tell them your skills and wants. It is not as though you would feel comfortable telling a potential employer “I have these great skills and want to pursue a new vein – how can I get there?” You can ask the agency/recruiter what you can do to improve your lot and have real conversations. They can help you determine a good course for you at this time. They might be able to see an opportunity for you right now that may lead to where you want to go in the future. These are professionals that help cut through the fluff to find the right candidate for their client and the right position for you. Agencies/recruiters have it on both ends so they are not going to waste your time – do not waste theirs.

Let me be very honest here, they are not on your payroll so do not expect them to

1. Drop everything just because you called
2. Perform miracles
3. Bend over backwards for you when you are not willing to put any work into this

Do your homework, just like you would if you had an interview with a company. Who are their clients (not specifically, but more in industry, size, strength etc); why do they chose to work with these companies; who are their candidates; who do they place most successfully; why do they do the work they do; how do they help place you?

In talking to recruiters, many have told me that your best opportunities come from networking, but there are instances that they can help. Find out what these instances are and how you can make yourself more appealing to potential employers.

Remember, you stock your own toolbox. You need to decide what is important to you, what works well for you and how much effort you are willing to give in maintaining your tools. Just keep in mind to look into alternative tools, you might be surprised at what you find.

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