You are Going to Make a Mistake – Which Keeps You From Making a Mistake

mouth taped shutTwo of my favorite things to do are speaking and seminar facilitation.  I absolutely love the interaction with the audience, the feedback, the questions, the “a-ha” moments and the energy.

The funny thing is, I used to dread getting up in front of people and speaking.

I will admit, one of the things that makes it easy for me to speak to large groups or lead workshops is the fact that I am talking about branding, messaging, value, voice, getting hired by the right company or clients – these are all things that I am passionate about.  Loving what you do makes it much, much easier.

I think one of the most terrifying events for most people is interviewing.

You know the subject very well, you.  You know the subject intimately therefore should make the interview easier, right?

Not so much.

There is so much pressure in interviewing.  It is a make or break type situation.

Screw up the interview, you don’t get the job.  Oh sure, no pressure there.

So we worry, we make notes, practice and have our answers practically memorized.  We talk ourselves into believing we are going to ace the interview, like a pro, no mistakes – nail it.

That is where the trouble begins.

There is this little voice in our head, it is not always a happy-go-lucky cheerleading voice.  Sometimes it is just a nasty little bugger.

Think about writing your resume and you write about one of your accomplishment.  You are honest and forthright and take deserving credit.  What happens when you re-read it?  That little voice in your head condemns you.  It says something like, “Well, don’t you think you’re special?” in a sarcastic or even Church Lady voice.

So when we tell ourselves, “I am going to ace this interview” that little voice turns into the nasty bugger and says, “Really?  So you are not going to get nervous, have sweaty hands, worry that you are soaking through your shirt….”  Nasty, I tell you.

What ends up happening?  We make mistakes.  We travel down rabbit holes.  We fret over our palms and shake hands awkwardly.  We do the things we fear the most.

Why?  Because we told ourselves to do so.

Have you ever had a time that you were doing something with another person, and the last thing that person told you before you performed an action was to NOT do what you did not want to do anyway?

Well, that just sounded confusing, let me give an example.

I built a garden this Spring.  Before I planted I needed to build a privacy fence to keep my pups out and a gate to get in.  One of my best friends is an expert at these things so I asked for help.

My friend is about twice my size so it made sense when we were cutting out the outline of the toppers for the arbor that I do the cutting with the jigsaw and he would hold the wood.  We had everything lined up, all safety measures were taken and right before I began the cut I heard him say, “Don’t cross over the line and cut on the inside.”

Guess what I did.

Yep, crossed over the line and cut on the inside.

He said, “I told you not to do that.”

To which I replied, “Which is why I did it!  If you never would have put that thought in my head it wouldn’t have come out through my hands!”

I stopped as soon as I did and we were able to make it work. Back to interviewing.

The secret to not making a mistake is to know you are going to make a mistake.  Agree with the little nasty voice.  It then loses its power.

Realize that you just might get off track, go down a rabbit hole or answer a question in a way that they had not intended.

It happens.  You will survive.


The moment you realize you have made an error – stop.  Compose yourself, make light of it, get back on track then hush.

I recommend, and personally use, a bit of self-deprecating humor.

I was giving a seminar once and went off on a tangent.  I have shiny syndrome so this is not completely unexpected.

When I realized I was wondering off topic, I stopped, smiled and said, “The blond isn’t natural, but the behavior is…now back to our original point.”

People smiled or had a little giggle and forgot about it.  We got back on track and in the end, many gave me great feedback that it was very helpful.  No one mentioned the rabbit hole.

If you are not comfortable with that, try saying something to the effect of, “I apologize, I am not sure how I got over here, but let me get back to your original question” then continue.

They will not remember the mistake if you do not make a big ordeal out of it.

And please, for the love of all things holy, do not, I repeat – do not try to make up for a mistake in a follow up thank you letter!

The last thing you want to do is remind them of your flub!

Realize that you might make an error or two, be comfortable with it, know how to get yourself out of it and the fear loses power.  That little voice just shuts right the heck up and you really do ace the interview!


Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Brand Strategist & Career Coach

Certified Professional Resume Writer



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