Feel Confident in the Behavior-Based Job Interview

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A question that begins, “Tell us about a time when you needed to make a decision that you knew would be unpopular with your team. How did you message it? What was the outcome?” is a 3-part question that’s aimed to identify how you manage supporting people through changes. You’ll want to be specific and sufficiently detailed, and if you forget part of the question that was originally asked, ask for it to be repeated.

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Have you ever been so nervous in an interview that you were actually numb while listening to yourself speak, or froze up, unable to conjure answers to the questions? Maybe you became so anxious that you talked yourself out of the interview all together.  You’re not alone. In fact, job interviews probably rank close to car trouble on things we enjoy the least. Unless we’re independently wealthy or self-employed, however, they’re part of what we must go through in order to secure gainful employment. To help you capitalize on your skills and create opportunities for yourself, here’s a list of Dos and Don’ts to help you in preparing for the behavior-based job interview.

First off, let’s clarify. What is a behavior-based interview, exactly? Generally, the search committee will gather information through a series of scenario-based questions and ask you to explain how you’d handle them. This essentially paints the picture of your skill set, demonstrated through the actions you’ve taken in the past or would take on the new job. Even if you find that the committee’s interviewing isn’t behavior-based, and is of the more traditional, “Tell us about your strengths,” “Why our company?” sorts of questions, preparing to discuss your specific job experiences will give you a leg up over the competition.

With that in mind:

Do approach an interview as an opportunity to tell the story of your job skills. Before you go, consider what you’ve done and the lessons you learned about how to do or not do something. Writing this material out will help you recall it on interview day. Think of aspects of your work experience that may be unique. It’s a great interview when the hiring committee starts asking you frank advice for solving issues they’re facing.

Don’t show up for an interview expecting that information will come to you if you didn’t map your skills ahead of time. Unless you’ve given time really thinking about the work you’ve done and its merit, you may struggle. Also, mapping your work builds confidence because it’s a reaffirmation that indeed, you have a lot of skills that will be useful.

Do listen to the questions/prompts and answer them fully. A question that begins, “Tell us about a time when you needed to make a decision that you knew would be unpopular with your team. How did you message it? What was the outcome?” is a 3-part question that’s aimed to identify how you manage supporting people through changes. You’ll want to be specific and sufficiently detailed, and if you forget part of the question that was originally asked, ask for it to be repeated.

Don’t, when given questions like this, give abstract responses that are vague in nature such as, “Well, I like to bring people in and tell them why we’re doing what we’re doing, then give them a chance to ask questions.” This sounds canned, and without an example, it fails to demonstrate that you really have the skills to manage this type of scenario.

Do give concise answers that are specific to the question that’s asked. If you know you could continue with an answer but are uncertain whether additional detail is needed, it’s okay to ask, “Does that answer your question?” This places the responsibility with the interviewer if she or he wants you to expound on what you’ve said.

Don’t ramble. Interviews are killed if your answers are circuitous because the hiring committee will think that this is how you actually think and speak in your work world. Nobody wants to work with a rambler who can’t give clear and direct responses.

Do ask the frank, real-world questions you have. An interview is really a two-way conversation to be sure that you fit with them and they fit with you.

Don’t be timid about asking questions because you obviously want to know what a day of a life in this job will look like, how people find balance, how certain things get done, or whatever else is of interest to you.

Do, after the interview is over and the offer is being made, advocate for your salary and other things you need. This is especially necessary for managerial jobs because it shows that you have negotiation skills. Don’t be outrageous. Know the median salary that’s offered for this position in your area and consider your time and experience that’s been spent preparing you for it.

Don’t accept an initial offer that seems low. Companies generally make offers with the expectation that you’ll negotiate and will make an initial lowball offer. If you can earn an extra 5-10% of what they initially offered, or perhaps additional vacation, relocation expenses, or other needs, do it.

Remember that learning to interview well is a practiced skill set unto itself. Those of us who have made few job changes are often challenged by the experience. Nonetheless, if you follow these tips, you’ll get better each time you interview, eventually landing the plum job.

Putting Together a Resume Package that Commands Attention

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Though it may seem silly, read over your work out loud. I do this with each thing that’s going to represent me (like this blog). It works! We all make typos and grammatical mistakes. Nothing kills a job candidacy quicker than a poorly-edited resume package.

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You know your skills, the type of work you enjoy, and the job environment you need in order to thrive. You have a limit of how far you prefer to commute, salary and benefits requirements, and the hours you’re willing to work. If the stars aren’t aligning for you, it’s probably time to be on the search. To help you with that, I’ll discuss in today’s blog how to put together a resume package that commands attention.

As I’ve talked about in other blogs, the job market has changed substantially over the last 20 years. Where once employees sought a company that they planned would provide a ‘job for life,’ layoffs and industry changes, many brought on by internet technology, have taught us that things do not stay the same. The smart professional is nimble, resume-ready, and plugged into networking sites that provide the pulse on possibilities. How does one best proceed when a plum job opens?

  1. Know the organization and the position: Do research ahead of time on the institution and its mission, its structure, whom it serves and how. If it’s publicly-traded, check its stock performance.

    Also, an essential part of a job search is finding somewhere that you want to go to work every day. Look at the culture, read reviews about people’s workplace experiences; or better yet, talk to current or former employees and learn firsthand what they think of the place.

  2. Know the job for which you’re applying: Read carefully and be certain that it’s something for which you are fully-qualified. Don’t front. If the job requires Spanish customer service skills and you have halting Spanish that you last used at a hotel in Cancun two years prior, you don’t qualify and are wasting your time and the recruiter’s.

  3. Know thyself: Unless you are desperate for a job, don’t go for something that isn’t the type of work you enjoy. It’s important to know the difference between what you’re good at and what you actually like. If you’re good at data analysis and well-versed in how to use Excel but absolutely hate crunching numbers because it bores you, you don’t want that to be the main focus for your job. You’re better to shoot for a job in which the description promises more of the things you enjoy, professionally.

  4. Be sure your relevant skills are reflected in your resume or CV. Look at what you’ve got and edit for content. You probably have a lot of jobs you’ve done and things you’ve learned, but if they aren’t going to demonstrate your match to the job for which you’re applying, they’re wasted space on the resume.

  5. Write a great cover letter. Don’t send a generic one to every organization. Those get ditched! Instead, call out those items from your resume that really show you’re best work in light of the job for which you’re applying. Consider your unique qualities and connect them to the job qualifications.

    If you have an example of how your great stuff resulted in something amazing, use it: “In my most recent work as a team leader, I was assigned a group who had consistently poor sales performance. I was able to offer weekly 1:1 coaching for each member, clarifying expectations and ensuring their access to needed information that helped drive and close their sales. Within 3 months, we were the 3rd highest-performing team in….” That sort of thing is a strong indicator of what you can do. 

  6. Follow all application instructions to the letter. If the job requires recommendation letters, a) give the people you ask at least a week; b) only ask people who can best speak to the skills that match the job for which you’re applying.

  7. Before you submit, proofread. Though it may seem silly, read over your work out loud. I do this with each thing that’s going to represent me (like this blog). It works! We all make typos and grammatical mistakes. Nothing kills a job candidacy quicker than a poorly-edited resume package.

    If you have a trusted friend who’s particularly good at editorial details, have her or him look over your resume information. 

  8. If you put together your best application package and don’t get called, do not despair. Maybe there was another person whose work experience was more specific to the job, or they had a degree or certification that provided a special type of training.

    If a recruiter does contact you to advise that you weren’t selected for an interview, try to get concrete feedback on what was needed that you didn’t have. This will help you understand the job market for the industry in which you’re conducting your hunt, allowing you to sharpen your skills.

I hope these tips were helpful. Next week, I’ll talk about the interview process, and how to get your own fears out of the way in prepping for it.

 

Six Steps on the Healing Journey

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hen we engage in social action, we not only another person or persons, we advance along our own journey. Many helpful things can be done quickly or with minimal effort, thus allowing you to gain the instant reward of having helped in the ways you could.

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This week, we experienced an unspeakable tragedy in the Pulse Nightclub mass shooting. Numb from our pain and overwhelmed by the continuous media coverage, we may find ourselves sinking into despair as the combined fear and uncertainty of our times casts its shadow. Here are six steps each of us can take to climb out of despair and begin the healing journey.

  1. Spend no more than one hour per day on news. This is a hard one I realize because we’re saturated in information. Too much news about the shooting and other tragedies is like jumping rope with a sprained ankle. Not only do we not heal, we injure the ankle more, and eventually the foot and leg along with it.

    News is a source of information, but the outlets who provide it to us are businesses like any other, surviving on ad space or air time that they sell. They’ll put whatever they have to out there to keep us viewing, clicking, and Sharing. Too much news is like anchor weight on a sinking ship, pulling us deeper into despair when we’re trying to stay afloat.

  2. Allow your thoughts to be silent. Our minds are so cluttered this week that we’re acting and reacting from agitation brought on by fear, anger, sadness….all of which are difficult emotions surrounding a sense of helplessness.

    Rather than sniping back with your uncle or high school friends about the need for gun control, focus your energy on rejuvenating your spirit. Take a walk, spend time in your garden. Visit nature. Pray, meditate, chant. Be still with your thoughts. You cannot see ahead of you if you allow the storm to rage. There will be time for that. Stillness first. 

  3. Allow your emotions to come. As you become still and silent, you will likely notice the emergence of individual emotions. Sadness may wash over you. Frightening as this is, particularly for those who’ve struggled with depression, allowing sadness to be fully felt is a way of moving through it. Cry. Scream. Anger is another emotion you may experience, as is guilt. Whatever individuals feelings you have are entirely valid.

    If you’re a beach person, you might think of these as waves on the water’s edge that wash over all but your face. They envelope you and you feel them fully, but only for a short time, for each emotion is but a small wave in an endless ocean. They must be allowed, for it is our nature to experience them and then allow them to wash away. Our emotions will never drown us if we do not attempt to block their natural ebb and flow.

  4. Talk about the hard stuff. Find a trusted individual or group with whom to share what’s come up for you as you’ve journeyed through the week. Name the complicated emotions with someone else, and you will find that you are not alone. We spin so much in our own heads, wondering if we’re crazy or weird for feeling a certain way. We think we’ll lose our minds if we talk about things, or that we’ll appear weak.

    It’s quite the opposite, in fact. Being open about fears is especially difficult, but doing so frees us significantly because in our shared experience of being able to identify and claim fear, we do away with the made-up notion that we’re to appear invincible. Acknowledging fear brings us closer to others, allowing us to lay full claim to the grief and trauma that we share.

  5. Take action: social action. Things like gun control are central considerations, of course; however, and particularly in the earliest stages of our healing journey, we need to take the steps that will give us the biggest emotional gains. Think instant gratification here. Sure, you’ve signed the petitions and shared your opinions on social media. How about donating blood? Give $5 to any of the crowd funding accounts that have been set up to help the victims’ families. Check in with your cousin who’s raising a gay son to see what’s needed, because chances are that your cousin is even more overwhelmed than you.

    What’s the one thing you do best? Whatever this skill or quality is, it can be channeled into something helpful to someone who’s need is even greater than your own. When we engage in social action, we not only help another person or persons, we advance along our own journey. Many helpful things can be done quickly or with minimal effort, thus allowing you to gain the instant reward of having helped in the ways you could. This step will probably help more than any other, but the previous steps must be attended to, first. 

  6. Repeat these steps. Do so each day over the next week, and as long as they are needed.

Know that you are not alone in your grief and trauma. We each are experiencing our own pain and cycling through it. By using these steps each day, you’ll allow yourself to think more clearly about your needs and those of the people you love. The path that follows will then be made clearer.

Recognizing the Limits of Friendship Loyalty

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People with low self-worth often choose relationships that can be predatory or bullying. As we heal, we tend to no longer attract bullies into our lives. 

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The people we choose to have around us reflect a snapshot of ourselves at a given moment. Our companions are really a mirror to who we are, representing much about our values, our hobbies and interests, maybe our humor, and a host of other personal qualities we hold. Our friends are there out of the mutual choice we make to share our lives in that moment. As the years pass and we grow and change, what then are the limits of friendship loyalty?

For many of us who have gone through substantial recovery and healing efforts, radical changes take place in multiple areas of our lives. We make hard decisions to transform, to bring parts of ourselves that were hidden to voice. We follow dreams, we learn new ways of being that help us feel whole. Other people enter our lives, again providing that mirror into we are, and revealing now that we are in fact different people who have traveled far in our healing journey.

So what happens to the old friends we had during our darker hours?

Some change with us. They’re the ones we stay close to because our lives follow complimentary paths. We may remain in easy proximity, not moving far from each other. We may also remain emotionally close, continually relying on each other and enjoying the simple, easy pleasure of each other’s company.

Some change and we separate, but then come back together. When we reconnect we’re immediately back in the relationship. There is a deep, shared appreciation for each other and the separate journeys we’ve taken. These relationships are the ones in which, even though months or even years may have gone by since we last talked to the person, we have the sense that we’re picking up where we left off.

Not all relationships change in a way, though, that work with the rhythms of our lives.

Sometimes we notice that as we change, some of our friends seem to remain stuck. Their ways remind us of our old ways. We find all of the growth that we’ve experienced to be challenged, even compromised, when we’re with them. As we change and they do not, we often move further and further away from them for our own well-being.

Sometimes, we come back together and the changes we’ve both made don’t work together. We have each been transformed during our time apart so that we now have few of the similarities that initially brought us together. This may be mutually apparent, and we soon realize that we’re no longer compatible as friends. On other occasions, one person wants to remain in the relationship while we do not.

To illustrate, let’s say that in our younger years, we had problems with a poor self-image and low self-esteem. 

People with low self-esteem often choose relationships that can be predatory or bullying. As we heal, we tend to no longer attract bullies into our lives. If we find these relationships again after spending some time away from them, we often find that the bullies and predators of our past are in very bad shape. This is because predatory/bullying behavior tends to not only stem from its own set of problems, it creates more.

Healthy people often find that these reconnections simply don’t work, no matter how close we once felt to the individual. Our bullying friends may even try to guilt us, hooking us with a notion of loyalty to the friendship as it once was (this passive-aggressive technique, by the way, is a form of bullying). Of course they do this! It’s entirely to the advantage of the person in poor mental health to seek the one who isn’t in despair. If I’m down in my luck and I meet up with my old friend and see how well she’s doing, I’ll very naturally try to grab some of her light.

The well person though must, in this instance, question what is being asked of her or him. Our emotions can help us figure out what to do. When we have the opportunity to spend time with the old friend, do we notice feelings of irritation or the sense that we’re being manipulated into something? Do we keep trying to maintain the rekindled relationship because the old friend doesn’t seem to have anyone else, resenting the situation afterward? Our answers to these questions can tell us if we’re needing to rethink our loyalty to this relationship that’s clearly draining us.

Loyal, lifelong friends who accept us and our flaws, celebrate our accomplishments with us, support us through the hard times, and whom we genuinely enjoy having in our lives are absolutely vital to human wellness. Nourish these as they nourish us, and be grateful for each day we have with these amazing people.

Friendship loyalty ends when we are continually being asked to give away our light, our strength, our wellness; or to question our right to any of these things.

Is Job Loyalty Hindering You?

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Career satisfaction impacts multiple areas of our lives, and if we allow ourselves to remain in a dissatisfying job situation, it will have an impact on our mental health. What’s more, the longer we say in a job we dislike, the harder it is to make a necessary move.

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Loyalty is one of the most prized qualities in all types of relationships. Marriage, employment, friendships…we expect loyalty to be a two-way commitment that lasts as long as a bond is possible. Unlike dogs though, humans are capable of breaking unhealthy ties, particularly when we realize we’re feeling depleted or even abused in some way. In this 3-part series, I’ll talk about loyalty in different types of relationships: career, friendship, and marriages, to explore when loyalty works against us. Today, I’ll share ideas to help you answer the question: have you been too loyal to an employer?

It used to be that people sought work until they found a company with good pay and good benefits. This was the case for AT&T employees, for example. I counted myself among their numbers for 12 years. For decades, people had gone to work for the monolithic phone company and other staples of the American economic engine with a set of expectations. In exchange for their loyalty in showing up on the job each day and performing it according to the demands that were laid out, they’d earn a living wage to support themselves and their families. Upon retirement, they’d be rewarded with a pension and other benefits in return for their years of service.

Many people who bought that promise have found themselves not only without a jobs and benefits, but with a narrow skill set with limited transferability to other types of work. Some are doing similar types of jobs to ones they did 20 or more years ago for less money and with trimmed retirement benefits.

What happened exactly? Well, and this is an important thing to recognize about life in general, many of the notions that working class and middle class kids were raised with were correct at one time. Staying at the same job did pay off for many people in prosperous industries during the decades following World War II. Job loyalty made sense.

Times changed, and the rules our parents and grandparents lived and worked by do not apply as universally as they once did. This is the part where we can all take a cue from millennials approach to job growth. Probably no one under 30 expects to retire from a job they’re starting now. As much flack as millennials get for what naysayers call their quest for ‘instant gratification,’ they have an understanding that a good job today is an opportunity to build a skill set for tomorrow.

In other words, climb the ladder, but don’t expect the ladder to be there forever.

Millennial wisdom is on to something, here. Even when jobs don’t leave us, sometimes we need to leave a job. Assignments and companies change. So do we. What may have been a great job for us two years ago might not work for us now. In fact, maybe the job stayed pretty much the same, and that’s why we need to leave it now. We did the job, learned it, grew from it. Now we want to do something different. If we have the financial freedom to make a move, this is life’s invitation for us to do so.

There’s nothing noble about staying with a job that’s no longer interesting. A career, after all, is a huge part of our life. Why would we allow ourselves to do the same thing, day after day, if it doesn’t at least keep us engaged? Career satisfaction impacts multiple areas of our lives, and if we allow ourselves to remain in a dissatisfying job situation, it will have an impact on our mental health. What’s more, the longer we say in a job we dislike, the harder it is to make a necessary move.

Meanwhile, moving into a new job that again challenges us brings us back into the zest and vitality that we had when we went into our last. As a result, we do better work. The company’s happy, we’re happy. For people who have the financial flexibility to do so, there’s no reason to remain in a job that doesn’t satisfy the soul. If you don’t have an exit plan, build one.

Your parents and grandparents, even your peers, may think you’re crazy and try to talk you out of “doing anything rash” or any of the other dire warnings against living fully. This is their own fear and anxiety talking though, much of it formed in a different world where loyalty to a single employer paid off.

It’s not that world anymore.