We typically don’t practice interviewing very often yet each interview we do have is pretty important. Here are three quick tips for interview preparation.

Tip 1 – It is best to think of an interview as a two-way discussion. Yes, often a stressful discussion but remember not only are they checking you out, you are checking them out. In fact, one of the most important actions you can take to prepare for an upcoming interview is to research the company. It is easier than ever to get on the internet, enter a search word and come up with relevant information. Most companies have a web page of their own where you can read up on company history and recent press releases. Be thinking about questions you can ask during the interview as well. Make relevant observations about what is going on with the company and ask your interviewer to comment. You may also want to consider asking some questions like the following.

  • Is this a newly created position?
  • What do you think is the most important thing for a new hire to understand about this position? This company? Or this department?
  • Why did the previous person leave this position?
  • What do you think will be the biggest challenge for the new hire?

Tip 2 – Another good way to prepare for the interview is to put together 3-5 well thought out power stories and a couple lessons learned stories. Power stories are your stories about times that you solved problems or had a positive impact in your work. Keep your power stories in a notebook in Evernote and save them forever! These stories are very important to think about in advance of the interview for responses to behavioral interviewing questions which are used very often by skilled interviewers. Behavioral interview questions are ones that ask you to describe times in the past when you solved this or that type of problem. A good format for the stories is to describe the problem, describe the action you took, then describe the result. This is called the PAR technique for Problem, Action, Result. Once you write these stories out, list in the margin the characteristics these stories demonstrate. Then you have ready answers for some questions like “Tell me about a time when _____?” or “What is your biggest strength and why?” Don’t forget to rehearse your answers out loud. It is best to have someone ask you the questions in order to practice most effectively.

Tip 3 – One often overlooked key to good interviewing to have clear starts and stops to your questions and answers. This helps to set a good rhythm for the discussion. It also demonstrates your ability to be concise and listen to others. Don’t be afraid of a few seconds of silence after you finish your answer. A good interviewer will use silence as a tool to get you to rattle on about stuff you did not intend to reveal. Also, silence is an important tool for you to learn use as well, especially come negotiation time.

On Interviewing: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

To learn even more about strategies for job interviewing, I highly recommend the books by Carole Martin, The Interview Coach. A great one to start with is Boost Your Interview IQ.

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Choosing a career direction is a complex process involving many steps including exploring your interests, skills, values, and personality type, plus lots of time to learn and to strategize a career development plan. After the beginning steps of self-assessment, you choose a few of the career fields that seem to have the most promise and do more intense research.

Researching career fields begins with taking a look at the Occupational Outlook Handbook and the O*Net to learn more about specific career fields. Then, if a specific career field is still being considered, it is time to go out into the field to learn more. In fact, one of the most important aspects of choosing a career path is to get out in the real world and study real people. People who are doing the kind of job that you might want to do someday. One way to do this is through informational interviewing.

Typically, the informational interview process looks like this:

  • find people in the career of interest to talk to
  • schedule a time to meet with them for 30 minutes or so
  • ask questions about their career, and then
  • send a thank you note.

There are several ways to find people for an informational interview. The best method is to use your network of contacts to find people in the line of work that you want to learn more about. Begin asking family members, friends, and other people who they know working in the career. For example, you might approach your aunt and ask her, “Who do you know who works as a civil engineer?” Once a member of your network knows someone to refer you to, ask for that person’s name and phone number. You will be surprised how many people your contacts know and how easy it is to find people to talk to about all kinds of careers.

Next call the new contact. Give your name and how you know about them. Tell them that you are interested in learning more about their career field and that you were hoping they could help. Ask if you can schedule a time to speak with them for 30 minutes because you would like to ask them how they got into the field and about their recommendations for people who are considering entering the profession.

Following are some questions typically asked in an informational interview. Remember you most likely will not be able to ask them all since you want to keep the interview to only 30 minutes. Be sure to take a pen and paper for quick notes and recommendations and to assist you with writing a thank you note the following day. Be sure to note the correct spelling of their name and their address by asking them the information and writing it down in your notes or checking their business card.

SAMPLE INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEW QUESTIONS

  • How did you develop your career path?
  • How did you get into this job?
  • What are your duties as a ____?
  • How long have you been in this position?
  • What do you like best about this career?
  • What do you like least about this career?
  • What would you do differently if you were starting over in this field?
  • What are the educational requirements of this field?
  • What is the typical salary range for this career field?
  • Can you recommend some professional associations for this career field?
  • What do you read to stay up-to-date in the field?
  • What further education do you participate in?
  • What are the advancement opportunities in this field?
  • What do you see as the future of this career field?
  • What is your career goal for the future?
  • What is happening in this industry?
  • What kinds of companies make up this industry?
  • Where has growth taken place in this field recently?
  • Who are your customers or clients?
  • How do you promote your products and/or services?
  • Who are some of your competitors?
  • What has helped to make companies successful in this industry?
  • What recommendations do you have for a person interested in this field?
  • Do you know others I should speak to about this career field?
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Take Ownership

  • Your career is yours and yours alone. You have the power to create it and live it as an expression of your unique talents and energy.
  • Forget what other people think of your choices. Even though people often mean well, you will be the one putting in the hours so be selfish enough to do something you enjoy and to have fun with it!
  • Being yourself in your work gives power, creativity, and freedom. You are off track if you feel insecure or like a pretender at work.

Look Inside Yourself, You Know the Answers

  • Take note when you find yourself fully engaged in a work activity. If it feels as if you are in the zone, or plugged in and energized, or connected to something larger than yourself: Pay special attention.
  • Then describe it further…what are you liking about what you are doing? Is it this? Is it that? Keep asking yourself and you’ll know when you hit the answer that feels right.
  • Start general then get more specific in your description of what you like about what you are doing. For example, is it the communication or connection? Is it the performing or beautifying? Is it the helping or healing? Is it the organizing or administrating? Then add more detail by asking why.

Respect the Career Development Process

  • The beauty of a great career is in the way it unfolds.
  • Enjoy the present moment. Each small step adds up until you are absolutely ready for more.
  • Appreciate then forget when you felt lost or frustrated in your career. Through those times, you learned more about what you DO want.

Understand the Power of People

  • People can be powerful and brilliant in sharing their connections with others. Cherish and maintain your connections to tap into the power.
  • People can be dark, egotistical, and negative, but this is nothing compared to an individual in harmony with self. Recognize the negative as the weaker power and stay beyond it.
  • See and applaud the strengths of others as you do for yourself. Be a builder-upper who is generous with knowledge, info, and positive energy.

Be an Opportunity Bulldog

  • Take your individual strengths and mesh them into your public identity, and no one can take your place.
  • Research and understand the opportunities that exist because of the challenges in your field of expertise.
  • Present a passion for being or finding the solution and be unafraid of asking for the opportunity.
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“Superior men and women trust themselves at a deep level. They are very sensitive to what feels right.” –Brian Tracy

“We move toward a kind of defining presence because, through our passions we are utterly present.” –Greg Levoy

There is no scarcity of opportunity to make a living at what you love; there’s only a scarcity of resolve to make it happen.” –Wayne Dyer

“Acknowledging the good that is already in your life is the foundation of all abundance.” –Eckhart Tolle

“Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.” –Julia Child

“Just as the master musician may cause the most beautiful strains of music to flow forth from the strings of a violin, so may you arouse the genius which lies asleep in your brain.” –Napoleon Hill

“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement nothing can be done without hope or confidence.” –Helen Keller

“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing you will be successful.” –Herman Cain

“A career is born in public, talent in privacy.” –Marilyn Monroe

“Life is a process. Enjoy it.” –Stevie Puckett

“Burnout doesn’t happen when you are working long hours on invigorating activities.” –Marcus Buckingham

“As you become more clear about who you really are, you’ll be better able to decide what is best for you the first time around.” –Oprah Winfrey

“Follow your bliss.” –Joseph Campbell

“And as we let our own light shine we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” –Marianne Williamson

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A few months ago, I had e-mail correspondence with someone I barely know who asked if I ever watched The Big Idea with Donnie Deutsch. When someone comes by with a little tip like that out of nowhere, I pay attention. My experience shows that there is probably something I need to see there. So I responded that I had not, and thanked her for the referral. I watched some episodes, and I enjoyed the show. I also noticed an interesting phenomenon.

On the show, one of the main things Donnie Deutsch does is to try and get insight with each person featured on the show about exactly where and how they got that big idea. This makes total sense because that is the name of the show, after all, so people really should expect that question. Nevertheless, each time he asks it the person pauses for a moment and looks as if they are processing that question and aren’t quite sure what to say. As if they are saying to themselves, “Hey, that is a good question, where did that idea come from?” And, it is a pertinent question because essentially Donnie is trying to educate and coach people in his audience to find their own big idea and go for it.

I think the reason that the question is difficult is because when people have a great idea, they are often fully engaged in whatever it is they’re studying at the time inspiration strikes. They just know that they were busy following their noses, uncovering clues, letting one thing lead to another, and it all seemed obvious at the time…until they get this question anyway. Then they want to be able to tell others how to do it so they try and retrace their steps.

Creativity is something that we all have if we can open to it. I think the first step for someone who is just sitting there with no idea at all but desiring one is to remove all barriers to getting into the flow of creativity. Creativity can’t occur while sitting in judgment of every thought that pops into your head. One has to open and be comfortable with the creative process. Some people are very good at tapping into their creative source consistently; others might have to be reminded to let go and play a little.

Begin by exploring things that catch your eye, just follow your nose a bit and see what happens. Once you have gathered some info, give yourself a rest and see what your wonderfully creative mind cooks up. When you feel a little kick of enthusiasm, you may be on to something.

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