Go back to Job Search Prep Syllabus.
I don’t want to spend too long on this topic because there is a major piece of me that can’t believe these things need to be said. Still, I’ve seen the mistakes with my own eyes, and I don’t want to take the chance that the next mistake-maker will be you, so… here we go:
From this day forward, you are always on, all the time, even with your family. Whether you think of it as “professionalism,” “personal branding,” or “just being you,” you must now be “more perfect.” I don’t ever want to hear you complain that you didn’t realize someone was listening, you didn’t know who that person was, or that some people should just accept you for who you are.
(Because someone’s always listening, the road back to the person you’re talking about is always shorter than you realize, and nobody has to accept you for who you are.)
But I’ve talked about this. So what does it mean?
For one thing, you must become adaptive. Don’t focus so much on adapting to a “corporate environment,” because that environment is going to change from company to company. Focus instead on being adaptive, which means that you are willing to negotiate your personal preferences with the group. It also means that you are going to be attentive to the way I want to work and you are going to go out of your way to make my life easier. This is a particular form of respect, and this is what I want to see.
Unfortunately, the way most people use the word respect, it comes across as, “Do what I say and don’t ask questions.” But that’s not it at all. What your future employer wants to see is that you will make him/her more important than yourself. That you will earn respect for yourself by first showing it to others. That you will be someone who won’t annoy or pester.
That you’ll be a grown up.
Now, when you’re selling yourself, you need to keep in mind that your conversation/interview exists within a broader context. The employer has probably seen other candidates. If the hiring manager is older, s/he may have children your age. There are biases and filters in place, and you have to accept that. So, for instance, if you are on the phone with your mom when the interviewer walks up to you, and you keep the interviewer waiting while you finish your call, the interviewer is going to think “overprotected/sheltered child with helicopter parents” and will now turn the entire interview into a hunt for the answer to a single question: “How much parenting will you require on the job?” You’ll think you’re dazzling the person with stories about how you raised $500k for a charity group in college, and the interviewer will be thinking, “Baloney. I wonder what favors Daddy called in to help you pull that off.” But s/he’ll never say it… you’ll just never hear back from him/her.
To protect yourself from such (mis)attributions, you need to immediately re-frame the conversation the moment you make contact. Previous lessons have covered how to convey interpersonal and other skills. Here are some ways to make sure that you come across as professional, too:
If you can do all this, you’ll be lightyears ahead of your competition! (How do you stand out given all these constraints? First, by being GOOD AT WHAT YOU DO; second, by being crisp, tight, and controlled. Think of pop musicians: you can spot the formula from a mile away, yet you can also clearly tell the good ones from the wanna-be’s! Finally, you are allowed to take risks… just take them purposefully. Don’t waste your risk-taking on something silly like your wardrobe.)
Bust out the video-recorder! For this one, you’ll need a friend to help you. Have them put you through a mock job interview. Record yourself and then watch it, noting any “tells,” leftover teenager behaviors, and nervous tics. The interview should feel contrived… that’s the point. When you get into the real interview, you will feel as nervous and weird as you do being mock-interviewed by your friend, so watching how you react now will give you some clues as to how you will react during the real deal. Also, dress up for it so you can see how you look: are you trying too hard? Do you look like you’re going on a date right after the interview? Or are you professional, crisp, and ready for action?
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