Job Interview Tip: Think Inside the Box

I was once asked at a job interview to provide a couple examples of my greatest strength, attention to detail. Now let’s be clear, I had prepared some reasonable examples, from stories about proof-reading at a previous job, to my technique for writing a carefully planned and well-focused thesis.

Unfortunately, since I was nervous, my brain kind of panicked. And I was left with nothing more than the thought of my boyfriend commenting on how throughly I packed for a day at the lake.

Hoping for one of these days via ellefeeney

So I blurted out “Well, I think you can see attention to detail in all aspects of my life; from working in a lab setting to packing for a picnic. I’m not the type of person who forgets the serving spoon“.

Oh dear.

Let’s just say I didn’t land that job. For someone who prides myself on my attentiveness to details, I really dropped the ball. And, although my failure to land the job was probably not likely defined by my one strange answer, it was a very poor response since it was unrelated to the position that I was interviewing for. This likely made it difficult for the hiring manager to see how I would fit into their organization.

When it comes too job interviews, thinking inside the box may be a better strategy than coming at the interviewer from left field. The job interview is supposed to provide you with an opportunity to explain how you would fit into a particular role – which means that you should try to focus a little more on the way you can fit into a company. Make sure that your examples match up with something relevant and save the humor for later.

So, keeping this post a little short, before you go into an interview, think about ways that you can best describe your skill-set as it relates to the job you’re interviewing for. And don’t beat yourself up if you have a little stumble (as I did). These slip-ups are great learning opportunities!

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The Importance of Maintaining a Positive Outlook While Seeking Employment

Mantra Mar 7

(Photo credit: That Girl Crystal)

It’s a rough time to be searching for a job. But dwelling on the current job market won’t help you find employment.

In fact, Scientific studies that examine the impact of a positive outlook on job seeking success have indicated that a positive outlook correlates to a more successful job search. And why shouldn’t it?

Positive people are easier to be around! It’s no wonder they see more success.

There are a number of areas where positivity can improve your job seeking results. From increasing your momentum when researching employers and job postings, to shining through when social networking and writing your resume/cover letter, right through to the job interview phase. Maintaining a positive attitude will help to set you apart from a crowd of people who are just dragging themselves through the job seeking process. And, of course, it will help you to feel better as you do it. What’s not to love?

Of course it’s not always easy to maintain a positive outlook when you’re facing harsh competition, limited opportuities, and months of rejection. Here are a few tips to help you maintain an optimistic outlook during your job search:

1. Remind yourself of the great gifts that you have.  Reflect on your skills, experiences, and strengths. You are the master of your own thoughts, so why not focus on what you’re capable of?

2. Treat yourself to a reward when you achieve a victory, no matter how small. For example, enjoy a night off with your friends or significant other with no mention of “stress”, “unemployment”, or those other dreary thoughts that get you down. Surrounding yourself with positive people will give you a boost like no other.

3. Try new things. This is your chance to put yourself out there and take on some personal development. Try a class, volunteer, work part-time, join a professional/networking group, and give yourself some room to grow.

4. Speak positively about yourself. The next time you catch yourself speaking poorly of yourself, STOP! Be your own publicist; start talking about how determined you are to find a job, or how you’re moving forward in your search. Let others take cues from how you speak about yourself.

5. Stop obsessing about the past and the future. You can only live in the present, so make it your daily mission to put your best foot forward. Try starting off each day by writing down a to-do list and make it your goal to accomplish each task. Large tasks like finding employment are best tackled one step at a time.

6. Take rejection in stride. Try to take away one lesson from each rejection, whether it’s a new interview question, or a skill-set that you probably-should-have pushed a little more. Put these lessons to use at your next interview and remember that this is all a learning process.

Only you can control how you feel – and no one is going to force you to be an optimist. Even optimists feel defeated at times, but they continue to shine because they can get back up and learn from their mistakes.

Lilacs and butterflies via ellefeeney

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Know What you Want and Work Towards It With Cat-Like Dedication

I’ve been questioning for a long time whether I should write a series on the lessons that I’ve picked up from watching my cat. She’s really a tiny grey ball of passion, ruthless dedication to her causes, and intense focus. These are cat-like traits that us people-folk would be lucky to have. So I’m going to try it out… cat-themed inspirational posts.

Oh, you didn’t know? I’m that person.

Cat wanting out

This is what I want, now I make it happen

The first cat-lesson is this: Know what you want and work towards your goal. This comes at a time when my delicate indoor kitty wants nothing more than the freedom to explore the backyard and eat grass until she explodes. She has a goal and she pursues it. Relentlessly. By sitting next to the door; picking at the weather stripping; and howling whenever someone is in earshot. It’s annoying, but occasionally someone breaks and takes her outside for a little adventure.

How does this lesson apply to you? Well, if you’re reading this I assume that you’re trying to improve something in your life. Maybe you’re a recent graduate like me, who searches endlessly for employment in my field. Or maybe you have employment, but you’re looking for something more rewarding to suit your interests? Of maybe you’re just in a rut and looking to get out? It’s time to figure out what you want and start pursuing it!

Where do you see yourself going? Which activities make you excited? Which jobs and experiences in the past have made you want to wake up on a Monday morning? Are all these questions reminding you of one of those ‘parachute job seeker books’?  Good! Because you need to have an idea of where you’re going before you can set out.

Write out your aspirations – make a collage – start an inspiration board – whatever works for you. Now that you know what you’re aiming for, start working. Create a plan – are you going to call a bunch of businesses that interest you? Or talk to a mentor whose been there before? Whatever your plan is, you need to commit to it. And pursue it relentlessly. And if it falls through, try again from a different angle.

You only have one life to live, so go for it! Like my cat (might) think “I’m going to get what I want, one way or another…”

Bonne chance :)


Recent Graduates: A Worthwhile Career Guide (review)

If there’s one career guide that university students and graduates should check out, it’s You Majored in What?: Mapping Your Path from Chaos to Career
by Katharine Brooks.

This book has provided me with a lot of inspiration for blog posts about job skills acquired from part-time work as a sales associate and research assistant, as well as a great amount of reflection on my goals and skill set. It’s also provided me with tips for writing resumes that are worth reading and answering tough interview questions. It’s become an invaluable tool in my job search.

I’ll be honest: I jumped around while reading this book and I didn’t complete all of the writing exercises; regardless, I took away the lessons I needed and many more.

What did I like about this book? It was thoroughly inspirational and advice-packed. The author spoke in a voice that was authoritative, yet understanding, and provided a positive outlook on job searching. It was written for someone in exactly my situation.

The resume writing and interview tips proved invaluable – but I learned the most from the chapter that outlined the 10 types of mindsets. It provided an outline of each mindset, including a description, it’s importance in the workplace, and ways to develop it for future use. Understanding my strengths and weaknesses in these terms proved invaluable for job interviews, where you are often asked to describe your strengths.

I’ve already recommended this book to a friend, who gave it a positive review as well. I really recommend it to anyone who is in university or has recently graduated – it will give you the spark that you need to think outside the box when searching for your dream career.