How Did I Get Here?

Today was the first day of a new job for me. While usually the first day is the worst, (because who actually likes walking into a company and having no idea what is going on) today was pretty cool. It’s a great company. I had a bunch of tasks already listed for me to work on. Thus far in my career, I haven’t had that happen.  Typically, I am placed in a position and am either expected or encouraged to just figure out my tasks on my own.  

While it was a great day today I couldn’t help but repeatedly ask myself  how did I get here?  And I didn’t ask myself this in a surreal, holy-crap-I-got-a-job way.  I was trying to understand why they picked me in the hiring process.  The further into the work I got, the more invested I became (already)! At the end of my first day, I was feeling like I had not only accomplished something but made a contribution that will impact my team positively down the road.  That is huge. 

So why was I questioning how I got to where I am? 

If your like me, you’ll understand when I say that I replayed the interview in my head, over and over and over again.  Each time I thought over what I said,  and kept thinking “oh I liked what I said but I should’ve added …..”  When I got the phone call last week about the job offer I nearly flipped out of my seat with excitement.  I had honestly thought that I wasn’t going to get this position.  I felt I provided decent answers to the questions, but nothing spectacular.  I wasn’t any Moses parting the Red Sea.   Apparently, I was wrong.  

With this being said, I think I want to ask one of my interviewers what they thought of me in my interview, and furthermore ask what it was about me that stuck out.  I’ve heard before of my peers getting some good feedback from supervisors at their interviews before, but it has never happened to me. My previous boss simply said “you did fine with our interview” of course I did fine, you hired me! But “fine” doesn’t tell me what employers think of me. If they’re was something that this company liked than there has to be something that the next company will like too. Maybe I can play on the strengths my interviewers saw in me. It’s all about building your career, which takes time. These little wins or pullers, are going to help me in the long run! 

Knowing your core values

I took a class in college that had to do with job hunting, starting from the basics.  Interests, hobbies and values being the very first steps we all should be taking in order to find a job that we will enjoy.  There is a lot to discover about yourself and your needs in a job that will make you a better job hunter.

I walked into an interview not too long ago with the hopes of landing “the job” and working in a field that I had no experience in. The position was in the educational field which I had been working in for almost a year and I wanted to sell to them that I knew the field.  I thought that I could show my interviewers that I would be hard working, a quick learner and that I wanted to take on the challenge of having no previous experience in business/accounting.  I prepared for the interview as much as I could.  I viewed their LinkedIn profiles, researched the company and visited the job description NUMEROUS times.   One of my references even endorsed me with this company, making me think I had the upper hand to other candidates.  The moment I got called into the interview room, I should have turned around and left.  It didn’t feel right from the get-go, but I wanted to make the best of this interview and I wanted to feel accomplished by landing “the job”. My interviewers asked their questions, I answered and did my best to offer the best responses to their repeated questions.  It felt like we were all just going in circles.  They were asking the same questions and I was giving the same answers.  There were long awkward pauses and it felt…. weird.

As the awkward pauses became increasingly difficult to ignore, I thought Why is this going so poorly?  Why are we still doing this?  I don’t think I want to work here.   I had wanted a job so badly that I almost overlooked the fact that this really wasn’t what I wanted.  I didn’t want to disappoint my referencer by not getting the job.  I didn’t want to disappoint my family for not making a good living with a good paying job.   But my family will never stop loving me and this is not going to disappoint anyone.  As long as I am happy, everyone else is happy.  Duh Kendra.  I almost threw my core value of enjoying my job out the window, in order to have a job and to please others.  The “others” being unrealistic thoughts that I created in my head.

If you need a job, then you need a job, but that experience for me truly would have been settling when I aspire for something better.  To be happy and get to where you want to be, you really want to understand yourself first.  I know that I want to love what I do for a living and that I want to help others.  Working with money and big numbers wouldn’t have matched either one of those criteria for me.  For you, it might have matched your criteria, and that is great!  You should know these things about yourself before you even begin to apply for any position though.  Some things to consider about yourself:

  • What motivates you (i.e. money)
  • Do you want to be in an office setting
  • What kind of leadership do you seek in a boss
  • Do you like working as a team
  • How do you feel about conflict in the workplace
  • How much free time outside of work do you want/need
  • Are you a people person. Why or why not
  • What are your hobbies/interests

For some of these bullet points think about the polar opposite as well.  If you can pin point what does motivate you, also try to pinpoint what does not motivate you.  You might be able to avoid a situation like mine, where I walked right into a place that wasn’t going to motivate me.  I suggest writing these things down for yourself to see a visual of these values.  You might not refer back to them, or you might hang it on your ceiling and look at it every night.  Regardless, it is always a good tool to know yourself and what you’re all about.  When you fill out an application you can then convey your needs better.  Then when you get to that interview (because you can get there) you can effectively communicate why you are the best fit.

I recommend anyone to take this step to evaluate their “energizers” in life now, whether if you are looking for employment or not.  If you realize that you fear asking your boss for anything (avoiding conflict being something you value), then you might be able to overcome the fear and muster up the courage to ask for that raise you deserve.  Self reflection is good for everyone at any stage in life.  Of course, I am suggesting you do it with your career, because people rarely think to self reflect in this manner.

“Do you have any questions for us?”

In light of my upcoming interview I thought I would discuss the question that comes up at the end of every interview ever.  This question is essential to be ready for.  Your interviewer(s) will ALWAYS (and if they don’t, comment and let me know!) ask you this question and there is a right and wrong answer.  First the wrong answer:

Q: Do you have any questions for us?

A: No

OR

A: No I think I understand everything

Why it is the wrong answer:  No matter how you say it, even if you are very nice, polite and say that you fully understand everything about the position it is still not a good way to end an interview.  You might think you are doing everything right by letting your interviewer know that you have a grasp on the position and that you would be the ideal candidate, but the interviewer wants to hear you ask something to show more interest in the position/company.  By saying “no” you are not showing that you want to go the extra mile for this position.  Think about it.  If you fit the criteria for a job and the company feels that you would be a good fit for the position then you might get the job.  What if John Smith who was also just as qualified in every other way decided at the end of his interview to ask his interviewer, “what is your expected growth for ASDF Company over the next several years”?  If you were an interviewer who would you be more interested in, the guy that said “I’m your ideal candidate” or the guy that said “I’m the ideal candidate, but while we are talking about your company let me ask you more about it”.  If you still are not quite convinced that John Smith would be picked over you keep reading.

Right Answer:

Q: Do you have any questions for us?

A: As a matter of fact I do….

OR

A: Yes.  You mentioned QWER and I was wondering…..

Why this is the right answer: Saying “yes” followed by asking your question is clearly the right answer from what I discussed before.  If you do ask a question it means you are invested.  However, I like to take a psychological approach behind this as well to understand why having questions are so important.  In most interviews, the interviewers have a piece of paper in front of them with a list of questions.  They go round robin, ask you their questions, you answer them, they interview the next candidate.  One key piece to an interview, is to get them to remember you in a positive way.  So what if instead of following the known procedure you mixed it up a little and get them thinking of something else?  Believe me, I’ve been the interviewer before too, they want to hear/think about something other than doing this interview.  If you ask them something about the company, it takes their mind away from the interview and gives them a chance to talk to you more about what they know and their interests.  When you give the interviewer a chance to talk about themselves, you can leave them thinking that you are the ideal candidate.  People love the opportunity to talk about themselves and have someone listen to what they have to say.  It makes us happy.  If you give them that window of opportunity to speak about themselves/company, you make yourself a better candidate.

My go to question of choice:  “What is your favorite part about your job?” I like asking this question because it gets them to think about their daily job duties and is making them think of the positives.  If they are thinking positively about their job, their last impression of me is that I could have a positive impact on the company.  It’s totally psychological and maybe it is just my theory, but I think it works pretty well.  Furthermore, I like to ask because I am genuinely interested.  Yes, it is kind of a manipulation tool, but I do want to know what people like about their jobs.  I know that I want to have passion in my career options, so if I see that passion in someone else I can get a better sense if I will get what I want out of the company.  It depends on what drives you but for me this is really good feedback to have at an interview.  At my latest place of employment, the answer that I got to that question in my interview was “I wake up everyday and look forward to everything about my job, the good the bad and the ugly.”  That answer was a selling point for me that I wanted this job just as much as he wanted me there.  It bounces off the idea that you are interviewing them as well.

There are so many other questions you can ask as well.  This is just one of my questions I like to ask.  There are more depending on the job.  Don’t use just this example and make it fit into your interview always.  We are all different and my experiences are not going to mirror yours.  Let me know what you think are good or bad interview questions.