Time to Shine
Halloween is a time where everyone can dress up as someone or something different. I still love seeing the neighborhood kids walk around in costumes, some very creative. It is a day when everyone pretends for a few hours while being tricked or grabbing sugar-high-inducing treats (I’m totally guilty of giving those). Last year I dressed up as a Chicago Cubs baseball player. Although Anthony Rizzo is my guy, a talented player from the 2016 World Series team and my celebrity crush - sorry, hubby ;), I honored my all-time favorite player from the ‘80’s/’90’s era, Ryne Sandberg. Who says adults can’t have fun on Halloween? Kidding aside, though, when the day is over, we put away our alter-egos and go back to being ourselves. When we seek out that first job out of college or decide to pivot roles in our career, how do we stay being our true selves?
I recently decided to pursue a job change in a different organization, and went through the interviewing process. As a true Project Manager would, I strategized my plan - determined my goal, took inventory of my successes and learnings in my current role, updated my resume and LinkedIn, and thought of my approach and timing. In that soul-searching exercise, I applied that age-old advice that everyone’s high-school counselor tells them - participate in other activities that make you stand out from anyone else. As high school students prepare for college, admissions officers always like to see what students have done other than focus on their grades. Are good grades important? Absolutely. But admissions officers want to see the human side of applicants - what they do to help the community, sports they were a part of, part-time or summer jobs, or other activities that help them shine as an individual. Same thought process applies to college graduates looking for their first career role. What activities have potential candidates participated in throughout their college experience that they can transfer into an entry-level role (and no, not winning a beer pong championship)? Employers look for leadership qualities, communication skills, openness to learn and be coachable, and experiences of overcoming set-backs that are essential to have in any professional role. I take that thought process with me even as a professional - taking inventory of what I’ve accomplished, failed at but learned from, and leveraging my strengths and passions to be my own advocate for a new role.
I have grown as a person over the past few years. Not only have I polished my skills as a PM, but I’ve gained so much more experience I can take with me anywhere I go. With the encouragement of many, I joined Toastmasters. My original intention was to reduce the number of filler words I used, especially when speaking and presenting to executive management. I ended up fueling my true passion in public speaking! I realized I have the gift of voice and can make a positive impact. It also brought out the leader in me as I took on an officer role, and the healthy competitiveness earned my title as an award-winning speaker! I also fueled another passion, writing, and am now a Content Creator. I used these qualities in promoting myself for a role, and you can do the same with your passions. When you decide to go for it, here are ways of showcasing yourself when interviewing for any role:
Soul-Search: What role are you looking to have? Want a new challenge or an opportunity to develop a new skill set? How did you get to where you’re at today? What contributions did you make that can benefit a new organization? Document your thoughts on your resume and LinkedIn profile. As you apply for positions, this information will help you frame your next step.
Practice Your Elevator Speech: This is the time to showcase yourself and let the recruiting team, especially hiring managers, know why you are the best fit for the role. Bring your best foot forward by being succinct in your response while capturing and articulating your best qualities and skills.
Be Prepared But Be Genuine: Many of today’s employers use the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) when assessing candidates for a role. Be prepared to discuss situations you faced, both positive and negative in your current role, and what you contributed to a success or resolving a challenge. Be genuine in your responses, not tailoring it to what the interviewer wants to hear, but rather tell your story of the tactical and emotional intelligence demonstrated in that situation. When I interviewed candidates for a role on my team, I paid attention to the sincerity of their responses, including body language. The important thing is to not hide behind an alter-ego but be yourself.
We all learn from interviewing experiences. Sometimes we get a different perspective on a role or company after interviewing, than what was in the job description or our research about them. We learn about the company culture and we see ourselves naturally fitting into that culture, or maybe not. We sometimes feel great about an interviewing experience yet were informed we were not chosen to move forward with the process, but feel optimistic we will eventually find the true fit. Sometimes we don’t feel great about an interview but learn from our mistakes and move on. When stars do align and there is a mutual fit, we feel we are on top of the world and we can conquer anything. How will you shine?