Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Interview Not Going Too Hot?

If you’re crushing your interview (in the best sense of the word), you’ll often see some reassuring non-verbal cues—the interviewer might smile as you diplomatically answer a trick question or nod when you talk about your management style.

Along similar lines, if you’re crushing your interview (in the worst sense of the word), you may pick up a general sense of disinterest: An interviewer who’s tapping her foot, staring at the clock, or failing to ask follow-up questions isn’t exactly a good sign.

So, what can you do when it’s just not clicking? Can you salvage the interview?

You absolutely can, by employing one of the top skills interviewers look for: thinking on your feet. Look at a rocky start as an opportunity to show how you can adapt and get back in the game—just keep in mind the do's and dont's of course correcting mid-interview.

Don’t: Call it Out:
Ever notice how the most awkward thing about a situation can be someone saying, “awkward?” The same applies for interviews. If your first few answers felt strained, you might feel like you should jump in and clear the air (“I feel like we got off to a disjointed start… ”), but definitely don’t. Instead, focus on making your future answers as strong as possible.

Odds are, this is not your interviewer’s first time around the block; meaning, if you started shaky, he’s already noticed. But the good news is: He will also notice that your answers got better as soon as you settled. He’ll likely attribute the beginning to nerves and move on (that is, unless you keep reminding him that the beginning of the conversation was off!).

Do: Take a Quick Inventory:
While you should keep your concerns to yourself, you most definitely should not ignore them. Try to do a quick assessment of what might be turning the interviewer off: Did you simply flub one answer, or are you doing something more, like rambling, looking at the floor, or only speaking to one interviewer?

Before your next answer, take just a moment to collect yourself. And as you answer the next question, focus on all of the interview training you have—sit up straight, make good eye contact, and speak clearly, confidently, and concisely.

Don’t: Be Afraid to Change it Up:
Remember, consistency is only a virtue when you’re on the right path. So if you feel the interview going downhill, don’t be afraid to change tactics. Have you been formally addressing the staff as Mr. and Mrs.? It might make sense to loosen things up and say, “May I call you Sara?” Speaking to your interviewer like a colleague will make the interview feel more collegial, and it might be just the change of pace you need.

Alternatively, if you made a joke and it bombed, don’t keep trying—you’ll want to answer everything else by the book.

Do: Take the Lead:
If you find yourself answering simple questions (think “how do you manage your time?”) and waiting for follow-up questions that never come—you don’t have to suffer in silence, waiting for the interviewer to make the next move. Instead, take the lead and create your own follow-up.

For example, you could answer the time management question briefly, then continue with, “A time I employed these skills was…” You can also try, “Does that answer your question, or is there anything else I can share?” Or, you can use a bout of silence to ask your own questions: “How do others on the team manage their time and projects?” Any of these approaches would be good segues into further conversation—and good ways to fill those awkward silences.

Don’t: Take it Too Personally:
So, what if you take an inventory, sit straighter, and try to initiate follow-ups, and your interviewer still seems icy? Consider that the lack of affirmation may be a tactic: Some interviewers are harder on top candidates to see how they handle curve balls and perform under pressure. (Confession: I’ve done this.) Additionally, some companies have a rigid interview protocol for hiring managers to ensure they don’t appear to show bias or favoritism.

So don’t internalize it and think, “This interview isn't going well because I’m doing something wrong,” and instead, try: “This is a challenge that I’m going to demonstrate I can meet!” By simply staying positive and professional, you’ll rise above the candidates who visibly falter under the additional stress.

Do: Follow Up as Usual:
After such a tough experience, you may be thinking that a thank you note isn't worth it, or that you might as well make “worst. interview. ever.” your status update. But remember: Until you officially have an answer in hand, the verdict is still out. So it’s important to keep things professional.

This means doing all the same follow-up you would if the interview had gone well—i.e., writing a stellar thank you note to each of your interviewers. It’s always worthwhile to leave a great impression, and who knows where you really stand in the candidate pool.

Elevator Pitches: A Follow Up On My Wikipedia Post

About a month ago I wrote a blog entry about elevator pitches. My post divulged into the importance of creating an elevator pitch for young professionals, when and how it can be used and how to build one. 

For the purpose of the post, in looking to define "elevator pitch" I noticed that specific details I deemed important were not discussed on the Elevator Pitch Wikipedia page. I decided to tack on information discussing why an elevator speech is important and what an elevator pitch should include. 

Today I checked back on the Elevator Pitch Wikipedia post, to see if my add on's were left for curious readers. Unfortunately, I came to find that my edits were removed!

I guess someone thought the added details were not worth mentioning. However, I continue to emphasize just how useful elevator pitches are, for everything from creating cover letters, to email or interview introductionsfrom mentor requests to casual networking encounters and leaving voice mails.  

The elevator pitch is so important because it is the first thing that people ever hear or read about you and sets the stage for why a person should spend time looking at your resume which leads to an interview which leads to the job offer! 

I cannot emphasize just how much  an elevator pitch can help round out your job hunting arsenal. Even though Wikipedia doesn't seem to agree, it's important to write one! If you need help writing your pitch, my entry on elevator pitches gives some good ideas on how to get started.

Introducing: 5 Item Mondays

Got a case of the Mondays? I'm here to help get you packed, and ready to go!

I’m launching a new regular feature: 5 Item Monday— that allows you to peek into the desks, backpacks, purses and closets of awesome, young professionals. Let these "5 Item Monday" posts inspire you when packing your bag and getting ready for your work week!

Meet Erica Moss, an energetic and motivated online marketing coordinator for Ann Taylor. In her free time, she enjoys exploring NYC with her English bulldog, Mona. she also adores TV, photography, pop culture, cured and twitter.

Erica, show us whats on your desk!

Moleskine Notebook: While almost 100% of my job is executed online, there will never be a replacement for pen and paper. This beautiful notebook is perfect for jotting down notes during a meeting, or brainstorming for the next quarter’s projects at my desk.

Sunglasses: You never know when you might have to run out for a quick meeting over coffee, or perhaps take a much-needed break for ice cream on a hot, summer day. In my book, it doesn’t get any better than Warby Parker, and they donate a pair for every pair sold. Check out the Paley, Preston, Everett and Madison — for starters.

Notecards: Never let anyone tell you the handwritten note is dead. These little diddies are great for congratulating a co-worker on a recent promotion, or leaving a simple note to thank someone for his or her help on a particularly challenging project.

iPad Mini: This is my favorite necessity that’s not really a necessity. It’s just pretty to look at, and I use it to keep track of my social media mentions throughout the day, and also to jot down to-do lists and ideas, both personal professional. It fits in the palm of my hand and can travel with me anywhere, either in its case or tossed in my purse. Must-have app: Netflix.

MacBook Pro: If you couldn’t already tell, I’m an Apple girl, so a MacBook is essential in keeping me at my most efficient. I find that they’re more intuitive than their PC comrades, and are more conducive to the types of creative projects I’m tasked with. I like to personalize mine a bit, even though it’s for work, with the Kate Spade theme for Chrome and lovely wallpapers that add a little pop of color. Life-saver apps: Jing and Spotify.

So get to packin' readers and don't forget these essentials to jump start your work week!

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Life of a Young Professional

Balancing classes, a part-time job, an internship, homework and social activities can be tough. So when the topic of finding a mentor comes up, many collegiates shrug off the idea because there just aren't enough hours in the day.  While having a mentor won't make-or-break your chance at career success, having a good mentor can be extremely helpful when you're looking for career advice, job opportunities or even just a role model who's already succeeded at something you'd like to do. 

I met my mentor my freshman year of college. Not only was he a person I could go to for help, advice and guidance, he became a great friend and significantly helped (and is still helping) me through the post graduate transition into the “real world.” Learning from his experiences, even if they were different from my own, has proven invaluable as I settle in to my new life as a young professional.

My interview features my mentor and friend Kevin Fallon. He graduated from Fordham University in 2011 and currently works for KPMG. I conducted my interview with Kevin in hopes to shed some light on what life is like for young professionals, and the changes (the good, the bad and the ugly) that one may go through after graduation.

Q. Tell me about your current position (what you're doing, what your day to day is like, what excites you about your job).
A. In my current position as a Transactions and Restructuring associate at KPMG advisory I help my clients evaluate the financial risks and opportunities of company's they are considering acquiring. My daily responsibilities include analyzing financial data, maintaining our requests for information for our clients and summarizing our findings into PowerPoint presentation reports. In my job I get to learn a great deal about a company in a very short period of time. Understanding the unique challenges companies face in different industries is an exciting and constantly changing challenge.  

Q. How did you get to where you are today?
A. KPMG is a signature Partner of Fordham Career Services. I was fortunate enough to interview with them on campus. I started as an intern my sophomore year of college, I began interning at KPMG within their audit department. Toward the end of my internship I expressed interest in KPMG's mergers and acquisitions business. After networking within the company and interviewing internally I was given the opportunity to start my career in the transactions and restructuring division. 

Q. What advice do you have for a post-grad going through the job search?
A. I would encourage post-grads to push forward and not get frustrated. Also try to use the search as an opportunity to continue learning. Each position you apply to is an opportunity to learn about a company or profession. Take each of those opportunities and you will continue to build a valuable knowledge base which you can use going forward. Finally get creative!!! Everyone knows the basic job search tactics but the person who gets creative and goes above and beyond is the person who will get the job. 

Q. Would you say this was a dream job for you?
A. One day I would really like to own my own business and this has always been a dream of mine.  I believe my current job will give me the skills I need to get to that point in the future so from  that perspective it is a dream job. (Or at least a building-to-a-dream job.)

Q. What has been the toughest part of your post-grad life thus far?
A. Balancing the demands of work against my personal life and being with my girlfriend is the most difficult part of post-grad life. While a career is important, at the end of the day it is your family and friends who make you happy and it is important to never forget that.

Q. What obligations does your employer expect of you outside of the work week? Are there organizations you are expected to join? Are there social commitments? How has your job affected your lifestyle?
A. At times my group can require a decent amount of weekend and late-night work. The work week takes on a slightly different definition in this line of work. In addition to the demands of work there are also social demands including client networking, business travel and internal networking. While these events can be fun, in time the fun turns into a burden, which is one of the reasons it is difficult if not impossible to remain in the field long term. 

Q. What advice do you have for others who may want a career like yours?
A. My advice is a little less specific to my career focus, but more to my path; always be open minded, but be focused on what you want. This sounds conflicting, but being open minded allows you to see more things as potential opportunities. By focusing on what you want to accomplish, you can filter these opportunities and chase the ones you feel will get you closer to your goal.

Goals will always change and evolve, but always keep focused on what you want to achieve. A great way to find these opportunities is by getting out and talking to people. Take every chance you can to learn as much as you can about someone else. You can never accomplish anything all alone.

Q. What do you think has been your greatest professional accomplishment so far?
A. During a slow patch at work I wrote a proposal for a new internal protocol and platform which affects how we send work requests to our overnight/offshore India team.  The proposal was taken up by our management and is currently planned for FY14 development. This project was a rewarding accomplishment for me because it solved a problem we faced on a regular basis and earned recognition across the organization. 

Q. What do you like to do in your spare time, outside of work?
A. I love to go on adventures and try new things with my girlfriend and friends. I also love finding and searching for old collectibles.

Q. Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
A. I see myself focusing more in my personal life and less on my professional development. I also expect to be wrapping up any corporate career and beginning to look for opportunities to start a small business and work for myself.

I hope this post provided a bit of insight into the life of a young professional. Having a mentor will help you learn what to expect during this time, and help ease the new and challenging process!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Me No Speak Interview: Real Interview Translations

Four Common Interview Questions and What They Really Mean...

Acing the interview isn’t just about having the perfect canned speeches. Yes, you need to show off your experience, talents, and personality, but before answering each question, you also have to figure out what the interviewer is actually asking you.

Those seemingly innocuous questions, like “tell me about yourself” and “where do you see yourself in a few years?” aren't just get-to-know-you conversation starters. They’re one of the key ways an interviewer will seek to uncover whether you’re the right fit for the job. So, before you start to share your life story—or recite the same answer you gave at the last interview—it’s important to figure out what the interviewer really wants to know.

Question: Tell me about yourself.
Translation: Tell me why you’re the right fit for this job.

The interviewer already has your resume and cover letter, so she’s not looking for a rundown of your employment history. Nor does she care that you grew up in Westchester county and love to jog on the weekends. She’s looking for a concise, compelling pitch that keeps her attention, and tells her exactly why you’re the right fit for the job. So, while this is a good time to paint a broad picture of who you are, it’s most important that you include a couple of key facts that will sell you as the right candidate.

Think about the 2-3 specific accomplishments or experiences that you most want the interviewer to know about, and share them during this opportunity. You can frame your stories or tie them together using a theme or a quote, if appropriate, such as “My boss at xyz told me that fundraising is really building relationships, and that’s the approach I've taken throughout my career. For example…”

It’s also a good idea to practice your answer aloud, record it, then listen to your pitch. Are you engaging? Are you rambling? Are you getting your most important points across loud and clear? (Pssst: this is good advice for any interview question!)

Question: How would you explain our organization’s mission?
Translation: Can you be an ambassador for our organization?

Any candidate can read and regurgitate the company’s “About” page. So, when an interviewer asks you this, she isn’t necessarily trying to gauge whether you understand the mission, she wants to know whether you care about it, and she’s looking for the person in the applicant pool who can most effectively discuss the organization’s work and its impact. So, in addition to doing your research on the company’s work, think about concrete ways it relates to your passions and experiences, and weave them into your answer.

Start with a sentence or two that shows you understand the mission, using a couple key words and phrases from the website, but then go on to make it personal. Say, “I’m personally drawn to this mission because…” or “I really believe in this approach because…” and share a personal example or two. For example, if you’re interviewing at a school that stresses character, share some specific character-building education activities you’ve led for students at your last job. If you’re interviewing for a position at a hospital, talk about the 5K you recently ran to raise money for leukemia, or your passion for volunteering your time to help children with terminal illness.

Question: Where do you see yourself in five years?
Translation: Do you care about our work?

Hiring someone is an investment, and interviewers believe (as you would expect) that someone genuinely interested in the organization’s work will be the better hire. So, what she really wants to know is whether this particular job and company is part of your career path, or whether you’ll be jumping ship in a year once you land your “real” dream job.

So how should you answer? If the position you’re interviewing for is on the track to your goals, share that, plus give some specifics. For example, if you’re interviewing for an account executive position an advertising firm, and you know your goal is to become an account supervisor, say that. And then add specifics about the sort of clients you hope to work with, which will help your answer sound genuine, not canned and again show why this particular company will be a good fit.

If the position isn't necessarily a one-way ticket to your goals, the best approach is to be genuine, but to follow your answer up by connecting the dots between the specific duties in this role and your future goals. Discuss how you see this experience playing an important role in helping you make that decision, or that you’re excited about the management or communications skills you’ll gain.

Question: Do you have any questions for us?
Translation: Have you really been listening?

It’s easy to go into an interview with a list of questions about the position. But the tougher part and what the interviewer really wants to see is whether you can roll with the punches, engage in the conversation, and ask questions that weren't already answered over the course of the interview.

This will require some thinking on your feet. As you’re going along in the interview, be thinking which key areas haven’t been covered yet, so you can target your questions there. You can also prepare ahead of time by thinking of more non-traditional questions, or ask questions targeted to the interviewer herself, which probably won’t be covered in the interview. Try things like: What you like most about working here? What drew you to work for this organization? What do you think are the current strategic challenges facing the organization? What advice would you give to someone in this role?

5 Books to Read For Career Success

If you're anything like me, after four years of intense reading and writing, the last thing you want to do is pick up a book. In fact, many of us never pick up a book again, which can be pretty detrimental to our post-grad career. 

I'm not suggesting you read the type of book about cosmopolitanism you were dreadfully assigned in Composition II, half read but still managed to write a killer report on. Nor am I suggesting you pick up a history book. Instead, there are plenty of books written about career advancement and how to survive after college, many of which offer advice and inspiration to us college graduates trying to find their way in the real world.

 Here are 5 books new grads should read for career success. ( Okay, okay, I admit I did not read them all, but a few of them I did, and the ones I didn't were recommended to me by close friends and they are just as great.)

1. What Color is Your Parachute by Richard N. Bolles

It’s not a book about jumping out of an airplane (the appropriate title for that would be God, I Hope I Have My Parachute), but instead it’s about developing goals and learning about what your strengths and weaknesses are. It’s almost like a career journal. The best part is that it’s time-tested: It’s been helping college graduates for more than 40 years, coming out with new editions annually.

I was actually assigned this book in a class I took titled "Leadership Concepts and Cases". The book boosted my confidence significantly as it relates to starting a career path. I highly recommend it.

2. What Should I Do With My Life by Po Bronson

Whoa. Kind of a heavy question for a book title. But the cool thing about this book is that, through individual stories, it helps readers understand that not everyone knows exactly what they want to do fresh out of college or high school. Sometimes, it’s just life experience that shapes people and how they get to where they are.

3. Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi

One thing your college or university might not teach you is how to network. They educate you in the ways of book-smarts and facts, but when it comes to having relationships with people, that’s not always on the agenda. This book is out to supplement that education. I spoke about this book a bit in a previous post.

4. Do What You Are by Paul D. Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger

If you like taking personality tests and quizzes, then this is the book for you. Do What You Are’s aim is to help people identify their personality types and from there discover what jobs for which they may be suited.

I just recently finished this book. A mentor of mine sent this with a card on behalf of my graduation. (I wish it was a check... but hey, you can't win em' all) I already had in my mind what jobs I'm suited for but the book helped me reflect on myself and my personality as it relates to my strengths and weaknesses.

5. Oh, The Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss

Sure, it’s a children’s book, but it offers a lot of amazing adult advice (plus, it’s short!). What’s written can be applied to most any career situation, and it also helps post-grads get out of the “college bubble” their university often unintentionally puts them in.

Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.
Except when you don’t.
Because, sometimes, you won’t.

Me and a BUNCH of my other friends got this book as Grad-gifts. ( I guess its a go-to?) My aunt almost had me fooled in believing it was a one of a kind gift.

Post Grad Time Mangement Challenged: How To Maintain a Work-life Balance

When I made the transition from classroom to cubeland, the biggest bear I faced was time management. Students usually have the luxury of having at least a few days before turning in an assignment, whereas professionals schedules are never constant, and often have tasks that were due 10 minutes ago.

Instead of becoming overwhelmed, be prepared for these moments by practicing good time management.

Use these tips as a reference:

1. Find A System That Works For You
There are countless ways to systematically organize your time and responsibilities. Choosing the system that works best with your personality will  make adding agenda items easy to maintain, ensuring follow-through of tasks. Checklists and calendars are two common examples, but even the components within these systems are complex (e.g. digital vs. notebook, color coding vs. separate pages). For me, Outlook’s built-in checklist feature makes it easy to link specific emails to tasks, which I can assign a priority and deadline. For my more personal tasks I keep a little notebook where I list my "to do" for the day. As I finish a task I cross it off. Any task I don't complete I carry on to the "to do" list for the next day. I write the list the night before, right before going to bed. Keeping it visual allows me to set short term goals and long term goals.

2. Get It Right The First Time
So much of your day can be wasted if your work requires heavy revisions. Successfully completing tasks the first time will not only allow you to keep your other deadlines, it also helps your colleagues keep theirs. Ask your supervisor questions before you begin an assignment to clarify what the end product should look like. If you feel a task is taking longer than necessary to complete, ask another staffer if they know a shortcut. Discovering efficient methods rewards you with more time in your day to accomplish other tasks. Don't do work just to get it done, do it in terms of efficiency. 

3. Prioritize And Manage Expectations
Working on multiple accounts or having multiple supervisors is a recipe for miscommunication. Managers rarely discuss the things on your plate, so it’s your job to raise flags when you have competing deadlines. Talking through assignments will sometimes uncover some flexibility in deadlines; maybe your supervisor has a long meeting at the time you were originally tasked to turn something in for review. I don’t recommend you challenge every assignment, but do speak up when it is necessary.