Of course when you go into an interview for a position, you will have done your research. You looked into what’s going on with the company. You checked out their website. You prepared for potential questions. You have questions of your own. You reviewed your power stories.

Now realize that the people who are hiring, they have a problem. And they need to find someone who can solve that problem. So be sure you are aware of why they are hiring right now. Make that a part of your research. Begin to think in terms of how you can be a solution to that problem. That’s what they want to hear, and that’s what will make you stand out. They’re looking for a solution, and you can be that solution. Position yourself to show that you’re aware of what they intend to accomplish by hiring someone. Check in with them too. When you go into your interview, say, “I imagine that blah blah blah is a problem, and I think that I could contribute by blah.” Doing so will help you demonstrate how you want to be a solution to their problem. They’ll like that.

Much what goes on in an interview is the interviewer seeking to understand your personal brand. It is often an awkward situation because each question is basically, “What makes you the best choice for us?” And, that is such a mind trick of a question. You can get into this idea of, “Oh my gosh, is it okay to say that I’m special…that I’m the best one?” You know what, it’s okay. You have a personal brand, and they want to know about that to determine if you are going to fit into the company culture. Be okay with saying, “This is who I am. This is what I do especially well. This is how I contribute.” Take pride in that.

Prepare yourself by losing that awkwardness about how they’re going to ask you what makes you unique. What makes you better than the other applicants. Understand, that is your invitation to tell them about your personal brand. What you embody. Go ahead and be yourself and stand for something. Know in advance, who you are and what you are looking for and say it with calmness and pride. Question them too. It’s the only way to find out if the match is a good fit for you both.

On Interviewing: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 (this post), Part 5

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It is likely you may be fired at some point in the course of your career. This, of course, can come as a total shock but it is imperative to come to terms with such an experience so that you can recover quickly and be able to represent yourself well in upcoming job interviews.

Spend some time processing what happened and practice verbalizing the lessons learned in a non-emotional way. Keep a positive attitude that you are preparing to go on to bigger and better things. The reality is that even to employers these days being fired isn’t necessarily a mark against you depending on how you recover.

Many successful people have been fired at some point in their career before becoming a superstar.

On Interviewing: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 (this post), Part 4, Part 5

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I received a complimentary copy of Advance Your Image: Putting your best foot forward never goes out of style. 2nd Edition by Lori Bumgarner for review and wanted to share it with you because it is a good find and a timely topic. I received no other compensation for this review.

Lori is on a mission to propel people forward with poise and self-confidence and to bring the beauty within each person out in the best possible light. As a career advisor to college students turned image consultant to musicians, Lori has an excellent take on the big picture for how personal image plays into career development planning.

In this book, she points out the nuances of why and how to strategically manage your image for the desired result of connecting with the audience, be it a potential employer or your network of supporters. Lori champions work you can do to improve your image as a fast-track to improved self-confidence which then leads to making better first impressions and being received better by others…a win-win!

Lori also weaves together your in-person appearance with your job search marketing materials and online presence in a practical and easy to understand way. She outlines a helpful rule that I had never heard of before called the Rule of 12 within her powerful strategies for making a good first impression.

Learn more about Lori on her website, paNASHstyle.com.

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Most people don’t land a great job or create a wonderful career by being open to anything, not at all. Instead, it’s done by checking in with themselves about what they really want and going for it a hundred percent. This focus makes them more attractive candidates, too. Think about it as if you were the one hiring. You have two people to choose from. One lady has done a job for several years and is keeping her options open. The other lady is committed to being the very best at the job she knows she wants. Who would you be more likely to make an offer to?

On Interviewing: Part 1, Part 2 (this post), Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

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We typically don’t practice interviewing very often yet each interview we do have is pretty important. Here are three quick tips for interview preparation.

Tip 1 – It is best to think of an interview as a two-way discussion. Yes, often a stressful discussion but remember not only are they checking you out, you are checking them out. In fact, one of the most important actions you can take to prepare for an upcoming interview is to research the company. It is easier than ever to get on the internet, enter a search word and come up with relevant information. Most companies have a web page of their own where you can read up on company history and recent press releases. Be thinking about questions you can ask during the interview as well. Make relevant observations about what is going on with the company and ask your interviewer to comment. You may also want to consider asking some questions like the following.

  • Is this a newly created position?
  • What do you think is the most important thing for a new hire to understand about this position? This company? Or this department?
  • Why did the previous person leave this position?
  • What do you think will be the biggest challenge for the new hire?

Tip 2 – Another good way to prepare for the interview is to put together 3-5 well thought out power stories and a couple lessons learned stories. Power stories are your stories about times that you solved problems or had a positive impact in your work. Keep your power stories in a notebook in Evernote and save them forever! These stories are very important to think about in advance of the interview for responses to behavioral interviewing questions which are used very often by skilled interviewers. Behavioral interview questions are ones that ask you to describe times in the past when you solved this or that type of problem. A good format for the stories is to describe the problem, describe the action you took, then describe the result. This is called the PAR technique for Problem, Action, Result. Once you write these stories out, list in the margin the characteristics these stories demonstrate. Then you have ready answers for some questions like “Tell me about a time when _____?” or “What is your biggest strength and why?” Don’t forget to rehearse your answers out loud. It is best to have someone ask you the questions in order to practice most effectively.

Tip 3 – One often overlooked key to good interviewing to have clear starts and stops to your questions and answers. This helps to set a good rhythm for the discussion. It also demonstrates your ability to be concise and listen to others. Don’t be afraid of a few seconds of silence after you finish your answer. A good interviewer will use silence as a tool to get you to rattle on about stuff you did not intend to reveal. Also, silence is an important tool for you to learn use as well, especially come negotiation time.

On Interviewing: Part 1 (this post), Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

To learn even more about strategies for job interviewing, I highly recommend the books by Carole Martin, The Interview Coach. A great one to start with is Boost Your Interview IQ.

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“Is everything as urgent as your stress would imply?” –Carrie Latet

“What different lives we should lead if we take things by the minute!” –Gilbert-Ann Taylor

“In times of great stress or adversity, it’s always best to keep busy, to plow your anger and your energy into something positive.” –Lee Iacocca

“Hope is as cheap as despair.” –Proverb

“In times of stress, be bold and valiant.” –Horace

“They who live in worry invite death to hurry.” –Anonymous

“Men for the sake of getting a living forget to live.” –Margaret Fuller

“Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.” –Chinese Proverb

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Stress is a normal part of life. Still, like anything else, too much can be harmful to not only our mental faculties but also our physical health. It is important that we reduce and control the amount of stress in our lives.

The basic foundation of minimizing the harmful effects of stress is to eat good feeling food, move and stretch the body regularly, and adhere to a good sleep routine that leaves you well-rested. You must figure out how best to fit your unique needs in these areas. When you do, this important foundation will keep your body more robust and healthy despite stress.

Learning to let your mind free of stresses and worries is also an important stress buster. Meditation and quiet contemplation are two methods of reducing stress. If you’re not into meditation, spend a half hour or so each night reading a good book in a comfortable chair or take up an enjoyable hobby. Anything that distracts you from the concerns of the day and allows you a chance to decompress can be a worthwhile activity.

Go for a walk in the park or get a pet. Get a dog and take the dog for a walk in the park. A walk outdoors in the fresh air can do wonders for reducing stress, as can a companion animal. It likely wouldn’t hurt to combine the two if you’re so inclined.

Play games. Card games. Board games. Video games. Whatever floats your boat. You could also try puzzles. Putting a jigsaw puzzle together may be a good way to spend your time. It’s hard to worry about work when you’re trying to find a matching piece! Or, do a crossword puzzle, word find, or sudoku.

If you’re artistic, you could paint, draw, or even just doodle. You could try needle crafts, sand art, sculpture, wood carving, sewing or whatever suits your interests.

Take time to listen to music or watch television. Take an evening and go out for dinner and a movie. See a play. Go to a sporting event.

The important thing is to take some time out for yourself. Find something that works for you and remember to take time to do it. Relaxing and recharging are important!

Practice Being Organized

We all face some amount of stress in our lives. Some stress is caused by situations beyond our control, making it all the more important to do what we can to reduce stress in the circumstances we do control.

One thing within our control is our level of organization.

While on the face of it, organization may seem to have little to do with stress levels, a lack of organization will prove otherwise in a stressful situation.

If you’re under pressure to find an item in a stressful situation, imagine how much more stressed you will become when you cannot locate it.

As you shuffle through papers, folders and drawers, your frantic searching may cause further disorganization, setting the stage for a later repeat of the situation. If instead, you can quickly locate what you need when you need it, your stress levels will be lower than they might otherwise be.

Naturally, the first step is to do a thorough cleaning, eliminating clutter and organizing everything that is needed.

  • Make sure you organize everything in a manner that makes sense for you, using a system you will remember and stick with.
  • Once you get organized, stay organized.
  • Each day, set aside a few minutes to get your work area back in order.

Ideally and when practical, follow a pattern where you handle each item only once. For example, when you get a new document or piece of mail, read it and then act on it, file it, or recycle it. Eliminate the “I’ll do it later” items as much as possible. Too often, later never comes because of other more pressing needs. Additionally, you won’t suffer the stress of seeing a growing stack of “I’ll do it later” items sitting on your desk. You can better focus on the job at hand rather than being frustrated by the amount of work left to do.

Being better organized will not eliminate stress, but it can help keep it at reduced levels. Plus, it makes for a better and easier home and workplace, so there is no downside. Get organized and reap the benefits of increasing your productivity and reducing your stress level.

Remember to Breathe

Feeling a little stress is a normal part of the working day but when stress gets to be too much it can affect your judgment causing you to make rash decisions. Or, it can affect you physically causing tension in your muscles, increased heart rate, or aches and pains.

The key is to keep stress at a manageable level. One way to do this is with a simple breathing exercise.

  • Sit still in a relaxed position with your back straight.
  • Clear your mind as much as possible.
  • Breathe in slowly, for a deep breath.
  • Hold, but only as long as is comfortable.
  • Breathe out slowly.
  • Hold.
  • Breathe in.
  • Hold.
  • Breathe out.
  • Hold.

Repeat often. Take a few seconds here and there. Use a simple breathing exercise on a regular basis to help lower your stress level.

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