Career advancement can be a tricky thing, and for us 20- to 30-somethings, it can feel like an especially painful process. We can clearly see where we want to go, but the road to get there can seem confusing at the least, and absolutely Mt. St. Helens-type of daunting at the most.
So how do we get there? How do we scale the career mountain? It’s as simple as to just keep taking that next best step. Be active and intentional with your future. Actively identify what type of opportunity you are looking for next, take steps in the present to acquire the skills and education to qualify for that opportunity, and when the opportunity presents itself, jump at it.
It’s as simple as to just keep taking that next best step.
We often discount ourselves for opportunities when we do not yet check 100% of the qualifications for a position. Don’t make this mistake! Take the risk, know your strengths and shortcomings, and apply anyway.
Interviewing and starting conversations with your peers and superiors about your interests and passions is an essential power move in reaching that end-goal. Interviews can be scary, and it’s hard to put yourself out there, but it is absolutely necessary.
So when that opportunity arrives, and you find yourself staring down the next hurdle on the path to your dream job, here’s some advice to slay that interview and present your best self:
- Dress a level above what you imagine the position requires. If the position requires a casual professional dress, suit up (skirted suit/pants suit). If the position requires jeans, wear slacks or a dress/skirt. It sounds like the oldest advice in the book, but this one’s a keeper. First impressions are lasting, and even when you’re interviewing with someone you’ve worked with before, allow them to see you in a new, more professional light. On the same front, hair should be clean, and pulled up and back from your face. This allows the interviewer to clearly view your face and keeps you from playing/fussing with your hair if you get nervous. Appearance matters.
- Be on time! Show the interviewer that you respect their time, and when they’re ready to begin, you’re ready and waiting.
- Stay positive! If your current position is a living hell, choose to take the high road. All of the negative things you feel and think about a current or past job may be true, but no prospective employer wants to hire an employee who slams their current employer. Be as honest as you can without going to a negative place. A great way to explain your move is to share that you’re looking for a better opportunity and/or striving for a position that aligns with your particular passions.
- Study your prospective employer. Use the internet. Google, folks. There is no excuse for not being fully educated about who the prospective company is, what their mission statement is, and what they’re looking to give back to their customers. Have a superior understanding of who it is that you’re trying to work for, and weave that information into your answers during the interview.
- Practice. It feels awkward, but the old saying “practice makes perfect” is 100% truth when it comes to interviewing. Find a friend or colleague who will sit with you for an hour and give you interview questions. You may feel silly at first but you’ll warm up to the process quickly, and when the real deal comes, you’ll feel confident and prepared.
- Breath. It’s okay to pause and think during an interview. It’s difficult to fight the urge to immediately respond with a quick answer. But know that it is okay to pause, fill the space with a thoughtful “That’s a great question” comment, take a moment to think, and then give a great, well-thought-out answer versus a gut response.
- Flip the interview. Have a list of relevant questions prepared. Remember, you’re interviewing the employer to try to understand if the company is right for you, in just the same way that they are interviewing you. Think carefully about your short-term, intermediate-term and long-term goals, think about what you envision as success in the role, and ask questions that give you a better understanding as to whether this is the right opportunity to deliver your goals.
- Last but certainly not least, the best advice for a great interview is to keep your focus on you and your strengths. Know what you have to offer. It’s easy to focus on the competition and try to combat the skills your competitor is bringing to the table. This is not a winning strategy. You can’t be something you’re not. If you’re hired on the basis of portraying skills you don’t have, you’re unlikely to find long term success. Know what unique skills you can offer. Understand and communicate what makes your background and perspective an ideal match for the position. Rock that self-love, and show your interviewer why YOU truly are the best candidate.
You will not receive every job opportunity you apply for. There will be times that there is a candidate who is simply better qualified for one reason or another. But if you can walk away from an interview knowing you have presented yourself at your absolute personal best, you have a success to tuck under your belt. With each interview you become more skilled and better prepared for the next great opportunity.
In the event that you don’t get the job, take the opportunity to learn from your interviewer what skills or traits they were looking for, and move forward with a focus to improve where needed. Every job interview is an opportunity to grow and learn more about yourself as a professional. Rejection is a necessary (albeit painful) part of growth. Pick yourself up, brush yourself off, reevaluate where you are today, and begin working toward your next goal with a more-seasoned and better-practiced self.
Every job interview is an opportunity to grow and learn more about yourself as a professional.
Even better…when you land the position, hit the role running, ready and capable, and give it your all!!! Here’s to all of the future success of the 20- to 30-somethings…see you at the top of the mountain!