Archive for July, 2008

The In-house Interview: a breath of fresh air

July 21, 2008

They already know you.

And if they are interviewing outside candidates, they are listening hard to people coming from other work situations. Interviewers often can think that they would like to draw on outside experience.

Please don’t be just plain old you. Known, liked, predictable. Boring.

Surprise your interviewers by being a breath of fresh air. Tell them something they don’t know.

Volunteer work? Find a way to tie it into your qualifications. Maybe you have gained expertise with some new equipment. Maybe you have mingled with a segment of the population which is not in your normal customer base. Maybe you used your vacation to rebuild a hurricane-damaged home. Maybe you’re a dog walker for a shelter or a shut-in neighbor.

Education? Are they aware that you are in a college program? Or that you are considering going for an advanced degree? Or that you are brushing up on a foreign language? Keyboarding? Programming? Don’t forget to bring a current transcript.

Remodeling a piece of property? This is where you have learned new time management skills, new familiarity with goals and budgets, new confidence in using heavy equipment. Plus, it’s a fascinating story that just might make the interview committee see you in a new way.

You can find a way to work in references to outside activities which provide balance to your life as well as enhance your skills. And when you see the interviewer(s) look surprised and interested, you know you have succeeded in making yourself as interesting as any newcomer.

Don’t dwell on the anecdotes, just present them in a sentence or two. Tie your stories to the position you’re applying for, and they can make the case that you have more qualifications than anyone dreamed of. You’re reliable, dependable, ambitious, intelligent, balanced, and full of surprises.

If you would like to discuss this or the previous postings regarding the in-house job interview, please visit my website at for contact information.

The In-house Interview: what to take with you

July 17, 2008

You’re properly dressed, you’ve thought about what to say about yourself, and now it’s time to consider what to take with you to the interview.

Although you enjoy the home field advantage, you should still be prepared to show examples of your writing, web design, graphics skill, program planning, or any other tangible work samples.

What to bring:

  • your glasses,
  • a copy or two of your resume,
  • a portfolio of work samples (memos, proposal sections, forms you’ve designed, etc.)
  • your most recent performance appraisal,
  • letters of commendation or appreciation,
  • a good pen and a pad of paper,
  • a planner or calendar, possibly to schedule a further meeting.

What not to bring:

  • a drink or your lunch,
  • chewing gum.

And please turn off:

  • your cell phone,
  • your ipod.

Please look like you take this seriously. Even if the meeting is scheduled for your lunch break, unless you are specifically told that this is a lunch meeting, don’t plan to munch through the meeting. (You will find it hard to discuss your qualifications without speaking with your mouth full.)

Why bring a pad of paper and a pen? There are several great uses to make of them. As an idea occurs, jot it down. If someone asks you a question and you don’t have the facts at hand, you can jot down the question for follow-up after the meeting. And of course, it makes you look very organized, serious, and committed to this interview and the opportunity it holds.

If you would like to discuss your unique job situation, please visit my website at for contact information. You will find that a certified career counselor can listen to your story and tailor a career strategy just for you.

The In-house Interview: your reputation at work

July 16, 2008

Yes, they have heard of you. They may know you. They surely know people who know you well. What are the implications for your internal interview?

Today’s hint: you must present yourself honestly –

  • as you are,
  • as you have been,
  • as you hope to be.

You have provided an up-to-date resume, and it must be scrupulously honest: precise dates, exact job titles and responsibilities. Why this emphasis on accuracy? Because someone reading it knows the truth, and this is not a time to exaggerate your importance. A little humility, please.

Have you had a dazzling success or two in your current or a recent assignment? Of course you have, and you will look forward to telling the story and its impact. But please remember to give credit to your colleagues:

  • this wouldn’t have been possible without the research provided by our reference team,
  • the marketing was a combined effort of…,
  • the support staff put in long hours to give our product the unified look which contributed to our success.

Have you made a mistake? Have you blundered? Have you lost your temper and said/done unfortunate things?

You must believe they know about this and want to hear about it from you. Tell the truth, make it brief, and state how you have remedied the situation. You apologized, you attended a follow-up training to enhance your people skills, you learned to manage your stress in a more professional way.

How does this position fit your career goals? There had better be a well-thought out answer. They need to know that you have goals, that you are enthusiastic about taking this step toward achieving them. Make it clear. Mention books, journal articles or websites you have read which keep you up to date.

Being the internal candidate gives you an advantage over those unknown folks competing for the position from the outside. Make sure you show your most polished and professional side.

The In-house Interview: a series of unique challenges

July 14, 2008

I’ve noticed an increase in requests for counseling appointments because there’s an opportunity in one’s workplace that seems appealing. Are there special strategies that apply to this situation? Yes, there are.

Here are a few factors for your consideration:

  • they may already know you,
  • you may already know them,
  • they’ve heard about you (or can get information informally),
  • you’ve heard about them (or can get information informally),
  • the job may already be tailored for someone,
  • that someone is/is not/ you,
  • you may be being compared to outside candidates.

In the next few postings, I will be looking at the unique components of the in-house interview. You can look for ideas about explaining your accomplishments to people who may already know about them, dealing with your reputation, dressing for an interview, and overall etiquette.

If you have an interesting experience to share while being the internal candidate, please write to me. Maybe I can include your story (if you agree to it).

Here’s today’s hint: remember that you are competing against outside candidates, whether anyone acknowledges this or not.

Dress a bit more formally than usual. Your competition from the outside is wearing a beautiful suit, is well-groomed and polished. This outsider is probably carrying a portfolio or briefcase and is prepared to use an effective handshake, good eye contact, and excellent manners. Should you do any less?

It is awkward. You are an insider and you want to play to that strength. But remember, this position is a step up, and you need to reflect that. Put on your best jacket. do some grooming in advance, don’t assume that you have the position.

Someone told me that if she is going to an in-house interview, she takes the morning off to prepare. She does her hair and make-up carefully, dresses more professionally than she might on her regular job, and lets the interviewer know that she is honored to be considered. And yes, she sends a thank-you note afterwards.

Are you facing an opportunity to be interviewed for an inside position? If you would like some individual coaching for this situation, please visit my website at for contact information. And meanwhile, stay tuned to this blog for more thoughts and hints.

The spiritual side of career counseling

July 7, 2008

Do you think that career counseling is about assessment, decision-making, and strategy?

I think so. And that’s what I’m trained to do. Clients want/need help with one or more of these areas.

But is there more? Something that is not taught in graduate school courses? Creation, trust, individuality?

I think so. And many of you do, too.

Spiritual or religious counseling has gotten a scary reputation, often deservedly. Let me be clear about what it is not:

  • persuading you to see it my way,
  • embarrassing prayer sessions you don’t want,
  • reminding you of the “shoulds” in your life, thus increasing your guilt load,
  • being passive and letting God do the work,
  • suggesting that I know more than you do about your life’s direction.

What I mean by spiritual career counseling starts by getting where you are. This may mean open discussion of your spiritual beliefs and support structure or your sense of your mission. Or it may mean not going there.

Where it fits, I’d like to share my experience of using my gifts as I see them. We might find common ground.

I find that people may be hungry to share their questions about the meaning of their lives and how best to use their unique talents. This is surely a spiritual question, but we may all be afraid to phrase it like that.

As a counselor, it is my task to perceive who wants to talk about mission and who does not. Either way, I’m fine with it.

Would you like to speak with me about your quest for a meaningful life and career? Please visit my website at for contact information. Or you can leave a comment right here.

The Mind of the Job-hunter: Open? Closed? Both!

July 3, 2008

Have you ever noticed the conflicting information in those shelves of career books?

Career specialists frequently say at least one of the following:

  • You should know what you want. You have undergone an analysis of your strengths, skills and experience. You don’t have to settle. Know what you are looking for, communicate this clearly, and you will find it.
  • Be open to the possibilities. Yes, you have an idea of what you want, but other people know what is out there. And they may see things in you that you do not.

Which is right? Actually, both have the ring of truth. Life choices are not neat and clear-cut very often. Most times of transition are fraught with feelings of being tugged in many directions. Some people call this caught in the tension. It’s just the way life is much of the time.

So what’s a job-hunter to do? I’d like to suggest a few steps that can help you draw on the wisdom that both these viewpoints can yield.

  1. Do a personal/professional inventory. Start with who you are and what you want. Know what you love to do.
  2. Think about other people like you. What jobs do they hold? What successes do they achieve?
  3. Ask people you trust to suggest ways that you can widen your perspective and search for jobs in new areas. Try to be open to listening to what they have to say.
  4. Of course, you don’t have to follow their suggestions, but they will be happy to learn that you investigated their ideas to some degree.

Does this process contain conflicting information? I don’t think so. If you are a young person just entering the labor market, you will learn that feedback is as valuable as knowing yourself. If you are a person planning something new for your retirement, you have (I hope) learned that the feedback you have received over your years of employment falls into a pattern. Maybe it is time to follow where that pattern takes you, especially if it parallels what you have thought about all along.

If you would like to speak with a career counselor about balancing the two threads of self-awareness and ideas from other people, please visit for information on career counseling.