Interviews are on your mind, I get it. As students our lives are all about getting that job interview, thesis review, or whatever else that forces us into the uncomfortable situation of talking to higher-ups. And it’s daunting! Sometimes when I’m conducting a 100 Cups of Coffee interview with someone so far ahead of me, or trying to build professional relationships with my professors (hello networking!), I get nervous. Levelling with someone years ahead of us in terms of maturity and intellect isn’t natural to us yet.
So, I thought it was worth sharing the process I go through to calm down about it all. You know, a little advice from someone who has gotten jittery over enough interviews to understand how to relax. Because whether you’re talking to a potential employer, professor, idol, or whoever it may be, there is so much value – for both of you – if it goes well. And so much of that depends on your state of mind.
Have a goal in mind going into the conversation. It doesn’t need to be specific, even “by the end of it I want to have learned more about how this person became successful in some way” is enough.
Accept from the beginning that you could say something embarrassing. Make peace with the worst-case scenario and most likely it will stop being a source of anxiety that trips you up.
Understand the power dynamic. You will probably ask more questions than you answer, listen more than you talk, learn more than you teach. And that’s alright.
Don’t let the power dynamic impact your confidence. You know less than your counterpart, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t own the things that you bring to the table. Humility and insecurity are completely different things!
Remember the person you’re talking to was once in your position. Nobody was born a pro, so nobody will be removed from your situation to the point where they can’t empathize at least a little.
Just do your research. Don’t come across as disrespectfully ignorant! I mean, it’s perfectly ok not to know specifics or details about the things you’re discussing (it’s why your counterpart is the expert!) as long as you’re cognizant of that. A professor I really respect has a solid saying in this case: “Know what you know, and know what you don’t know.” Be open about your weaknesses and you won’t be judged when you fail to hide them.
Offer what you can. Every chance you get, reciprocate the value you’re soaking up in the ways you know how. For example, I have a connection at the University of Waterloo who I sat down with recently to discuss my resume’s specifics, and a few other things that help me out. Obviously I can’t give back in the same way, so I offered value by sharing a cool mojito recipe I learned from my trip to Cuba this summer. It goes without saying that you should keep your value addition situation-and-relationship-appropriate. For example, in a job interview situation you’ll be golden if you offer an industry insight or a solution to a problem your interviewer’s company might be having.
What do you do to calm down before an important conversation?
Lots of love,