I was an English major working at an automotive shop -- it was a job, not a calling, but it paid the bills. One day a customer dropped off her car and gave me her business card that read "Advertising and Public Relations." I told her that I had always wanted to write advertising, but didn't know where to start. She said, "If you want to give it a try, start at my office."
I went to her office, got my first assignment, and spent a week trying to be clever and creative. I wanted so much to impress, to take this fluke of an opportunity and make something of it. I was nervous, so before submitting my ideas, I asked for feedback from a friend who works in advertising. We met for a drink, where she advised me on how to present my work and assured me that I didn't need to be nervous.
The next morning as I prepared, I found a scribbled note in among my draft materials. There in my friend's handwriting was the most concise and powerful job interview advice I have ever received:
Don't sell yourself short.
They were reassuring words to repeat as I drove to the agency to present my work, which they liked and paid for. It was my first paid gig as a writer -- yet what I remember most about the day was that scribbled note.
Now that I work in the recruiting industry, I have read (or written) scores of blogs offering crucial interview advice -- insights into word choice, tone, body language, how to handle specific scenarios -- yet I have never found anything that so simply boils down the appropriate mindset for an in interview:
- Don't swear: "Be yourself" is good advice for an interview -- but "be professional" is more important. Mind your words.
- Don't sweat: It's hard not to be nervous, but it undermines our ability to communicate. Prepare as much as possible, then relax and do the best you can.
- Don't sell yourself short: If you don't believe in yourself, why would anyone else? Make the best case for why you are their best investment for the open position.
It's solid advice for your next job interview. And frankly, for any endeavor.