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Under Pressure? 6 Ways to Stay Cool, Calm, and Collected

Under Pressure? 6 Ways to Stay Cool, Calm, and Collected

Your presentation, audition, or job interview starts at 10am, but a few minutes before, you start to feel like the clock’s a few ticks away from High Noon. It’s a good thing you used extra deodorant because you’re feeling the heat.

If you’re one of those people who think that they always rise to the occasion, you’re wrong! 25 years of research from around the globe indicates that the overwhelming majority of individuals perform below their capabilities in a highly pressure scenario. This is categorized as a situation in which   they have something at stake and the outcome is dependent on their performance.

Specifically, experiencing pressure downgrades your ability to access cognitive success tools: memory, attention, comprehension, judgment and decision making. Pressure also diminishes your psychomotor skills; these skills include your golf swing, or the ability to walk up to the podium —stumble, trip, crash!

You don’t have to crumble under pressure; you just have to immunize yourself to its injurious effects. Here are some “pressure solutions” that will help you to be cool, calm, and collected so you can do your best when it matters most:

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Write off the pressure

Preparing yourself to give your best presentation or readying yourself for your Monday morning interview starts Sunday night, or the night before any pressure scenario. Pressure often derails you by filling your mind with distracting and anxiety-arousing thoughts, such as “What if I can’t get a job?” or, “I wonder if these clients like me.”

These thoughts have nothing to do with the facts that you need to present, but they do make you lose focus. This will make it harder for you to recall the facts that you need to have at your fingertips. You only have so much space in your working memory, and worried thoughts take up the space that you need for your presentation information, or facts about your previous jobs. Studies show that you can minimize the likelihood of worrisome thoughts surfacing during your presentation if you write down your anxieties about giving a poor presentation the night before. In effect, you are getting them out of your system.

Adopt a low-pressure mindset

Individuals who don’t crumble under pressure hold a particular mindset that minimizes feelings of pressure and allows them to approach their presentations with confidence– not trepidation.

A presentation is a positive event. Individuals often “choke” because they interpret the presentation or crucial conversation as a threatening event, a perception that increases anxiety and fear. Telling yourself that every presentation is an opportunity, challenge, and a fun change of pace will decrease feelings of pressure and allow you to enjoy the experience and do your best. Build these words into your thinking and use them when you think of a pressure-filled scenario.

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A presentation to important clients or an interview for your dream job is very important, but telling yourself that “it’s a chance of a lifetime” will make you think that it’s a “do or die” moment. This will only intensify your feelings of pressure. Instead, remind yourself that this one of many opportunities that will come your way. It’s not a “must game.” Doing so will keep you calm and make it easier for you to focus on doing your best.

Anticipate, anticipate, anticipate

What if your power break glitches?

What if several members of your audience leave abruptly?

What if you’re told your interview is a group interview five minutes before you start?

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For most individuals unexpected events cause a pressure surge –a spiked arousal that evokes threatening and defeatist thoughts, causing them to lose their composure, go off-track and miss their mark. It’s like when a golfer can’t recover after an unexpected folly.

Prevent this from happening by anticipating potential mishaps that could surface during your presentation, no matter how slim. Then, mentally rehearse your solutions. Being prepared for anything surges your confidence and that translates into a less pressure-filled presentation.

Clench your left fist

A common factor that prevents individuals from giving presentations are chronic anxiety-arousing thoughts. These thoughts need to be extinguished. Very recent studies show that clenching your left fist a minute before your presentation will do the job for you. This action inhibits the language area in the left hemisphere of your brain that is responsible for these troublesome thoughts and primes the right side of your brain that is responsible for delivering a well-rehearsed skill, such as your presentation. If you are on a golf course, squeeze a ball before each shot and you will find your mind has stopped ruminating about your swing, stance and what your partner thinks of your game. Instead, you’ll just do it! Caveat: you must be right-handed for this to work. Sorry, lefties.

Walk like a champ

Neuroscientists and social psychologists have uncovered plenty of data that indicates how your posture impacts how you feel. Accordingly, experiment with different postures and you’ll note that some make you feel more confident than others. A few minutes before you enter a pressure-filled scenario, walk confidently down the hall or around your office. You’ll feel the difference.

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When the time comes to face your audience, use your confidence posture: stand up straight and expand your chest. If sitting, sit up straight –you’ll breathe easier and think more clearly. Confidence will help you to conquer pressure, so it’s smart to remember to walk like a champ.

Affirm your self worth

Step back to realize that your life is not defined by how well you give a presentation, whether you land the job, or how successful you are at work. Individuals who define their self-esteem by how well they do in any given situation allocate themselves a heavy dose of extra pressure, feeling they have to produce results 24/7. Before you go to work, and before every high pressure moment, remind yourself that you are a worthy person independent of your work performance. You’ll feel a reduction in the pressure that you feel and you’ll perform more effectively.

Follow these tips and you’ll find that you’ll be cool, calm, and collected when it matters most. You’ll enjoy your share of successes, and at the same time, take control of pressure-filled situations!

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Published on September 16, 2020

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

Today, with many companies going remote—at least until there’s a COVID-19 vaccine—technical proficiency is a vital skill for every interviewee to master. You may be asked to interview for a job on Zoom or Microsoft Teams. The way you handle yourself in the online interview (your interview skills) will say much about your ability to work from home efficiently.

Does your workspace look clean or cluttered? Is the area free from noise? Is your home office well lit?

Once hired, you may be asked to organize meetings on Zoom and other platforms. Along with mastering the technology, you will have to learn to follow certain protocols.

Now is the time to get up to speed on your technical skills. Learn which interview skills are needed for the particular job for which you are applying and practice them.

Online learning sites, such as LinkedIn Learning and Udemy, offer courses for free or a nominal membership fee. If you are a DIY type, make use of training videos offered through your particular digital tools.

Additionally, demonstrating that you have these 12 interview skills will help you land your dream job.

1. Organization

When you work in a brick-and-mortar office, some of the organizing is left to others. Your direct supervisor may host a Monday morning quarterback meeting where each worker reports on the progress on their tasks.

When you work from home, much of the organizing will be left up to you. To a much greater extent than before, you will need to develop a schedule and stick to it. Some tasks may be faster to complete from your home office where you don’t have other workers competing for your attention.

Conversely, you may find that some tasks that would have gone quickly in an office seem to take forever from your home computer. Your phone may ring a lot, which can distract you, or you may have kids and a spouse who inadvertently disrupt your schedule.

To do: Set a schedule and stick to it.

To discuss during your interview: Be specific. Point to the interview skill you utilized to create a schedule for a complex work project and followed it.

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2. Flexibility

You set a schedule for the completion of your tasks, but your prospective boss gets their work done between the hours of 2:00 and 8:00 a.m. Your West Coast partners are three hours behind your East Coast partners, and one of your partners lives in England while another lives in Australia.

Feedback and collaboration (see point 3) may need to happen asynchronously. Be the flexible candidate—the person who is willing to occasionally disrupt their schedule for the greater good of the team.

For extra credit: don’t just look up time zones, look up whether they observe Daylight Savings Time.

To do: Be flexible about meeting times.

To discuss during your interview: Highlight a time when you worked on a team where members lived in different time zones. Discuss your processes.

3. Collaboration

As recently as six months ago, before the pandemic raged around the world, collaboration wasn’t quite as essential as it is today. In a remote office setting, collaboration doesn’t just mean working well with others—but actually sharing documents and editing them online on time.

Several cloud-based tools, such as Google Drive, Basecamp, and Trello, enable the type of collaborative teamwork that most companies want today.

To do: Download the correct software and practice using it.

To discuss during your interview: Discuss how you worked remotely with a group. Share how you overcame certain challenges.

4. Poise

Murphy’s Law states, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

When things do go awry, keeping your wits about you will demonstrate your consummate professionalism under fire. This will show your future bosses that you will be able to work well under the pressures of remote work.

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What could go wrong, you ask? You might be muted without realizing it—your Internet connection may not be robust, your headphones may blip out, your cellphone may ring, Zoom could have an outage. The list goes on and on.

To do: Make sure you have the most up-to-date versions of Skype and Zoom uploaded.

To discuss during your interview: Consider highlighting a time when a project did not go as planned. Demonstrate the interview skills that allowed you to rise to the challenge.

5. Communication

Your ability to handle online communication is one of the top critical skills you will need to thrive in today’s remote workplace. Download Slack if you haven’t already. Get used to toggling to a different form of online communication if one of your tools fails.

When it comes to the preferred format for your online interview, demonstrate proficiency by offering several different options. Give your phone number, Google Chat Hangouts name, and Skype ID.

To do: Familiarize yourself with video conference and online chat tools, such as Slack, Fleep, or Workplace by Facebook.

To discuss during your interview: Be prepared to share the online communication tools you’re using and examples of how you use each one.

6. Good Computer Hygiene

Setting up a backup system for your computer files is one of today’s crucial requirements for working in the digital age. Storing documents that can be shared by team members is also an efficient way to work together on presentations, articles, and reports—although studies show nearly one-third of employees avoid them because of the time it takes to find documents.

Be prepared in your interview to indicate your experience utilizing this technology, describing how you organize and store files using cloud-based collaboration tools. How do you keep track of links and tabs? Do you use Dropbox? Google Docs? Confluence? Others?

To do: Take inventory of the cloud-based document sharing and storage systems you know and use.

To discuss during your interview: Describe the document sharing tools and backup systems you utilize—both for personal protection and professional file sharing.

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7. Proper Meeting Etiquette

Today, presenting yourself virtually has its pros and cons. While you only have to show a professional persona from the waist up (make sure to straighten up your office space behind you), you must boost your energy to show that you’re engaged in the discussion.

Make your voice as upbeat as possible. Have your talking points at the ready and be careful not to ramble on, as long virtual meetings easily become tiresome. Use the mute and chat features to avoid interruptions.

To do: Once you know the meeting platform, make sure you have it mastered before your interview.

To discuss during your interview: Offer to share your screen to show an example of a work project— while at the same time demonstrating your prowess with video conferencing tools.

8. Respecting Feedback

In the age of working remotely, there may not be as many systems in place to obtain feedback (such as yearly performance reviews). Workers may need to ask for feedback, while managers may need to give more feedback than usual as the team adjusts to working off-site. Respecting feedback is on top of the interview skills list that you should learn.

Taking a proactive approach with giving and receiving feedback and incorporating it into your work style is a desirable quality that your employers will note.

To do: Reflect on the positive feedback you’ve received from past employers to bolster your confidence.

To discuss during your interview: Share a time when you received feedback that made you grow in the job. If you’re a manager, share a time when you gave feedback to an employee who needed to better their job performance.

9. Project Management

Staying on task with projects has evolved far past a to-do list, with electronic tools that can track time, manage team workloads, and even do the client billing. While your prospective employer may have its preferred project management program, your experience with any of the various options—whether it’s Basecamp, Teamwork, Smartsheet, or another—will be applicable.

To do: Know which project management software is likely to be used by the industry in which you’re interviewing, and familiarize yourself with its features.

To discuss during your interview: Highlight a project management feature that is particularly useful in helping you excel in your work, and explain how you utilize it.

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10. Staying up to Speed

Employers expect their remote workers to be technically proficient so that technology runs smoothly and doesn’t create work disruptions. Bosses count on remote workers to know enough about their systems to manage them without relying on the help of overworked IT staff.

To do: Make sure you have a fast internet connection and have a back-up plan, such as a second computer or other tethered devices.

To discuss during your interview: Note that you are diligent about keeping your computer and software up to date.

11. Attention to Cybersecurity Issues

“Virus” is a loaded term these days. Spreading a computer virus in your company, however, will not only bring productivity to a halt, but it will also make you a pariah. While working from public places using free Wi-Fi (with uneven security provisions) has waned, in pre-pandemic times, coffee shops accounted for 62 percent of Wi-Fi security breaches.

To do: Keep antivirus software updated and don’t download software without verifying its authenticity.

To discuss during your interview: Emphasize your awareness of cybersecurity risks and your care in taking necessary safety measures.

12. Teamwork

Work relationships now mostly happen in virtual settings, yet employers value team-oriented workers.

Being a part of a team gives you a sense of connection and shared purpose. A well-honed team understands how mutual reliance makes the sum of its parts greater than when individuals act on their own, improving the end product.

To do: Take stock of your attributes as a team player and where you can cultivate skills that will enable you to work more collaboratively.

To discuss during your interview: Inquire about the company’s culture and how it encourages a sense of community despite working remotely.

Final Thoughts

Preparing for remote positions available in today’s job market will mean honing your interview skills to highlight your technical abilities as well as your adaptability. By adhering to these To-Do’s and perfecting your online interview skills and charisma, you will rise above the competition and win over any prospective employer.

More Tips to Improve Your Interview Skills

Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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