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I’ve Had 5 Jobs in 5 Years—Here’s What I Learned

I’ve Had 5 Jobs in 5 Years—Here’s What I Learned

When walking into an interview for a new job, you’re interviewing your potential employer just as much as they’re interviewing you -there’s nothing worse than landing what you thought was your dream job and being unhappy after the first week because you didn’t get a thorough understanding of the company during your conversations with the hiring manager.

After working for five companies in five years, I can assure you I’ve made many mistakes in choosing the company. While I’ve gotten important experience at every place I worked, I might not have said yes to one or two of them, had I paid closer attention.

Take advantage of what I learned and look for these details next time you’re about to sit in the hot seat.

Office Culture Is Everything

When you walk into an office, observe the manner of the people working there. It’s pretty evident when someone thoroughly enjoys where they work. Is the receptionist friendly? Is your potential boss treating their employees well? Is the office loud? A recent survey found that 22 percent of people listed the number one on-the-job pet peeve as loud coworkers – don’t overlook details like this. I can’t stand a loud office.

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While not all of these particulars will be obvious, you can pick up on subtle clues to determine if the office culture aligns with the work environment you thrive in. I made the mistake of taking a job after having a poor interview experience, and spent an unhappy year and a half dealing with that decision.

What I learned: The office is where you spend 40-plus hours a week; make sure it’s a place you want to be at.

Know Your Deal Breakers

Be honest with yourself about deal breakers when you walk into a potential new workplace. When your interviewer describes your day-to-day job description, are there any significant red flags? I’m the first to ignore these red flags, assuming I’ll grow to like them with time.

Take note if you’re a social butterfly and yet the position is very independent or if you work best individually, but your new job description requires you to rely on other people to succeed.

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What I learned: If you notice something amiss at the interview stage, it’s worth considering. Everyone has deal breakers and sometimes you can’t be too picky, but it’s good to weigh the good and the bad as you decide where your next career step will take you.

Pick Up on Subtle Clues

As an interviewee, you’ve spent hours preparing for your potential new employer. You’ve researched the history, studied the product, learned about the people you’re interviewing with and mastered standard interview questions. You walk into the interview and confidently introduce yourself and the interviewer calls you by the wrong name.

Picking up on subtle clues like this goes both ways of course, but if you notice major slip-ups that could be improved with a little proofreading, walk away. Observe the attitude of the interviewer and other employees you talk to. Do they seem like they enjoy working for the company? Do they talk negatively about their coworkers or suggest that it’s not a great place to work?

What I learned: These are easily overlooked when you really need or want a job, but they could also be your first sign that it’s not a great company to work for.

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Pay Attention to Your Gut

This is a hard one to suggest, because everyone’s gut feelings are different. That doesn’t mean yours is any less reliable than the next person’s, so use it. I had an interesting experience with this myself. While everything seemed good on paper, minus a few small details, there was something I couldn’t shake after leaving the interview.

I took the job and ended up leaving a week and a half later – that’s how bad it was. I felt awful leaving after the company had put time into processing my paperwork and training me; I’d never done something like that before, but I knew I had to. If I hadn’t ignored my gut, all of that could have been avoided.

What I learned: You know yourself better than anyone else. Use this to your advantage as you go through the interview process.

Ask to Observe or Shadow

Ask to sit in on a company meeting or shadow someone for a day. See if people are interacting in a positive, innovative, creative way and if management takes part in the process. Working alongside new people can be difficult at first, but if you know for certain you’re going to be part of a dynamic team, it will be worth the nervousness.

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I interviewed for a position that I thought would be my dream job and left feeling incredibly uncertain. I vowed to shadow a current employee if I was asked to go any further into the interview process, just to be sure it was a good fit.

Note that it may be best to ask about this later in the interview process, either after you’ve been offered the position or when you’re in the final stage. Employers are interviewing many people, not just you, and allowing everyone to shadow would reduce productivity on the team and become exhausting for other employees.

What I learned: Sometimes you don’t know what you’re getting into until you’re in it. Get into it during the interview by shadowing to be more certain about the position.

Treat your interview as a chance to really get a feel for the company, not just the job you’re applying for. There may never be the perfect company along your career path, but if you leave an interview feeling absolutely certain that you belong with the company, you may be on the right track.

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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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