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You’ve Just Lost A Job, Not Everything

You’ve Just Lost A Job, Not Everything

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you don’t know exactly how to answer the question, “What do you do?”

The most common answer I hear at meetups and networking events is reciting a job title and job description.

“I’m a business analyst.”

“I’m a marketing assistant.”

“I’m a financial analyst.”

“I’m a coach.”

I’ve given this type of answer before where my whole identity is attached to a job title, yet over the years I’ve realized that a job title is a label you put on yourself that does not define who you are. The problem with having your identity tied to a specific job is that if something happens like getting laid off or fired, your sense of self-worth suffers, making you think that the world is over and your life has no purpose.

Losing a job doesn’t mean the end of the world. What looks like a setback could very well be the opportunity you’ve been looking for to make a meaningful change.

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The key is diversifying your skills and remaining grateful.

Back in August, I received a notice that would change my perspective on life and work forever: I was laid off. I remember standing in the back of the room looking around and seeing mixed emotions as we continued listening to the “we are restructuring operations” speech. I left the room right after finding out we were going to get an extra month of salary to help us out in this transition.

A transition in life is a very fragile stage in our lives that put us in a gray area, and it can become our greatest setback or our most powerful opportunity. A transition always leads to uncertainty because we are not familiar with what’s ahead and emotions often go crazy. Our brain automatically starts looking for solutions to this seemingly terrible transition and we make decisions based out of fear rather than from a place of love.

I remember as I was walking through the hallway back to my cubicle, I couldn’t help thinking about what was coming next.

How am I going to pay rent?

My car?

Credit card bills?

Student loans?

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Groceries?

Chipotle with extra guacamole?

I need to apply for new jobs, interview like crazy, and take the first job offer that comes to me.

These and many other thoughts were running through my head all at the same time. I acknowledged them and let them flow without presenting any resistance. I realized all my thoughts were coming from a place of fear, leading me toward finding the most comfortable solutions.

Instead, I remained calm and did NOTHING!

I avoided the temptation of trying to find a quick fix and took it as an opportunity to really choose myself for once in my life. For years I held corporate positions in the mortgage and finance industry, making good money but not feeling fulfilled — and a part of me knew it was time for a change. I saw this as an opportunity to be intentional about my next step and find what makes me come alive.

I asked myself: What is the worst that can happen if for once in my life I decide to do something that I’m passionate about and try it out for one month?

I decided to give intentional experimentation a try, know more about myself, and figure out the kind of person I want to become. Adam Poswolsky, author of “The Quarter-Life Breakthrough”, mentions how it’s important to develop a breakthrough career mindset, becoming intentional about the kind of job opportunities young adults want to take on where every opportunity takes you closer to your true purpose and interests. The reward of intentional experimentation is to find meaningful work while experimenting with a variety of opportunities until you find that one thing that makes you fulfilled.

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Here’s what happened once I decided to experiment with different opportunities after losing my job:

Traveling

Traveling has given me a new perspective on the world. It has also given me the opportunity to sit back, meditate, and embrace life for what it is and not for what I want it to be. Too many times, we get caught up in the everyday hustle and sometimes we forget what’s really important.  I first learned about meditation during our Costa Rica retreat back in October when I took my first-ever yoga class surrounded by fresh rainforest air, an abundance of local flora and fauna, tropical birds singing, gentle breezes, and the sound of the rushing river. One of the most important benefits I get from meditating is learnign how to organize my thoughts and emotions, helping me decide what really matters.

The people I’ve met throughout my travels have made all the difference. Being surrounded by people passionate about life, traveling, and refusing to settle inspires me keep pushing forward towards what I want out of life.

Writing

I fell in love with the power of the written word a long time ago, but I never really developed a writing habit. Ever since being laid off, I’ve been writing more often and getting my ideas out of my head, reflecting on things that matter to me, and sharing them with the world. I even started my own blog where I write about personal development, crafting stories from my own personal experiences and interviewing other people going through their own transitions. While developing a daily writing habit, I have learned how to be vulnerable, honest, and transparent.  Lately, I’ve been developing a habit of meditating through writing where I get to write about the highlights of each day and things I can do to improve for the next day. It’s so rewarding, and I’d encourage anyone to write a little bit each day.

Learning about myself

This is perhaps the most valuable outcome I’ve received from getting laid off: the opportunity to better understand who I am and what I want out of life. Most people rarely take the time to truly learn about themselves, instead following predetermined scripts that society puts upon us. Go to college, get a degree, get a high-paying job, big screen TV, white-picket fence house, work for 40-50 years, climb the corporate ladder, and then retire. Even if you want to climb the corporate ladder, how do you even know that you have it leaned against the right wall? I have realized that learning about yourself is a natural process that is ongoing, and there are no hacks or fast tracks.

A few days ago, I shared my big intention for life, business, and career with the universe in a single tweet. Here it is:

My big intention is to truly serve others in their journey within by writing, dancing, spreading smiles for miles and positive energy, creating and participating in transformative experiences that serve as a launching pad to help young adults figure out their next step.

The word is out!

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There are moments when I feel fearful and doubtful, and start to question myself about my decision to follow my own path, but I recognize it and don’t give control to doubts and fears. Instead, I remember that I’m being intentional about what I want by doing things that allow me to fully express myself.

I thought that losing my job was going to be a disaster, but it became the biggest opportunity I’ve ever had to change my life.

I accepted my situation. I embraced it. I got in touch with my inner self.

What resulted was definitely not on the script I had been given for years.

I don’t know where this path may lead, but what matters is that I’ve made a conscious decision to live a life aligned with my true gifts and talents to make a meaningful impact in the world. If I hadn’t been laid off, I probably would have stayed at the same old job, living a life of average and conformity. Sometimes what looks like a hardship is quite often a blessing in disguise.

What transition are you going through in your life right now and what are you learning from it?

Featured photo credit: h.koppdelaney via flickr.com

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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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