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Home  > Article

Stick With What You Know

By Heather Mundell

Being yourself during a highly stressful situation -like a job interview- can be a challenge. Here's some information to help you remain true to yourself while making a great impression.

Almost fourteen years ago I interviewed for a job with someone who would subsequently become my manager and mentor. The last question she asked me in the interview was this:

"What's the most important lesson you've learned?"

Now when you think about it, that's a whopper of a question. You can go broad with this one or stay narrow. You can get personal or keep it generic. You can be flip or be serious.

But I didn't think about it. The interview had gone really well, I was relaxed, I was feeling confident, and I simply answered what popped into my head, which was something like, "To always be myself. Pretending to be someone else doesn't work."

I was 26 years old, and I was onto something. And I was hired.

The brilliance of my answer wasn't what got me the job. It was a sincere answer, and one in which I still strongly agree with, but that's not why I got the job. I got the job because there was a good fit between who I was, who my manager-to-be was, the job I'd be doing, and the company culture.

As this recent article from Career Journal points out, "fit" means a lot once you get to the job interview stage. You presumably already have been judged to possess the skills and background to perform the job. Now it's about whether you like them and they like you.

So at the interview, be the real you. Yes, it's smart to strategically plan for the interview. Winging it and spending no time on preparation are not strategically smart plans. Of course you want to plan, practice, and put your best foot forward in the interview.

But if you present yourself as a passionate evangelist of the product who loves to work on a team with a very loose structure, when really you have little knowledge of the product and prefer to work independently with objectives clearly laid out, you do no one any favors.

If you do get the job, it won't be a good fit for you. It will feel like walking out of the shoe store wearing an attractive pair that pinch your little toe no matter what socks you wear. You knew they weren't a good fit when you tried them on, but you really tried your hardest to like them. They're so nice looking and they were on sale, and you really needed new shoes.

Two miles later you've got one hell of a blister.

Don't lose yourself in the process of interviewing. You're looking for a job, manager and organization that fit you and in which you fit, and that might take a lot of trying on.

When you do find a job that makes excellent use of your talents and gives you the opportunities that you're genuinely looking for, you'll be glad that you didn't walk out of the shoe store too early!

About the Author: Heather Mundell has a blog on finding career happiness called Life at Work.


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