Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Holding it Together Mentally

I just read an interview that I have read several times over the past few years. The original website it was on is no longer active, fortunately, it is reposted on a message board. The interview is with Italian athletics coach Renato Canova easily one of the best running coaches in the world. I even own his book on marathoning, which is a little complicated to order. I will get to why that is significant and relevant in a minute.

Tomorrow I have an interview at yet another company. Three interviews in eight days is at the limit of my imagination. In many respects it is a little frustrating. Each company requires specific, but similar to other companies, paperwork. Many of the questions are the same or very similar from interviewer to interviewer. Interviews are about communication between an employer and a prospective employee. Part of that process is honesty and consistency. I do not have a problem with honesty, but I fear that in the course of applications, questions, paperwork, emails, and non-verbal communication I might appear inconsistent in some manner which could lead to an interpretation of dishonestly. This frustrates me because I like to think of Isaiah Janzen as one person who is the same, or at least nearly the same, around everybody. (You will have a very tough time find anybody who has heard me swear.) So as I feel myself being picked apart, or my brain being picked, I worry that I will say something which will be misunderstood and lead to another rejection.

How do engineering interviews and an Italian coach interview relate to each other, specifically under the "Holding it Together Mentally" banner? Canova talks in the interview about one of his top athletes that does not like to take time off of running and instead enjoys hard training. The first time that my post season non-running lasted only a week was my sophomore year of high school after cross country season. In 2010 I ran at least a little in every week. Unemployment, and interviewing, is kind of like the off season in running. It involves waiting, anxiousness, doubt, and in the short term a step back instead of a step forward. As far as both a break from running and a break from engineering are concerned it is the most mentally challenging aspect of development in both areas. I think I have cried more in the last year than in the five years before when I was learning engineering constantly. Similarly, I once ran a mile and was in such great pain that I started crying and walked home because I knew I wouldn't be running for weeks.

However, and quite fortunately, I feel that breaks are very constructive for long term development. Breaks narrow the focus.  Breaks ask how bad you want it, which for me typically means either I work harder at it in the future, or I quit. (I have quit things like band, acting, baseball, and basketball because the truth was, I didn't want to excel at them enough to continue.)

So how do I hold it together five hours into an interview when the seventh person and eighth person of the day are asking questions similar to the ones that the first six people asked? I give the best answer I have and if possible, talk about a different situation from the situation I described when previous interviewers asked the similar question. In essence I try to give each of my eight or so interviewers for the day a different 40% of myself so that I end up giving my career, and life story, about two and a half times or so over the course of the day. (I totally just made those numbers up don't read too much into them. One interviewer could get 90% while another gets 10%. Part of it has to do with the depth that specific interviewers place on different aspects of my life.) The point is that I'm honest, I answer the questions, and over the course of the day I try to communicate everything I feel is important to multiple people. I figure the more examples I can give them from my past the better my chances of the person with authority to hire me liking one of those examples.

I will give a theoretical example to demonstrate what I mean. The theoretical question is, "tell about a time when you were working in a group and one member was not pulling his or her weight or causing trouble." Now imagine that I have three examples: One, Two, and Three. I think that One is the most pertinent or best example from my past to answer that question. I think that Two is the second best example and Three is an acceptable example but not the most clear. I will give example One to the most senior people who really have the ability to hire me, and example Two or Three if the question is worded differently or simply as another example when I was in a group setting with an under-performer. Now to me, example One is the best, but perhaps Two or Three is liked better by the hiring authority so it would be remiss for me to leave out those examples.

Finally, there is a chance that someday I will be working on a joint project with a company, and people, that I interviewed with but did not get a job with and knowing those few people for a few hours might possibly help me accomplish something.

1 comment:

  1. Its not the "condemnation of negative media" but rather political environments of extreme rhetoric.

    If you continually argue that your political opponent is going to "destroy America" or compare them to Stalin and Hitler then you bear some responsibility if you actually convince someone that that is true...

    I think the most productive thing we can do as a nation is vilify and demonize our opponents because clearly then things will get better.