How to Plan for your Interview: Long Term Solution
Four years have all come down to this day. You are tossing and turning all night, with the evil fear lurking in your mind that you’ll oversleep and miss it completely. Its interview day.
Your college days are quickly coming to end, and the inevitable reality is coming clear to you now, responsibility is around the corner. Employment is around the corner. But before you get to the corner, theres one big crossroads that you must brave first; the interview.
Now lets break down the specifics of what an interview really is. Mechanically, it is simply two people (maybe more depending on the type of interview), separated by a desk, where one person is asking the other various types of questions. Now if you take a step back, look at this from a 30,000 foot view, an important item to notice is that both these people, are looking to gain from this relationship. The interviewer (manager, employee, whatever), is looking for someone who can be an asset to his/her team, someone they can work with everyday from 9-5 or whatever the job entails. In an interview, they are looking to see how the interviewee can benefit him/her, and also the company. On the contrary, the interviewee, is looking for employment for various different reasons. For application of their studies, passion for the industry, personal growth, or for the most practical, but very important reason, to get paid. So one quick realization is that his/her responses to the questions that are posed by the interviewer, can and will have a major impact on this candidate achieving employment. So how do you plan for that? Do you start two weeks ahead? Start researching the company, researching the position you are being tried for, preparing a list of questions? All these options are definitely a good way to prepare for this day, but that is the short term solution. The truth is, you will most likely face multiple interviews, and you should explore these options for EVERY interview. But the real preparation for your interviews starts earlier. The real preparation starts the first day you step into your dorm room, freshman year.
College is a period of time that many people consider “The Best Days of your Life”. Its easy to believe that, college is (or I guess was now) a blast, and I made some of the best memories that I can recall (or not recall) in those short four years. But that's the kicker, it’s only four years! After its all over, you have your entire life ahead of you. An entire life full of more opportunities for “The Best Days of your Life”. But you learn more about yourself in these four years, than you ever knew before, and this is what sets you up for the future. And the best way to do this, is to fully invest yourself into your University, in all of its glory, from Day 1. In an interview, the interviewer wants to know what kind of situations you have experienced that tested your abilities, your leadership skills, your team-building efforts, and you must be ready with experiences to share. With the thousands of opportunities outside of the classroom that will present itself, you MUST partake in a few! Chess club, Habitat for Humanity, Relay for Life, Ultimate Frisbee, Greek Life, you name it. There are so many activities out there for you to gain valuable experiences from, create a data bank out of it.
I know this may sound as if the fun in all these activities are being taken away, but that’s not the point. You should definitely partake in the activities because you truly enjoy and earn fulfillment from it, not because I am saying you should do so. The point is, whatever activity that you may choose to invest your time upon, can generate those various experiences that employers want to know about. You need to be prepared with stories to tell, and if you never did anything outside the classroom, the fact is, you won’t have stories to share. You need to find your niche. Find the one project, or it could be multiple, that you have a passion for. Passion for your work will show, and that passion is very attractive. The professional world is tricky. It involves dealing with strangers, working with teams, working under duress, on a daily basis. Employers want to know that you have faced similar situations before, and want to know how you behaved throughout, and above all, employers want to know that you are able to talk about it.
Strong social skills can get you anywhere in life. Yes, you have to know the technical details of your job description of course. Your G.P.A. is what shows that you are doing well in your schoolwork, and have an ability to learn (or not learn). The truth is, most of what you learn in school, will not be needed for your job details. Everything that you will have to do will be taught on the job, as you work. Employers simply need to know that you have the ability to learn independently, and be trained effectively. After the technical details of your job, a simple reality is that people want to work with people they like. Whether its internal or external, people want to work with people they can have a conversation with, and your professional social skills will be on display the moment you introduce yourself to the interviewer. This is another thing that can be shaped from day 1 of your time at school.
Some people are just gifted with the ability to talk, they can go all day without a hint of nervousness or shyness. Others can have a bit of trouble with it. Lets face it, it can be intimidating to meet new people. Thats why college is such a great platform to build on your social skills! There’s so many new people all around you, all of whom are in the same boat as you, thats what makes it so easy. I urge you to break away from that comfort zone, make new friends. Interact with new people in different environments. Go out, have a couple drinks (be responsible; as much as you can). Personally, college is as fun as it is because of the times you share with all the people around you, and all these social interactions that you will make, are going to be invaluable to you for the years ahead.
So who is this article really directed towards? Not the outbound seniors. For all of you, I hope you had a phenomenal time in college, created your memories, and I wish the best of luck to all of you in the future. This article is directed towards the younger ones, the newbies, the freshmen, and incoming freshmen. This article is to pique the realization that these four years serve the purpose of getting yourself employed, and that everything you do with them, counts. A little bit about myself. I graduated from Rutgers University in the spring of 2013, from the School of Engineering as a Mechanical Engineer. I was hired by Schneider Electric right out of college through Rutgers CareerKnight services, and I am still here currently. My niche, or my project that I had passion for, was being a founding father of Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity at Rutgers. The process of becoming a colony (an un-official lettered chapter), and then becoming an established lettered chapter was littered with experiences and stories which played a huge role in who I am today. Through holding officer positions such as fundraising chair and social chair, I was able to gain experiences that tested my leadership skills, my budgeting skills, and in a nutshell, my sales skills. What is my point about this? In my four years, my Fraternity that I worked tirelessly to develop, and succeed on campus, gave me the experiences and stories that I needed for my data bank. I was able to eloquate these stories to my interviewers, and show that I had endured experiences that I learned valuable lessons/skills from, with detail and confidence. My interviewers were looking for an individual with strong social skills, an ability to learn, and experience with professional type challenges. Now as an employee, I have also had the chance to be on the other side, and be an interviewer, and I look for the same qualities. Interviews are not that hard, as long as you have used your time in college wisely.
In all, these four years are important. Cherish every moment from them, because they will be gone soon, but do not fail to realize what is coming after these years. Prepare yourself for the future by investing yourself fully into all the school has to offer. There is so much to do on your campus, take the step out of our dorm and get out of your shell. The worst that can happen is you graduate having had a phenomenal time, but most likely, if you held your own in your classes, you will be employed. Take the moment early on to ask yourself the question, “When I graduate, did I do as much as I could possibly do with my time?” At the end of it all, if you can answer that question with a simple “Yes”, you just may be able to rest easy the night before the interview. And you just may walk into the office couple months later as a co-worker of the same guy/girl who asked you all of those questions.