Finishing college is a big accomplishment, and for many people, a big relief. College can be a lot of fun, but some people are just ready to start their careers and start the next phase of their lives. Whether you’re ready or not, you will need to move forward after college. If you are still attending, then you need to be sure to stay on budget while you are in school. Once you graduate though, making wise choices in your job search and at your first job, and smart financial decisions, will help set you up for a successful life and career. On the other hand, spending money like you will never run out, or failing to appreciate your first job and learn as much as possible, can set you down a bad path that can be hard to come back from. Here are five mistakes you want to avoid.
1. Failing to take your job search seriously
Ideally, you will have a job set up before you graduate. If you don’t, you will want to make finding one your top priority. According to USA Today, you can get a job coach, and also network and reach out to people at a company that you want to work for. Don’t make the mistake of assuming a job will simply fall into your lap; you need to get out there and apply.
Also, be careful of taking just any job. While you have to pay your bills, you will be in a much better place career-wise if you can find a job in your field. This is another reason why you should start searching early.
2. Coasting at your first job
Landing a job is a big deal, but don’t assume that just because you get a job, you will keep it. It’s important to work hard and prove that you deserve to be at the company. Particularly when you are working at your first job, you want to establish yourself as an asset to the company. Being lazy or doing the bare minimum will only hurt you later.
Even if your first job isn’t ideal, you can still make the most of it: learn as much as you can, grow professionally, and network. You never know how your hard work will pay off. Even if your first job isn’t as interesting as you want, or isn’t at the level that you want, working hard and showing that you are a loyal and innovative team member may lead to just the job you do want.
3. Spending money impulsively
Once you have a job, it can be exciting to spend the money you make. Having a lot of money for the first time can be exhilarating and it can be very dangerous as well. As tempting as it is to go out and buy a new car, new furniture, and splurge on many dinners out, try to limit your extravagant spending. You probably have some time before you need to start saving for retirement, but spending wildly just because you have a job won’t pay off in the long run.
According to U.S. News & World Report, you should consider the benefits your employer offers and take advantage of them; also, think about your fixed costs and about your future savings.
4. Ignoring debt
If you took out student loans, you probably have a grace period before you need to start repaying them. If you have other debt you need to pay off, then it’s reasonable to wait to pay off your student loans, especially if you have other debt with higher interest rates. However, it’s a good idea to pay off as much debt as you can now. You don’t need to pay the minimum due for your student loans, and if you have credit card debt, the same is true. The more you can pay off now, the more available funds you will have to save for traveling, a house, or retirement.
When you graduate college, you will most likely have as few responsibilities as you ever will. Now is the time to pay your debt if you can.
5.Forgetting about your health
Yes, you’re young, and it can be tempting to spend money on the things you want instead of investing in health insurance. However, if you are no longer on your parents’ plan (which you usually can be until you are 26 if dependents are covered), you do need to think about coverage. Even if you are still on your parents’ plan, you won’t be forever and you need to look at what plans your company offers and the cost of those plans. Also, it’s important to consider how many years you have before you need to pay for the insurance, or how it will affect your budget.
If your parents can’t cover you, then be sure that you do sign up for coverage. Without health insurance, you risk a serious financial hardship if an expensive health surprise comes your way (this is also a good reason to have an emergency fund).
Also, when you are working full-time, it can be easy to neglect other aspects of your health, such as exercise or diet. Maintaining a healthy diet, and finding time for exercise, will help you save money on expensive health care costs later.
The years after graduating college should be exciting, and you can learn a lot and advance professionally and financially if you avoid financial and career mistakes.
When it comes to acing your job interview, one important piece of the puzzle is how well you answer each question. An insufficient answer could make or break your chances of snagging the job.
Career expert Lavie Margolin said practice makes perfect when it comes to wowing the hiring managers. “Advanced practice will give you an opportunity to think through your work history to have the points you are most proud of and those that apply to your present job search at the forefront of your memory. It will also help you research any information about the position you are interviewing for in advance so that you come across as a serious applicant,” said Margolin in Winning Answers to 500 Interview Questions.
The Cheat Sheet chatted with Lorna Hagen, senior vice president of People Operations at OnDeck, for more insight into the questions to watch out for and how to answer them with grace. Here are the questions Hagen says many candidates don’t get right.
1. Question: Can I get you a cup of coffee? Water?
Common mistake in answering: “Oh, no thank you, I’m fine!”
Example of better way to address the question: “Yes!” Walk with the interviewer to retrieve. This is usually in a separate room from where you’ll be interviewed, so it will give the candidate an opportunity to see more of the office and understand more of the perks and culture. Is there a kitchen with free beverages? Is the office quiet? Are people working in offices, cubicles or community desks? Having this first-hand look allows the candidate to assess the space, the people, the vibe and the culture. It also allows the candidate to determine if it feels like it might be a good fit.
2. Question: Why didn’t you graduate from school?
Common mistake in answering: An emotional response usually happens (financial difficulties, family issues, etc.)
Example of better way to address the question: Candidates need to recall the reason why they left school and then own the decision. Candidates should talk about the personal growth that came from having to make the decision, the lessons learned and experiences gained from the time out of school until present. Showcasing continued learning and advancement regardless of an earned degree can prove attributes that are normally associated with traditional schooling.
3. Question: Why are you leaving your current job? What’s wrong with it?
Common mistake in answering: Talking about the misfortunes of the previous company (I don’t agree with management’s decisions. My boss left so I left. The company was going down the toilet) is never the way to go.
Example of better way to address the question: Candidates need to pivot the conversation and talk about their personal growth, professional goals, and how the new organization can help them achieve this. Talking down about a current or previous employer is an indication that the candidate might do the same to a future employer.
Future employers are testing for judgement with this type of question. Does the candidate know what to share and what not to share? Will the candidate be trustworthy with confidential and proprietary information? At OnDeck, openness is a core value. We also trust our team members to be responsible with proprietary information and to use good judgement when talking about our products, people and processes. It’s paramount for us to find someone who shares these same qualities
4. Question: Tell me about yourself.
Common mistake in answering: Most candidates begin with personal information such as “I was born…” or “My parents…”
Example of a better way to address the question: Although this sounds like a personal question, it’s not. This type of question provides a window into a candidate’s life and offers the opportunity to highlight professional successes and achievements. Candidates should think about the timeline of their professional life and walk the interviewer through the highlights of their resume, but with added context and color. For instance, you can offer a story or anecdote to fill in the blanks as to why you left a certain company or why you relocated.
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When it comes to to succeeding in the workplace, a college degree isn’t necessarily enough. Nor is years of experience on the job.
That’s because the most in-demand skills that employers crave are the elusive “soft skills”—the intangible but important qualities that enable you to work and interact with the people around you effectively.
These traits include leadership, self-awareness, communication skills, and emotional intelligence. In fact, an important criteria during the hiring process at Google is screening for “learning ability.”
Having great soft skills can be a huge game-changer as you go through your career. It can be the difference between getting people to believe in you or being forgotten, the difference between advancing a project or having it rejected, the difference between getting a promotion or finding yourself in yet another disappointing lateral move. These skills teach you not just to be a better employee but a stellar human being as well.
So, check out the five soft skills below that are essential for success—all of which you can teach yourself to practice in your daily interactions:
1. Listening: Make it Your Secret Communication Weapon
People often associate good communicators with excellent public speaking. But the best communicators do something that most others fail at. They listen.
The easiest way to build trust with someone is by showing interest in him or her. You can accomplish this by listening more than you talk. Good listeners don’t think about what they’re going to say next when the other person is speaking. Good listeners ask follow-up questions. Good listeners make it all about the person they’re with—not about them.
When in doubt, provide guiding cues like “Tell me more about that.” The most valuable thing that you can give someone is your attention.
2. Take Accountability: Do What You Say You’re Going to Do
When something goes wrong and you’re responsible for it, don’t make excuses, ignore it, or blame someone else. Instead, take full accountability and responsibility for the role that you played in it. Even better, learn from it.
Further, when working on a project, it’s easy to hit send on a message or email and assume your job is done. It’s even easier to agree to something in a meeting and then not follow through on it. However, being accountable also means making no assumptions, it means holding others accountable and following-up to confirm tasks have been completed, and it means keeping the agreements that you make.
When in doubt, this skill’s all about doing what you say you’re going to do. This is the core of integrity and it builds trust.
3. Creative Thinking: Be Resourceful With What You’ve Got
Being creative often means finding ways to solve problems with limited resources. Chefs are a great example of how to do this. If a chef wants to make a dish that requires 10 ingredients, but he only has seven of them on hand, what will he do? Is he going to leave his customers hungry?
No, a great chef will go into problem-solving mode. He’ll find a way to get creative with the seven ingredients that he has to make a delicious dish. The greatest innovations tend to arrive under constraints. The companies with the largest budgets or head counts don’t always finish first. Use your disadvantages to your advantage. Focus on the ingredients that you have, not the ones you don’t, and then embrace the freedom that this creates.
4. Emotional Awareness: Know What You’re Feeling
When we’re having a good or bad day, it’s easy to act on pure emotion. But this can be a deeply problematic way of making decisions (for reasons you can probably figure out).
The truth is, sometimes when you’re afraid, you’re actually very excited. Sometimes when you’re sad, you’re really angry. Sometimes when you’re angry, you’re actually quite sad. When you’re feeling any type of emotion that may cause you to behave in a questionable manner, one that you may possibly regret a few hours later, press pause and ask yourself: “What am I really feeling?”
Talk to a friend. Get a second opinion on that angry email you have drafted to your boss before you press send. Take the time to pause, re-center, and ask yourself what’s most important.
5. Empathy: Go Outside to Connect Inside
It’s easy to be part of the crowd and do what everyone else does, particularly within a large organization. However, it’s valuable to find time outside of the office to explore new experiences that allow you to grow and build empathy for others.
Great outlets for this include volunteering, taking continuing education courses, travel, working on side projects, attending conferences or cultural events, and more. When we do this, we learn how to connect with others outside of our industry and build an understanding of those who may have different viewpoints, backgrounds and who see things from a different perspective. This also teaches us how much we may have in common with others.
When we take these outside experiences back inside the office, it can create a greater empathy and understanding of our colleagues, which ultimately allows us to feel more comfortable in our own skin.
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Here’s a roundup of six old-school career books.sometimes you just can’t beat the classics.; but the advice is so legendary–and useful–they’re still worth downloading today:
1. The Pathfinder: How to Choose or Change Your Career for a Lifetime of Satisfaction and Success by Nicholas Lore
Are you looking for a new job? Maybe you’re just hoping to reignite your passion for your current position? Whichever it may be, The Pathfinder, originally published in 1998, is the book for you. Lore aims to help you find a career path that feels good and fulfills you. With over 100 self-assessments, this isn’t a book you’ll be able to read and forget about. It puts you to work! In fact, it’s pretty similar to having your own personal career coach!
2. Business Adventures: Twelve Classic Tales From the World of Wall Street by John Brooks
Did you know: Warren Buffett lent his copy of Business Adventures to Bill Gates. Gates went on to say that it was “the best business book [he has] ever read.” That means it must be good, right? Originally published in 1969, it includes many drama-filled stories about Wall Street that will keep you entertained all the way through. But it’s more than just salacious: You’ll get the inside scoop on the world of finance with a look at the 1962 stock market crash, the fall of a major brokerage firm, and more.
3. Unlimited Power: The New Science of Personal Achievement by Tony Robbins
In this book, Robbins takes readers, step-by-step, through how to perform at your best, become a leader, gain self-confidence, find the five keys to wealth and happiness, and more. Although this book was originally published in 1987, people still use it to achieve their goals and find success.
4. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Perhaps the ultimate career classic, How to Win Friends and Influence People is touted on its cover as the, “only book you need to lead you to success.” It’s packed with advice to teach you how to handle your relationships with others and the six ways to get people to like you without making them feel manipulated. You’ll even learn how to win people over to your way of thinking!
5. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
First published in 1990, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has gone on to sell over 25 million copies worldwide. And for good reason! Covey shares techniques to help you adopt the very traits that make others so successful. To learn these elusive habits, you must first accomplish what he refers to as a “paradigm shift.” Covey says this shift will change how you act regarding productivity, time management, positive thinking, and more.
6. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
Although this book isn’t necessarily career-specific, Think and Grow Rich is about finding success and wealth in your life. This 1930s classic-;yep, your grandparents may have read it, too-;shares the secret some of the wealthiest people of that time used to earn their money. If you’ve ever wondered how men like Andrew Carnegie and Henry Ford earned their fortunes, this book has the answer! In addition, Hill also outlines his 13-step program to finding success.
Yes, it’s important to stay on top of the latest career trends and thinking. But in the spirit of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” I highly recommend checking out one of these classic reads. They’re still in print today because the advice is just that good.
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When you interview for a new position, much of the conversation focuses on you and how you’d fill the given role and meet the expected qualifications. As a result, you spend a lot of time selling yourself and your skills.
But choosing to take a new job isn’t just about what you will do for the company— it’s also about whether the company is a good fit for your professional goals and day-to-day happiness. You’ll spend roughly 40 hours a week at work, so you need to make sure this job is one in which you’ll flourish.
To find out if a company or role is the right fit, ask these 10 questions.
1. What Are Your Expectations for This Role?
You need to get a sense of what you’re in for with this new position, particularly what will be expected of you during the first three months on the job. “Asking about quarterly goals for the position is key to setting yourself up for success before you even accept an offer,” says Lindsay Shoemake, founder of career lifestyle site That Working Girl. “If your interviewer or potential manager doesn’t seem to provide a clear answer, that might be a red flag that they haven’t set clear expectations for the position.”
A related follow-up: “What is the biggest challenge I would face in this position?”
“Many interviewers will respond to this question by providing you with an honest overview of company politics that will help you to evaluate whether you can succeed,” says Joe Weinlick, senior vice president of marketing for Beyond.com. “If the answer is, ‘You won’t have any challenges,’ beware! There are always challenges, and you may want to dig deeper before accepting a position.”
2. What Personalities Flourish Here?
This question is a must. Most managers can easily identify the type of person who would be successful in their organizations. Their answer will give you a better sense of whether you would be a good fit within the organization, says Jenn DeWall, a certified career and life coach. “It’s best to know this early on versus fighting to fit in and be the type of personality you’re not,” she says.
3. What Personal or Professional Development Opportunities Exist?
Learning about a company’s commitment to development can signal how much the organization values its employees, says Maria Katrien Heslin, founder of Business Boostcamp. “For example, there are some organizations that do not provide training or time off for professional development. Some have overly strict policies on employees being able to attend conferences,” she explains. “Organizations like this most often are pretty old-school in their management approach.”
4. What’s the Typical Career Path for This Position?
“For those who are goal oriented, it’s important to know up front what you’re working toward,” DeWall says. “If you are eager to climb the corporate ladder and develop your resume and an employer indicates there aren’t career advancement opportunities, the position may be a dead end for you and your career goals.”
Definitely something you’d want to know before taking a position that could lead you nowhere—and back on the job hunt in a couple of years.
5. What’s the Company Culture Like?
Whether you’re interested in a job that allows for flex time or you’d like to be able to bring your dog into the office, you need to find out what the company culture is like before you’re hired. DeWall advises asking about the organization’s take on work-life balance and what a typical workday looks like.
Of course, you don’t want to come off as unprofessional, so you might not want to ask straight up about working remotely and whether you’re allowed to dress casually in your first interview, but these key elements might be important to find out if you have an offer in hand.
“By asking about office culture you should get the answers to your questions,” says Erik Bowitz, senior resume expert at Resume Genius. “The ability to dress down and work remotely are valuable benefits for today’s graduates entering the workforce,” and companies are trying to entice the best and brightest with more modern policies.
6. Do You Have a Bonus Program?
“Don’t be bashful about asking about compensation,” Bowitz says. He advises job hunters to get all the details on their pay—from base salary to bonus programs and equity—before accepting an offer, even unofficially or verbally. “Remember you both are bringing value to the table, and so you should never feel lower or disadvantaged being the interviewee.”
Joseph Terach, founder and CEO of Resume Deli, also advises not being shy when asking about benefits, especially how much you’ll have to contribute to medical and dental coverage per month and how the 401(k) vesting and matching programs work. At the end of the day, you’re working to get paid, so you need to be sure the compensation is adequate.
7. Why Do You Like Working Here?
The answer to this question can be quite telling. “This is a good question to ask the interviewer because it’s unexpected and the response can be revealing,” says career consultant Melissa Cooley, founder of The Job Quest. “While most folks will pause before answering because they aren’t anticipating the question—which is a normal reaction—others may stumble all over their words. If an interviewer has a challenging time forming an answer, that’s worth noting.”
Some interviewers may give a boilerplate response when asked about company culture, says Weinlick says. But with this question, you’ll get an immediate emotional and verbal reaction. “If the response tells you the person isn’t excited to go to work, then ask yourself if you are likely to be any different,” he adds. “Ideally, the interviewer will paint a picture of why you would want to work at the company.”
8. What Values Are Important to Your Company?
Getting a sense of the company’s values is extremely important, says Ethan Austin, co-founder of GiveForward: You want to find out whether there’s a common mission or goal that employees collectively work toward—and whether it matches your own values. “If different interviewers give different answers to this question, it’s a red flag to the interviewee that the company is not aligned around a clear mission,” he explains.
John Fleischauer, senior talent attraction manager for Halogen Software, agrees. “What you’re looking for is a response where the interviewer can explicitly communicate, with examples, how the organizational culture is intentionally reinforced across the employee life cycle,” he says. “In other words, if exceptional customer service is a cultural value, the importance of wanting to help or serve clients and meet their needs should be included in all job descriptions as a core competency.”
9. What Do You Think Are the Top 5 Assets of This Company?
This is a bit of a trick question, but the answer will give you further insight about what it might be like to work at the organization and how the company values its personnel.
“One of the responses should be, ‘Employees,’” Cooley says. “If the people who make the products or provide the service are mentioned as an afterthought, or not at all, a candidate should really wonder how that would impact the way the company treats them.”
10. Where Will I Sit?
It might sound silly, but literally seeing the office or cubicle in which you’d spend five days each week is very important for assessing your quality of life at the company. “It’s a mistake not to ask to see where you’ll be sitting: Imagine taking a job only to find out on day one that you’re in a windowless basement,” Terach says. Not the kind of surprise you want, right?
Credit : dailyworth.com
By this point, you know not to apply to any jobs with an email address that screams, “I created this in the eighth grade!” So, you’re no longer [email protected] as far as your prospective employers are concerned. You also know not to show up late for the interview. And you have a firm grasp on the importance of making eye contact and delivering a solid handshake.
But did you know that there are several other things that could negatively impact the impression you make with a hiring manager? I spoke to four career coaches to get the outside-the-box scoop on the truly unprofessional things that are bound to hurt you in your job search process. Read on so you can avoid them like you avoid crowds on Black Friday.
1. You’re Desperate—and You Show It
Laura Garnett, career coach and consultant, says that nothing makes you look more unprofessional than when “you feel desperate”. This is because, as the old cliché goes, “People can spot desperation from a mile away.” Garnett knows that it can be hard to mask if you’re actually feeling this way, but, nonetheless, “you have to ensure that you are confident, know the opportunity is a good fit for your strengths, and be able to speak to why and how you are right for the role and the organization.” She encourages job seekers to “be clear on what your career vision is and how this opportunity fits into that.”
Avoid “being a yes person,” she says, encouraging job seekers to “demonstrate curiosity and interest in the organization” and not just talk about yourself nonstop. Nary an interviewer is going to be interested in you if you don’t know when to give up the floor.
2. You Hide Who You Really Are
Garnett’s advice is worth its salt, that’s for sure, and so is career strategist, Rajiv Nathan’s, whose unexpected thoughts on the subject are worth remembering. His belief is that if you hide who you really are in interviews, you’re not doing yourself any favors. Nathan explains that he “frequently advises people to stop dividing work life from home life, and acknowledge that you’re one person at the end of the day. Share who you are as a person, don’t just share the role you think the company’s trying to cast for its ‘play.’”
To him, that “includes sharing the weird or potentially ‘unprofessional’ things you’re interested in.” Basically, in order not to appear unscrupulous, you’ve got to delve into the so-called unprofessional. Nathan has gone there, telling “interviewers within the first three minutes” that he loves WWE pro wrestling and that he’s a rapper. This kind of information is going to set the stage for a far more interesting, memorable conversation than if you pretend to be one-dimensional.
3. You Don’t Finish Your Homework
You’ve probably heard about the importance of researching a company (a.k.a., homework) before going into a job interview. You want to be able to talk intelligently, so you read the mission statement, do a Google search of the founders, and have a general understanding of their past and present standing.
But, cautions Adrian J. Hopkins, a Muse career coach, this isn’t homework you can half-ass. It’s not enough to spew off a couple of “top-line company facts.” If you want the job and wish to avoid looking unprofessional in any way, shape, or form, you’re going to have to “go above and beyond a basic understanding of the company.” Let the interviewer know how you plan to grow with the company and get him thinking that he can’t “believe” he hadn’t the good fortune of meeting you sooner.
Review Google News for references to the company, paying special attention to any statements that executives make about their strategic direction. If you’re familiar with where the leadership team wants it to go, it’s easier to make a case for why they should bring you on to help them get there. If the organization is smaller and not in the headlines, review its blog and social media, and prepare a new and thorough perspective on something that you’ve read.
4. You Blow it on Social Media
Has the incredible importance of your social media presence sunk in yet? This sounds super obvious, yet status faux pas are somehow still an issue—making it the most unexpected unprofessional behavior at this point. Career expert and coach Heidi Duss can’t stress this point enough: “Everyone needs to be very aware of what they are putting out.” She goes on to explain that “Hiring managers and recruiters will Google someone and find his or her online presence.”
To drive her point home, Duss shares an anecdote of her own:
I once had a college student apply for an internship in our finance department. The hiring manager came to me and noted that he had checked out her Twitter feed and she had horrible things to say about the university she was graduating from, as well as the professors she had. Every other word was derogatory. The hiring manager said, ‘If she talks about her school/teachers this way, what is she going to say about our company when something does not go her way?’
The hiring manager had made her point, and so, apparently, had the candidate.
When it comes to getting the job of your dreams and presenting yourself as a professional and desirable candidate, there’s more to it than simply having a typo-free resume and wearing a freshly pressed button-down. Before you pat yourself on the back for remembering to bring extra copies of your application materials to the interview, make sure you brush up on a few of the lesser-known ways that job seekers come across as unprofessional.
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Hiring managers are just people, and people are naturally curious. That means at some point during the interview, you’re going to get the question, “So, why are you leaving your current job?”
Obviously, you want to be honest in an interview. You’re leaving your job for a reason. But you should really try your best to refrain from being negative. Focus on what you have to look forward to, not what you’re leaving behind. To give you an idea of what I mean, here are four fairly blunt reasons why you might be job searching, and how to translate them into tactful responses.
1. You Want to Make More Money
Who doesn’t wish they were paid more? It’s a completely normal thing, but perhaps not the best to bring up during an interview —at least not until the hiring manager is more invested in you.
Here’s what to say instead:
During my three years at LBD, I had the opportunity to really develop a strong skill set in data analysis, quantitative reasoning, and programming. And, while it was a great learning experience and I enjoyed contributing to the team, I’m ready to join a company that values my skills and allows me to use them more fully.
2. Your Boss Is a Jerk
There’s no other way to put it: You have a terrible boss. Mention briefly and neutrally that you two are on separate tracks and move on. Wrap it up with something positive about the company.
Here’s how to phrase it:
I realized the leadership of my team was going in a different direction, and I’m interested in working in a more collaborative environment. It was a hard decision to make because I love the mission of the company, but I ultimately think this is the right choice.
3. You Want to Get Promoted
This is probably the tamest reason to be job searching. In fact, even the blunt version is more or less fine. But, if you want to go into a bit more detail, you can definitely put a positive spin on the answer.
Here’s how to say it:
I’m ready for the next challenge in my career. I loved the people I worked with and the projects I worked on, but at some point I realized I wasn’t being challenged the way I used to be. Rather than let myself get too comfortable, I decided to pursue a position where I can continue to grow.
4. Your Job Is Just Generally Crappy
Sugarcoat a turd, and it’s still a turd. Rather than try to make your job sound less awful than it is, focus instead on the one or two things that drew you to that position, how it was ultimately a bad fit, and what you look forward to in a new role.
Here’s how to put it politely:
I was really excited to start in a role that worked so closely with local wildlife and contributed to such a meaningful cause. I think, because of that, I neglected to learn more about the actual ins and outs of the company. It didn’t take me long to realize that I wasn’t a good cultural fit. Since then I’ve been seeking a role in a company that values transparency, one where I can continue to make an impact.
Notice how all of these responses have at least one thing that’s positive about the interviewee’s previous role? You don’t get any points for recounting each and every flaw of your last supervisor. Your best bet is to take the high road and look to the future.
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You’ve got your eye on an amazing opportunity. You update your resume, perfect your cover letter, and line up your references. So far, you’re doing everything right. But before you submit your application documents, ask yourself this important question: What sets me apart?
You may have an extraordinary cover letter and resume with strong references. Great—but there will probably be other candidates with very comparable documents. So if you really want the gig, you have to be bold and prove your worth—before you’re asked to.
When I was a college student and member of the campus newspaper staff, I participated in interviewing a candidate for Director of Student Publications. While perusing her application materials, I noticed something unique: a newsletter she created announcing her hiring. It demonstrated her design and writing ability, and it made a bold statement about her desire for the job—which she got.
I still remembered that director about 10 years later, when I really wanted an open position with my alma mater, but assumed there would be other qualified individuals who wanted it, too. I asked myself what I could do—beyond writing a standout cover letter and resume—to showcase my abilities.
I ended up developing and submitting a program proposal that demonstrated my ability to plan an event grounded in theory and research, my strong writing skills, and my ability to think creatively. Less than three weeks later, I started in the new role. The proposal had served the exact purpose I wanted it to: It caught the hiring committee’s attention, confirmed my abilities, and showed a level of drive and enthusiasm that none of the other candidates demonstrated in quite the same way.
To be bold in your job search, you need to provide quality information to your potential employer beyond what a standard cover letter and resume convey. However, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. My approach for a position in higher education probably wouldn’t work at a corporate accounting firm. So, how do you make this work for you and your unique situation? It comes down to simply providing evidence that you are the ideal fit. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
1. Submit a “Pain Letter”
Follow the advice of Liz Ryan, and substitute a pain letter for your cover letter. A pain letter identifies a challenge the company is facing and explains how you, if hired, would solve that problem. This demonstrates an uncommon depth of company knowledge and your unique ability to solve problems—which can seriously boost your appeal as a candidate.
2. Connect With an Insider
Don’t rely on a recruiter to understand your value solely based on what you put on paper as your cover letter and resume. Find someone influential on the inside of the company and send your information directly to that person—or, depending on the relationship you form, ask that person to vouch for you. It’s a gutsy move (especially if you have no prior connection to that person), but a personal reference almost always results in a higher success rate than relying solely on your cover letter and resume to get you the job.
There are a variety of ways to connect with that influencer: Try connecting on LinkedIn, joining a professional organization he or she is a member of, or use your personal network to garner an introduction. Then, continue forging that connection by conveying your passion and the value you can bring to the role.
You could send an email or LinkedIn message, for example, that says:
I was researching your company because I am applying for the open marketing position there, and I came across your profile on LinkedIn. I saw that you recently published a post about the BuzzFeed approach to viral content. I’m sending a link to a website I helped develop as a marketing intern for my university’s Division of Student Life, which used a BuzzFeed approach.
As you can see from the data I’ve included, it increased traffic to online campus resources by 25%, supporting your theory. I thought this site might be an interesting resource for you. I would be happy to provide you with more details if you are interested, and I would greatly value your support in my pursuit of the marketing position.
With this, you’re making a meaningful connection, without just asking for a favor.
3. Showcase Your Skills
A cover letter and resume can only go so far to describe what you can do; a portfolio provides concrete evidence of those abilities. Have you done a lot of writing in your previous roles? Don’t just tell an employer that you have strong writing skills on your resume; include samples of your writing in your portfolio.
You can bring this portfolio with you to the interview, but that assumes you actually get an interview. Instead, do yourself a favor and build an online portfolio that employers can access immediately when they receive your application materials. Your portfolio then becomes a tool that helps you land the interview, instead of something you showcase at the interview.
Plus, an online portfolio also allows you to include media that a traditional portfolio doesn’t. Do you have experience developing proposals and securing funding for projects? Include a proposal, timeline, and photos or a time-lapse video of the project in your portfolio.
4. Demonstrate Your Value
In addition to an online portfolio, consider submitting additional documents that can demonstrate your value to the company. Think about what the company needs, and develop something unique around that. For example, you could develop a proposal for a new program, an out-of-the-box marketing tactic, or a grant opportunity. The opportunities are endless—you simply have to use your knowledge of the company and your creativity to develop something relevant and realistic.
This approach will demonstrate your depth of knowledge of what the company needs and your ability to realistically meet those needs. It also proves your effort and enthusiasm—qualities that any sane employer wants in every employee.
5. Ask Bold Questions
When you snag an interview, you’ll certainly need to prepare for the questions that interviewer will ask you—but don’t forget that the interview is a two-way street. You should prepare a few questions of your own to help you decide if this is the right position for you and show just how interested you are in pursuing the opportunity.
This doesn’t mean you should be overly aggressive—but being willing to ask straightforward questions will show you know what you want. Lily Zhang suggests three strong wrap-up questions here.
I recently interviewed for a new opportunity on campus. I came to the interview with two proposals—one for a new counseling practicum position and one for a new student group—both closely aligned with the goals of the office. I hadn’t been asked to develop either item as part of the application process, but I saw an opportunity to showcase my potential impact in the role.
I closed the interview by asking one of Zhang’s bold wrap-up questions (among several other pointed questions), and in general, I did everything in my power to make it easy for everyone involved in the hiring decision to see what I envisioned for this new role and to understand that I had the experience to pull it off. And guess what? I started my new job April 13.
In your job search, you can submit the same old cover letter and resume like every other job seeker, or you can look for a way to stand out from the competition for all the right reasons. Will you make the investment in yourself?
Credit : themuse.com
Wouldn’t it be great if you knew exactly what a hiring manager would be asking you in your next interview?
While we unfortunately can’t read minds, we’ll give you the next best thing: a list of the 31 most commonly asked interview questions and answers.
While we don’t recommend having a canned response for every interview question (in fact, please don’t), we do recommend spending some time getting comfortable with what you might be asked, what hiring managers are really looking for in your responses, and what it takes to show that you’re the right man or woman for the job.
Consider this your interview study guide.
1. Can you tell me a little about yourself?
This question seems simple, so many people fail to prepare for it, but it’s crucial. Here’s the deal: Don’t give your complete employment (or personal) history. Instead give a pitch—one that’s concise and compelling and that shows exactly why you’re the right fit for the job. Start off with the 2-3 specific accomplishments or experiences that you most want the interviewer to know about, then wrap up talking about how that prior experience has positioned you for this specific role.
2. How did you hear about the position?
Another seemingly innocuous interview question, this is actually a perfect opportunity to stand out and show your passion for and connection to the company. For example, if you found out about the gig through a friend or professional contact, name drop that person, then share why you were so excited about it. If you discovered the company through an event or article, share that. Even if you found the listing through a random job board, share what, specifically, caught your eye about the role.
3. What do you know about the company?
Any candidate can read and regurgitate the company’s “About” page. So, when interviewers ask this, they aren’t necessarily trying to gauge whether you understand the mission—they want to know whether you care about it. Start with one line that shows you understand the company’s goals, using a couple key words and phrases from the website, but then go on to make it personal. Say, “I’m personally drawn to this mission because…” or “I really believe in this approach because…” and share a personal example or two.
4. Why do you want this job?
Again, companies want to hire people who are passionate about the job, so you should have a great answer about why you want the position. (And if you don’t? You probably should apply elsewhere.) First, identify a couple of key factors that make the role a great fit for you (e.g., “I love customer support because I love the constant human interaction and the satisfaction that comes from helping someone solve a problem”), then share why you love the company (e.g., “I’ve always been passionate about education, and I think you guys are doing great things, so I want to be a part of it”).
5. Why should we hire you?
This interview question seems forward (not to mention intimidating!), but if you’re asked it, you’re in luck: There’s no better setup for you to sell yourself and your skills to the hiring manager. Your job here is to craft an answer that covers three things: that you can not only do the work, you can deliver great results; that you’ll really fit in with the team and culture; and that you’d be a better hire than any of the other candidates.
6. What are your greatest professional strengths?
When answering this question, interview coach Pamela Skillings recommends being accurate (share your true strengths, not those you think the interviewer wants to hear); relevant (choose your strengths that are most targeted to this particular position); and specific (for example, instead of “people skills,” choose “persuasive communication” or “relationship building”). Then, follow up with an example of how you’ve demonstrated these traits in a professional setting.
7. What do you consider to be your weaknesses?
What your interviewer is really trying to do with this question—beyond identifying any major red flags—is to gauge your self-awareness and honesty. So, “I can’t meet a deadline to save my life” is not an option—but neither is “Nothing! I’m perfect!” Strike a balance by thinking of something that you struggle with but that you’re working to improve. For example, maybe you’ve never been strong at public speaking, but you’ve recently volunteered to run meetings to help you be more comfortable when addressing a crowd.
8. What is your greatest professional achievement?
Nothing says “hire me” better than a track record of achieving amazing results in past jobs, so don’t be shy when answering this interview question! A great way to do so is by using the S-T-A-R method: Set up the situation and the task that you were required to complete to provide the interviewer with background context (e.g., “In my last job as a junior analyst, it was my role to manage the invoicing process”), but spend the bulk of your time describing what you actually did (the action) and what you achieved (the result). For example, “In one month, I streamlined the process, which saved my group 10 man-hours each month and reduced errors on invoices by 25%.”
9. Tell me about a challenge or conflict you’ve faced at work, and how you dealt with it.
In asking this interview question, “your interviewer wants to get a sense of how you will respond to conflict. Anyone can seem nice and pleasant in a job interview, but what will happen if you’re hired and Gladys in Compliance starts getting in your face?” says Skillings. Again, you’ll want to use the S-T-A-R method, being sure to focus on how you handled the situation professionally and productively, and ideally closing with a happy ending, like how you came to a resolution or compromise.
10. Where do you see yourself in five years?
If asked this question, be honest and specific about your future goals, but consider this: A hiring manager wants to know a) if you’ve set realistic expectations for your career, b) if you have ambition (a.k.a., this interview isn’t the first time you’re considering the question), and c) if the position aligns with your goals and growth. Your best bet is to think realistically about where this position could take you and answer along those lines. And if the position isn’t necessarily a one-way ticket to your aspirations? It’s OK to say that you’re not quite sure what the future holds, but that you see this experience playing an important role in helping you make that decision.
11. What’s your dream job?
Along similar lines, the interviewer wants to uncover whether this position is really in line with your ultimate career goals. While “an NBA star” might get you a few laughs, a better bet is to talk about your goals and ambitions—and why this job will get you closer to them.
12. What other companies are you interviewing with?
Companies ask this for a number of reasons, from wanting to see what the competition is for you to sniffing out whether you’re serious about the industry. “Often the best approach is to mention that you are exploring a number of other similar options in the company’s industry,” says job search expert Alison Doyle. “It can be helpful to mention that a common characteristic of all the jobs you are applying to is the opportunity to apply some critical abilities and skills that you possess. For example, you might say ‘I am applying for several positions with IT consulting firms where I can analyze client needs and translate them to development teams in order to find solutions to technology problems.’”
13. Why are you leaving your current job?
This is a toughie, but one you can be sure you’ll be asked. Definitely keep things positive—you have nothing to gain by being negative about your past employers. Instead, frame things in a way that shows that you’re eager to take on new opportunities and that the role you’re interviewing for is a better fit for you than your current or last position. For example, “I’d really love to be part of product development from beginning to end, and I know I’d have that opportunity here.” And if you were let go? Keep it simple: “Unfortunately, I was let go,” is a totally OK answer.
14. Why were you fired?
OK, if you get the admittedly much tougher follow-up question as to why you were let go (and the truth isn’t exactly pretty), your best bet is to be honest (the job-seeking world is small, after all). But it doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker. Share how you’ve grown and how you approach your job and life now as a result. If you can position the learning experience as an advantage for this next job, even better.
15. What are you looking for in a new position?
Hint: Ideally the same things that this position has to offer. Be specific.
16. What type of work environment do you prefer?
Hint: Ideally one that’s similar to the environment of the company you’re applying to. Be specific.
17. What’s your management style?
The best managers are strong but flexible, and that’s exactly what you want to show off in your answer. (Think something like, “While every situation and every team member requires a bit of a different strategy, I tend to approach my employee relationships as a coach…”) Then, share a couple of your best managerial moments, like when you grew your team from five to 15 or coached an underperforming employee to become the company’s top salesperson.
18. What’s a time you exercised leadership?
Depending on what’s more important for the the role, you’ll want to choose an example that showcases your project management skills (spearheading a project from end to end, juggling multiple moving parts) or one that shows your ability to confidently and effectively rally a team. And remember: “The best stories include enough detail to be believable and memorable,” says Skillings. “Show how you were a leader in this situation and how it represents your overall leadership experience and potential.”
19. What’s a time you disagreed with a decision that was made at work?
Everyone disagrees with the boss from time to time, but in asking this interview question, hiring managers want to know that you can do so in a productive, professional way. “You don’t want to tell the story about the time when you disagreed but your boss was being a jerk and you just gave in to keep the peace. And you don’t want to tell the one where you realized you were wrong,” says Peggy McKee of Career Confidential. “Tell the one where your actions made a positive difference on the outcome of the situation, whether it was a work-related outcome or a more effective and productive working relationship.”
20. How would your boss and co-workers describe you?
First of all, be honest (remember, if you get this job, the hiring manager will be calling your former bosses and co-workers!). Then, try to pull out strengths and traits you haven’t discussed in other aspects of the interview, such as your strong work ethic or your willingness to pitch in on other projects when needed.
21. Why was there a gap in your employment?
If you were unemployed for a period of time, be direct and to the point about what you’ve been up to (and hopefully, that’s a litany of impressive volunteer and other mind-enriching activities, like blogging or taking classes). Then, steer the conversation toward how you will do the job and contribute to the organization: “I decided to take a break at the time, but today I’m ready to contribute to this organization in the following ways.”
22. Can you explain why you changed career paths?
Don’t be thrown off by this question—just take a deep breath and explain to the hiring manager why you’ve made the career decisions you have. More importantly, give a few examples of how your past experience is transferrable to the new role. This doesn’t have to be a direct connection; in fact, it’s often more impressive when a candidate can make seemingly irrelevant experience seem very relevant to the role.
23. How do you deal with pressure or stressful situations?
“Choose an answer that shows that you can meet a stressful situation head-on in a productive, positive manner and let nothing stop you from accomplishing your goals,” says McKee. A great approach is to talk through your go-to stress-reduction tactics (making the world’s greatest to-do list, stopping to take 10 deep breaths), and then share an example of a stressful situation you navigated with ease.
24. What would your first 30, 60, or 90 days look like in this role?
Start by explaining what you’d need to do to get ramped up. What information would you need? What parts of the company would you need to familiarize yourself with? What other employees would you want to sit down with? Next, choose a couple of areas where you think you can make meaningful contributions right away. (e.g., “I think a great starter project would be diving into your email marketing campaigns and setting up a tracking system for them.”) Sure, if you get the job, you (or your new employer) might decide there’s a better starting place, but having an answer prepared will show the interviewer where you can add immediate impact—and that you’re excited to get started.
25. What are your salary requirements?
The #1 rule of answering this question is doing your research on what you should be paid by using sites like Payscale and Glassdoor. You’ll likely come up with a range, and we recommend stating the highest number in that range that applies, based on your experience, education, and skills. Then, make sure the hiring manager knows that you’re flexible. You’re communicating that you know your skills are valuable, but that you want the job and are willing to negotiate.
26. What do you like to do outside of work?
Interviewers ask personal questions in an interview to “see if candidates will fit in with the culture [and] give them the opportunity to open up and display their personality, too,” says longtime hiring manager Mitch Fortner. “In other words, if someone asks about your hobbies outside of work, it’s totally OK to open up and share what really makes you tick. (Do keep it semi-professional, though: Saying you like to have a few beers at the local hot spot on Saturday night is fine. Telling them that Monday is usually a rough day for you because you’re always hungover is not.)”
27. If you were an animal, which one would you want to be?
Seemingly random personality-test type questions like these come up in interviews generally because hiring managers want to see how you can think on your feet. There’s no wrong answer here, but you’ll immediately gain bonus points if your answer helps you share your strengths or personality or connect with the hiring manager. Pro tip: Come up with a stalling tactic to buy yourself some thinking time, such as saying, “Now, that is a great question. I think I would have to say… ”
28. How many tennis balls can you fit into a limousine?
1,000? 10,000? 100,000? Seriously?
Well, seriously, you might get asked brainteaser questions like these, especially in quantitative jobs. But remember that the interviewer doesn’t necessarily want an exact number—he wants to make sure that you understand what’s being asked of you, and that you can set into motion a systematic and logical way to respond. So, just take a deep breath, and start thinking through the math. (Yes, it’s OK to ask for a pen and paper!)
29. Are you planning on having children?
Questions about your family status, gender (“How would you handle managing a team of all men?”), nationality (“Where were you born?”), religion, or age, are illegal—but they still get asked (and frequently). Of course, not always with ill intent—the interviewer might just be trying to make conversation—but you should definitely tie any questions about your personal life (or anything else you think might be inappropriate) back to the job at hand. For this question, think: “You know, I’m not quite there yet. But I am very interested in the career paths at your company. Can you tell me more about that?”
30. What do you think we could do better or differently?
This is a common one at startups (and one of our personal favorites here at The Muse). Hiring managers want to know that you not only have some background on the company, but that you’re able to think critically about it and come to the table with new ideas. So, come with new ideas! What new features would you love to see? How could the company increase conversions? How could customer service be improved? You don’t need to have the company’s four-year strategy figured out, but do share your thoughts, and more importantly, show how your interests and expertise would lend themselves to the job.
31. Do you have any questions for us?
You probably already know that an interview isn’t just a chance for a hiring manager to grill you—it’s your opportunity to sniff out whether a job is the right fit for you. What do you want to know about the position? The company? The department? The team?
You’ll cover a lot of this in the actual interview, so have a few less-common questions ready to go. We especially like questions targeted to the interviewer (“What’s your favorite part about working here?”) or the company’s growth (“What can you tell me about your new products or plans for growth?”)
Source : themuse.com
All right, every job interview is different as is every job; however, there are common questions that interviewers are prone to ask. The best decision a job seeker can make, is to prepare for those expected questions. Even so, deciding to memorise your answers for the questions is a bad idea considering that your answers will sound robotic instead of honest.
In preference, use the opportunity to think about what your answer would be so that when asked, you do not feel pressurized but feel confident.
As times have changed, so have the things we do. Today, employers ask less conventional questions. Instead, interviewers will ask questions that require your answers to show them who you are and not have you tell them who you are or what you capable of.
However, the less conventional interview questions are still new and employers and interviewers still ask the common questions, therefore it is important to prepare for these interview questions.
Read following list of the 25 most common interview questions.
1. What are your strengths?
2. What are your weaknesses?
3. What was your previous position?
4. What were your responsibilities?
5. What were some of the challenges you faced?
6. What did you dislike about your previous job/company?
7. Why are you interested in working for this company?
8. What can you contribute to the company?
9. What are some of your accomplishments?
10. How do you handle stress and pressure?
11. Why do you want this job?
12. What is your dream job?
13. How do you handle difficult situations?
14. What is your definition of success?
15. What is it about you that you want us to know?
16. What experience do you have?
17. What motivates you to do a good job?
18. Are you a good team player?
19. Do you have any questions?
20. What are you most passionate about?
21. What is your availability?
22. What are your career goals?
23. What do you like the most and least of working in the industry?
24. What are your salary requirements?
25. When you experienced conflict with a co-worker or supervisor, how did you handle the situation?
Remember that no matter the question, always remain calm, take your time to answer even though you have thought of your answer; as well as to be honest and show your interest.
Are you struggling to write that winning CV that’s going to land you your dream job? In Today’s society we know that it’s becoming ever more difficult to make yourself stand out from the crowd. What is important on a CV is equally what it looks like and what it says. So how do you make yourself stand out on paper? Here are some guidelines and tips to writing that CV.
The key elements to have on your CV:
Your Personal Details
Personal details include things like your name, surname etc. and relevant contact details. Always make sure to double check that your contact details are correct.
Although I say work history this does not mean that you should jot down the time you were a waiter/waitress in high school, what you should do is tailor this section of your CV to the job you are applying for.
Once again you should include only what is relevant, so you can start from which high school you attended to any tertiary education thereafter or even short courses which you completed.
Being able to juggle five knives while blindfolded does not count (unless you’re applying for a job at the circus). Try and avoid saying phrases like ‘energetic’, ‘good communicator’ as this should speak for itself from your CV as a whole.
This section should be what makes your CV unique. Achievements may include for example any specific training you did at your previous job.
Remember that your CV represents you so it should be honest, accurate and relevant. Try avoiding things like spelling errors and poor grammar. Do not trust your computers spell check, but rather get someone to double check your CV for you. Avoid copying your previous job description – rather write down what you achieved whilst you were working there. Other things to avoid would be long paragraphs, being vague and breaking the two page rule.
Tips to help you make your CV stand out are the use of bullet points to break text into more ‘manageable’ sizes, the use of fonts such as; Georgia, Arial, Calibri etc. as these fonts are quite clear, for the main page header it is recommended to be 22points in size, subheadings 14points and for the body text 10-11points and remember to be consistent with fonts.
These tips should be sure to land you an interview and remember the golden rule when it comes to writing a CV would be to not lie or over exaggerate.
If you’re like most people who have just scored a meeting with their dream company, you’re probably more nervous than you’ve ever been for an interview. And because you want to work there so badly (and because your stomach’s already in knots), you’re pretty sure you’re going to lose your composure during the interview.
Reading that last sentence probably made you take pause and think to yourself, “Well, that sounds pretty self-defeating.” And if that’s what you’re currently thinking to yourself, you’re absolutely right. While there’s no understating the pressure you’re feeling about getting this job with this company, there are a few things you should remind yourself of before you get any further in your interview prep.
It Might Be Your Dream Company, But the Employees There Are Human, Too
Even if the company is so awesome that it’s singlehandedly figured out how to make clothes that repair themselves when they rip—then turns around and donates 95% of its proceeds to people in need—take a minute to remember that the people you’ll be meeting with are human beings, just like you. Once you’ve reminded yourself the hiring manager’s human, you’ll be able to put a few things into perspective. And what you’ll realize is that your interviewers have a good deal of pressure on their shoulders too.
As much as you want to work for them, they’re also really hoping you’re the one. Companies don’t just open up roles because they had some extra money in the budget and figured, hey, let’s hire a few extra people. They open up roles because there’s a need—and often times those needs are pretty urgent. So, as cliché as it might be to say that the interview is just as much for you as it is for the company, treating it this way is a really nice trick to help you stay composed during your interview.
There’s Only So Much You Can Control
You have control over a few things before any interview. You can take the time to figure out how long it’ll take to get to the office from where you are. You can pick out and iron your outfit a few days before. You can even run countless Google searches to see what kinds of questions you should expect from the company.
However, it’s worth re-emphasizing as nicely as possible that you can only control so much.
For starters, I’ve never been on an interview where my Google searches for questions certain companies “commonly” ask have been totally accurate. And even in the instances in which I felt “prepared,” there have always been a couple of curveballs. Recruiters are busy—sometimes too busy—but they’re sharp. And plenty of candidates have gone into interviews with the sole purpose of selling themselves to the hiring manager without actually answering their questions.
So, they come up with little caveats to throw you off your game a little bit. When I’ve been faced with these tricky situations—maybe a question I wasn’t expecting or a difficult take-home assignment—I actually started sweating. But, I forged ahead and did the best I could. And that’s all anyone could ask of you, even when a dream job at your dream company is on the line.
You Have Questions and Need Answers, Too
So, here’s the thing. Plenty of great candidates have accepted jobs at what they thought were their dream companies, only to find out that it wasn’t quite as awesome as they thought. And it’s hard to think about that when you’re so caught up with how amazing that self-repairing sweater they sold to you feels.
However, the night before you begin that interview with Dream Company USA, take a few minutes to think about the actual gig you’re interviewing for. Is it something that you’re not really that interested in, but are way more comfortable with because it’s with that company? If it is, don’t forget that just because a company is reinventing the way you go about repairing your clothes (and don’t forget all the money it’s donating), that doesn’t mean the job itself is right for you.
In more practical terms, you can think of it this way: If you’re looking to break into marketing, the road to that kind of role might be a little trickier if you take a job in accounting, even though it’s at Dream Company USA. So, even though you’re super excited to just be visiting the offices, be aware that you’re going to be caught up in it—at least for a minute—but then reevaluate the gig you’re interviewing for to see if it’s something you’re even remotely interested in.
Don’t feel the need to settle for a job you know you’re not going to like just because it’s at Dream Company USA. While it might be hard to think about why you wouldn’t go to work there, don’t let how awesome the place is diminish how much of a priority your happiness is in this process, too.
Credit : themuse.com