Truth - People behave differently when they perceive themselves to be under observation. This phenomenon is called the Hawthorne effect. If our lives are all based on our interactions with others and the world around us, then who are we? If who we are changes based on the context of where we are or who we find ourselves, the question becomes, are we ever actually being ourselves? Maybe the question is rhetorical, in that we can only ever be ourselves? Regardless, there's a lot to unpack here. This is the big interview.

"I sometimes find that in interviews you learn more about yourself
than the person learned about you." William Shatner

It's been funny for me the amount of advice, the vast majority of it unsolicited, that I've received ever since I started my job search process. People have truly come out of the wood work to give me their opinions on how I should approach every aspect of the process. Most, if not all, of it has had benign intentions but it has been intrusive nonetheless. It's been as if I opened up my entire life for the speculation of the world (says the person who publically blogs - this is dripping with irony). There is something to be said though about being inundated with thoughts, opinions, and warnings from others - whatever decisions I make have to be my own. I have to choose for me. I have to choose for now. I have to choose what will allow me to be my truest self. And so that cliché about just being yourself gained its reputation of being woefully overused because it is undoubtedly true. I add the caveat that it's important to be not necessarily your best self, but your most authentic self. There is something powerfully human about being both polished and genuinely flawed in how I show up. It's this intangible feeling that I'm really putting my whole self out there in a professionally personal way. That is my biggest reminder to myself whether on an interview, at work, with friends, or on a date - be there, be exceptional, and be weird. The most memorable people are the ones who allow themselves to be known. Personality, character, and quirks beyond base qualifications reign supreme. Find whatever gets you to that sweet spot of being both "on" and simultaneously "real."

I cannot say enough how important it is to let your personality shine through. That's what people are often looking for. Can this person do what I need them to, AND are they someone I can seeing myself spending substantial time with. How do I do that exactly? Well for me there's a lot of self-affirmation that happens before and during my times with other people. I realized how much more comfortable I became when pointing out my mistakes, weird things, and how I was feeling in the presence of other people than when I pretended to not notice it. Healthy self-deprecation as humor is my go to, especially because I have come to realize how perfectly postured I can appear. I often play with Play-Doh in interviews which, once I explain it, doesn't seem as odd as it might first seem. It reminds me to slow down, speak clearly, and have a purpose. I also usually pick someone in the crowd that I feel connected to as a point person to focus my eye-contact. Lastly, I tell myself to smile. It's in smiling that I find the joy, pride, and light that are within me. I'm a character and so for me, it's injecting my social consciousness and social commentary into everything I do. That's me. People can take it or leave it. In being able to be my all, I get to feel good afterwards because I know that I put on display all I had to offer - if it fits with that a search committee or someone is looking for, great - if not, I have no regrets.

The environments I find myself in, like most people, are often contrived. I mean they are artificially constructed and taking that into account helps alleviate the pressure I feel in them. If I tell you I sweat profusely when I'm nervous, it's an understatement. There's two things to take from that though, I still struggle when it comes to figuring out how to rationalize/calm myself down; and that me being nervous may also be a reflection of how uncomfortable I feel. That feeling of discomfort is usually my body telling me that maybe this isn't the place for me. Distinguishing between the anxiousness I feel to want to show up in an authentic way (because apparently being real is a performance; oxymoron alert) and generally not feeling it. I'm definitely a feeler and will trust myself over logic almost always because I know if I'm not digging it there, I'm not going to do well/give what I should in the future. If there's any unwarranted advice to take from this it is to take note of how you feel. Process through it and heed it. There's a distinct difference for me when I am at peace and working in purely energetic harmony versus when I am constantly on edge and wary. I feel this nothingnesss, but it's not empty it's rather full of light, hope, and trust. I don't have a weight of uneasiness on me. I can't really do it justice with a description but I hope you get what I am saying. I know I do my best work in all senses of the world where I am comfortable but also am pushed slightly out of that zone to learn, grow, and be a better me.

The best advice I have been given is to remember to interview right back. As much as people are evaluating your fit, so are you. For things to work out, it needs to be a mutually beneficial relationship. I have learned what I needed to know by asking questions, and more importantly not shying away from the things that might seem touchy, but that I care about. I ask about values, social justice activism, self-care, civic engagement, professional development, family dynamics, and created culture. Values need to match up - if there's anything to take away from all this; that is it. It's in the answers that people give, their body language, and how comfortable they are that I can determine if they are committed to the same things that I am. Take notes, write down things that resonate with and/or red flags that alarm you. Reiterate questions, take time to think about your answer, and answer all parts. Check to see if you really did too. Embrace silence, and thrive in it. I have my must-haves and my negotiables, and I look for places where I can add something new, and ask them to do the same for me. I want to be challenged wherever I am, and also be able to challenge for improvement's sake as well. Maybe it's the field I'm in but there are an abundance of resources I looked to for inspiration in coming up with my own line of questioning, climate surveying, and viability. Check them out below. I will say, seek out people you trust and ask their opinions, ask for advice, and ask for feedback. Find your allies and mentors, but also remember that ultimately only you can decide what is right for you. There is nothing more liberating than taking ownership of your choices instead of letting others decide for you. Whether you get the offer or not, you already know. Hold on to that. X 

Interview Resources:
The Inverse Interview
Interview Etiquette
Interview Tips for Young Professionals

*Noting how interviews and work in our society adheres to a myriad of socialized ways of behaving, speaking, dressing, and general comportment. It's up to us to toe the line of adhering to aforementioned prescripted ways of being AND subverting them with our own self-determining agency. Code-switch, assimilate, and adapt as necessary but also resist, exist, and persist in taking time for yourself during, in the break periods, or afterwards. We can subject ourselves to some serious violences in trying to live up to standards that were never intended for us to thrive under, but ignoring those expectations can undermine our candidacy. As always, we have to navigate cautiously, prioritizing ourselves and our safety, as we are able.


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