Tuesday, February 7, 2017

This Is It (Like, Really)

Senior spring motto.

With my last spring semester underway, it's time to admit that my time at Tufts is coming to a close. And as I look around me, it seems like everyone in my position is facing the same question that Hamilton faced at the end of Act I: what comes next?

Some of my fellow seniors are lucky - they've been accepted to grad school early, they got a job during the fall recruitment season, or they're participating in year-long fellowships like Teach for America. But, the overwhelming majority of us (or at least the ones that I know) are still searching, applying, or waiting - of course, while trying to enjoy our last few months of college.

A big part of the application process - both for graduate programs and for full-time jobs - is interviewing. This is a topic particularly close to my heart, as I'm currently in the throes of my own job search and I've been scheduling interviews for weeks now (before you think, "wow, he's interviewing that much? He must be right on track," just remember that I still haven't found a job yet). Luckily, I always know where to turn for career-related advice - Oprah. Just kidding. (Not really.) The Career Center has tons of information on their website, and they even provide mock interviews for you to practice with someone who can give you immediate feedback. Here are some words of wisdom from the Career Center when it comes to interviews:
Same, April. But it's the only way we'll get a job. (If you're wondering, I watched a lot of Parks and Rec over break.)

Always be prepared. Like any good Boy or Girl Scout would do, it's always important to know your stuff before an interview. Fortunately, since the overwhelming majority of an interview involves you relating your past experiences, the most important thing for you to know is yourself. Be sure to brush up on your resume and past experiences, and reflect on the ones that have been the most meaningful and applicable. Have a few examples in mind for common questions like "Tell me about a time you had a lot of things to do and managed to do them all," or "Tell me about a challenge you overcame." In addition to this self-reflection, it's always a good idea to do some research into the employer with whom you're interviewing. Know what sorts of projects are going on, what type of work they do, and be aware of the company's broader goals or mission statement. Look on LinkedIn to see if any Tufts alums work there. The more you know about an organization, the better prepared you'll be to demonstrate how you'd be a good fit within it.

Beat back the nerves. An interview is the first chance you get to make an impression on someone who could be your future colleague - it's crucial to make a good first impression. One of the easiest ways to mess this up is by getting too nervous and coming off as flustered or unprepared in the interview. Of course, everyone has different reactions to interview stress, and thus there are many different ways to conquer these feelings. The time-honored tradition to guarantee stress reduction is to practice - out loud, in front of someone (or in the mirror), until you have a really good idea of what you're going to say. A word of caution from a past personal tragedy of mine - be sure not to memorize an exact script. You want to know what you're going to say, but also be prepared for unexpected questions or different ways to word your responses. If you over-rehearse, your answers to questions may become stilted and repetitive. There's a good amount of wiggle room between underprepared and overprepared - find your sweet spot!
Breathe through the pain.

ALWAYS follow-up. Remember to ask for your interviewer's contact info if you don't already have it, and send them a thank-you within 24 hours of your interview. This will show the interviewer that you're serious about the position, and at the very least will improve the chances of them remembering you when it comes to hiring decisions. Most interviews will conclude with a few words about the next steps in the organization's recruitment process, and you should leave with a good idea of when you'll next hear from them with a decision. (Be sure to ask if they don't say so!) It's important to wait until this time to follow up on the status of your application; this way, you'll avoid looking overbearing and can reiterate your enthusiasm for the position.

As you can see, a lot more than choosing an outfit goes into interview prep. Like any part of the job search, you'll get out of it what you put in - so be sure to prepare thoroughly for this important step in the process! So press your suit, practice your self-pitch, and get ready to get hired.

Until next time,
Sean Boyden
Class of 2017