Tag: pandemic


Why You Need to Be Ready For Anything in Your Next Interview

Last week I wrote a post about possible questions you may face in your next interview. If you’re looking for work during the pandemic, you need to be ready to answer such questions. The questions I covered included:

  • What did you do with your time while laid off or furloughed during the pandemic?
  • Did you draw unemployment when you could’ve found work?

Some readers felt the second question was what they called, “off-putting.” I agree it’s a very blunt question. But it’s not illegal, nor is it inappropriate.

In fact, it’s a valid question for any company spending five to six figures in salary on a new employee. Especially if you consider how many people opted for unemployment in the early months of the pandemic, instead of taking job offers.

If you’re able to show you’ve spent your time wisely during the quarantine, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about. But for those who haven’t, can you blame the company for wanting to ask such a question?

Anything can happen in an interview

Job candidates have to be ready for anything in the interview. This includes:

  • Questions to test how you handle stress or how quickly you can think on your feet
  • Behavioral interview questions
  • Illegal questions the interviewer should know better than to ask but still does
  • Impromptu presentations or projects
  • And more

In fact, in my own past job searches, I’ve ran into some of the above situations.

Early in my career, I had an interview where I was given 45 minutes to come up with a program that could be implemented in the company. Then I had to present my idea to the interviewers. I was not told before the interview this would be part of the screening process.

On another occasion, I was asked an interview question that didn’t seem odd at first, but quickly turned odd. I was asked, “If I were to go to your list of bookmarks in your internet browser, what web sites would I see listed?”

I answered, “You’d see bookmarked sites related to my work, such as good resources for clients, and professional association sites related to my industry.”

Then the interviewer said to me, “Well, if you went to mine you wouldn’t see any, because I don’t spend my time playing on the internet!”

I figured it was best not to react to her statement. Instead, I smiled through the awkwardness, and quietly waited for the next question.

In addition, while observing other interviewers, I’ve heard C-suite executives ask candidates illegal questions, either because they didn’t know the questions were illegal, or they ignored HR’s recommendations on what not to ask.

And I’ve heard interviewers ask what I call “think-fast” questions like, “How would you describe the color purple to someone who was born blind?” I usually throw in a few of these “think-fast” questions when doing mock interviews with my clients to better prepare them.

Be ready for your next interview

Again, I say all this because job seekers have to be ready for anything in their next interview. Questions like the ones from last week’s post are going to become more common. HR experts encourage employers to ask them, and rightly so.

It’s up to you how you want to react to and handle these questions in your next interview. This can include the suggestions I made last week. And it can include asking questions of your own, which you should be doing anyway. Just make sure you yourself aren’t off-putting, even if the interviewer is.

Once you’ve done your research on the company, shown you haven’t wasted your time, gotten your own questions answered in the interview, and received a job offer, then you can decide if the company’s off-putting approach will be a factor for you when making your decision.

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How to Answer These Important Pandemic Interview Questions

If you’re interviewing for a new job due to a COVID-related job loss, you want to of course prepare for commonly-asked interview questions. But you also need to prepare for some new interview questions brought on by the current pandemic.

These pandemic interview questions could include:

  • What did you do with your time while laid off or furloughed during the pandemic?
  • Did you draw unemployment when you could’ve found work?

These are not illegal questions. My friend and colleague Cindy Beresh-Bryant, owner of HR Solutions by Design LLC, verifies these questions not only are legal, but are also very good questions for employers to ask. Therefore, you should be ready for them. Here’s how to answer them.

Answering pandemic interview questions

1. Be honest

First and foremost, always be honest in your answers to these and any other interview questions. Just don’t be too honest. If you didn’t use your time as wisely as you’d intended, you don’t need to go into detail about what you did. No need to say you sat on the couch eating chips and watching Tiger King on Netflix.

But if you’re in an interview, you obviously did something to help you land the interview. And if all you did during your time is conduct a job search, then discuss the efforts you took to help you land the interview. This includes updating your resume and reconnecting with your network through Zoom conversations.

If you have a valid reason for choosing to draw unemployment instead of finding work, be honest and briefly explain. For example, maybe you wanted some time away from work to upgrade your skills by taking online courses. Or you wanted to explore a new career and plan for a career change.

You can even talk about any personal development things you did during quarantine. For example, maybe you worked on a passion project or side hustle, volunteered in your community, exercised more, ate better, or spent quality time with friends and family.

When discussing this, you want to avoid sharing anything too personal that employers legally aren’t allowed to ask you about, or make hiring decisions on. For example, you don’t necessarily want to indicate which organization you were volunteering for, the amount of weight you were trying to lose while exercising, any health issue you were trying to eat better for, or the number of children you have and were spending time with.

2. Show results

In addition to showing how you’ve spent your time during quarantine, you want to show how those activities have made you a better person or better employee.

For instance, have the skills you’ve learned made you better prepared for the job? Have your improved eating and exercise habits given you more energy for work? Have you learned to be more creative and productive from the overall experience?

Results are always of most interest to employers, especially if you can quantify any of your results. Showing your positive results from your quarantine is the same concept I’ve previously discussed about emphasizing the results of your work in your past jobs.

3. Tell your story

These results make you stand out even more when you can tell the story that goes with them. Stories are what make you memorable to the interviewer, because no one else has the same stories as you.

Yes, “we’re all in this together,” and many people are experiencing job loss because of it. But everybody’s stories are different. It’s your unique stories that set you apart from the other candidates and burn a memory into the interviewer’s mind.

To learn how to put your results into a story format, check out my post, “The Secret to Answering Behavioral Interview Questions.”

Conclusion

These are unusual times we’re living in, especially in regards to work. The way work is done is changing fast, and will probably never be the same. The same goes for the hiring process. There will be new interview methods, your job interviews will be remote, and you’ll probably get questions you’ve never had to answer before.

Be prepared for questions like those above, and be aware of the illegal questions you shouldn’t have to answer (i.e. “Have you had any recent health issues?”). (Click here for a complete list of interview questions currently considered illegal.)

Follow the tips outlined here and in the resources below, and you’ll improve your chances of acing your next interview.

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How to Land a New Job With the Help of a Face Mask

Regardless of your feelings or beliefs on wearing a face mask during the pandemic, you might want to consider it as a potential networking tool during these uncertain times. Especially if you’re currently in the market for a new job.

We know networking opportunities have been limited due to months of quarantine. But as I share in my on-demand program The Secret to Successful Networking, networking can happen any time, any place. Even at the essential places like the grocery store, the drug store, or the curbside of your favorite restaurant.

You never know who will be standing in line six feet ahead of you, or six feet behind you. It could be the person who works for a company currently hiring instead of downsizing. This person may know the hiring manager where he or she works. This is the perfect person to start a conversation with to begin the path to a potential new job.

But how do you do so when wearing a face mask?

A face mask is a creative conversation starter

The idea of using a face mask as a networking tool and conversation starter first came to me as a funny thought. I didn’t really take it seriously. But then, as I started thinking more about it, I thought, why not?

Why not have a little fun with a face mask and perhaps open a door to a new contact who can lead to your next job offer? It could be something worth trying, kind of like an interesting social experiment.

So what exactly does this look like? What if you were to write your elevator speech on your mask?!

I know, this may sound strange, but hear me out on it. If you follow the rules I give on how to write a better elevator speech than the outdated recommended rules, it could actually work as a creative conversation starter.

How to write an elevator speech like none other

Keep it short and create opportunity for dialogue

Most career experts will tell you your elevator pitch should be 30-60 seconds, as if this is considered brief. If you’ve ever listened to someone go on for 30 seconds or more about their work, you know it feels very long. Especially if you don’t have a clue what the industry jargon they use means.

Other career experts will also tell you your elevator speech should be a statement about your skills. This is not the way to start a conversation or pique someone’s interest in what you do.

Instead, your elevator pitch should just be one simple question about other people’s common problem. Specifically, a common problem you have the skills to help solve.

Why a question? Because it opens the door to a dialogue, a real conversation, instead of a sales pitch monologue.

And, you should be able to ask your question in seven seconds or less! You never want it to be so long or confusing they have to ask you to repeat the question. In other words, it should be so short you have the space to write it on a face mask in letters big enough to read from six feet away.

Make it relatable and create curiosity

So how do you come up with a concise yet clear question?

When thinking about the typical problem or challenge of your market (this can include the employer or the employer’s customers), what words do they usually use to describe it?

For instance, I’m a career coach who specializes in helping people make career transitions to work they’re more passionate about and cut out for. But this is not what I use as my elevator speech.

Instead, I take into consideration the words my market uses when they first reach out to me. Typically what they say is, “I feel stuck.”

Almost everyone can relate to this feeling at one time or another in their career. Therefore my elevator pitch is,

“Have you ever felt stuck in your career?”

This question is simple enough to resonate with most people, short enough to write on a face mask, and thought-provoking enough to lead to a dialogue. And even in the rare chance the other person hasn’t felt stuck in their career, it’s likely someone close to them has.

When the person responds to my question with a “yes,” I say:

“Well, I help people get unstuck.”

That’s it. That’s my whole elevator speech. It’s at this point most people are curious enough to want to know how I do this.

So when they ask me how I help people get unstuck in their career, I now have their permission to tell them more about my skills and experience. Then, I continue to ask more questions to better understand their concerns. This keeps the conversation going.

Face mask or no face mask

Writing your elevator pitch on your face mask may or may not be the best idea. But the point is, having one that’s simple and short enough to do so, is a good strategy. It’s the first essential piece in networking your way to a new job.

And it’s a much better approach than forcing people to listen to a monologue. You’ll stand out as refreshing and interesting, compared to the job seeker who bores everyone with their cookie-cutter elevator pitch.

Related sources:

How to Stop Procrastinating During and After the Quarantine

As I sit down to write this post, I’m procrastinating. I don’t feel like writing it because it’s a beautiful day and I’d rather be paddleboarding. It’s one of the few things I was able to continue doing during the quarantine.

While I don’t usually procrastinate, there are times when I do. And this is one of them.

Another time was when I was a junior in high school. I had an English class assignment to read a book entitled, A Walk Across America, and write a journal entry for each chapter of the book.

I did read the book. But I was procrastinating on the journal entries. I told myself I’d go back and do them after reading through the entire book first. This was not a good idea.

After reading the book, the journal entry portion of the assignment now seemed too daunting. I never did finish the full assignment. I only turned in three or four journal entries and therefore did not get a good grade. Thirty years later I still remember this.

Better late than never

About five or six years ago, I decided to re-read the book and even journal the rest of the chapters.

In doing so, I learned the author, Peter Jenkins, now lives near me just outside of Nashville. I contacted Peter and told him the story above. He got a good laugh out of it and of course said, “Better late than never!”

I often wonder to myself, “What if Peter had procrastinated and never took his walk across America?” He surely wouldn’t have high school English instructors using his book to teach young minds about the importance of pursuing goals and adventures.

How to stop procrastinating during the quarantine: get to the root of the problem

Procrastination isn’t a good thing. But it’s easy to do, both when you have more time on your hands, like during a quarantine. And, when you’re busy getting back in to the swing of life post-quarantine.

Because so much has been put on hold due to the pandemic, it can be tempting to also put your dreams and goals for your life on hold.

How many years have gone by where you never did what you said you wanted to do? How many more years do you want this to continue happening once we’re past this crisis?

Make this crappy year of 2020 the last year you say next year.

Here’s how:  you first have to get to the root of what causes you to procrastinate, especially if you’re a chronic procrastinator. So let’s first figure out your reason for procrastinating.

1. Is your goal not urgent enough?

If you don’t think your goal is urgent, then ask yourself if you’ll be disappointed again if you haven’t completed it by the end of the pandemic. If the answer is yes, then your goal has now become urgent.

Look at some of the other goals you have for yourself and ask the same question. Then choose the most urgent of those you said yes to, and commit to beginning it now.

2. Do you feel like you don’t know where to start?

Well, whether you realize it or not, you’ve already started just by reading this post and determining which of these reasons are causing you to delay your goals.

And if you’ve read last week’s post (“How to Stay Focused on Your Goals During the Remainder of the Pandemic“), you should’ve already started with the first few steps in the complimentary 8-Step Goal-Achievement Plan. If not, go back and do so.

Now you have a place to start, so you can no longer use this as an excuse.

3. Are you afraid of failing?

You won’t be considered a failure if you at least give your goals a try. It’s when you don’t try at all you’ll be seen as a failure.

I’ve written a lot in my blog about the fear of failure. If this is your reason for procrastinating, I suggest you type the word “failure” in the search box of this blog and read what pops up!

4. Do you work better under pressure?

This might be about the only legitimate reason to procrastinate, but be honest with yourself about it. Is this really true about you? Or are you just saying this because you don’t want to admit any of the other reasons?

If you know this is true for you, and you honestly produce your best work having a tight deadline, then keep doing this (since it seems to work for you!). But go ahead and set your deadline for your goal.

5. Do you just not want to do the work?

If the amount of work it takes to accomplish your goal feels overwhelming, choose some other goals you’re excited about. Ones you won’t easily get bored or overwhelmed with. Start with those.

Once you see how you’re able to accomplish these goals, you’ll find it easier to accomplish your other goals.

How to stop procrastinating after the quarantine: take action

Now that you’ve figured out which reason or reasons for your procrastination, it’s time to set and prioritize your goals. Again, use the free 8-Step Goal-Achievement Plan I gave you in last week’s post.

Then, find an accountability partner. Someone who you can report to periodically on your progress (but not someone who’s going to nag you about it). Someone who wants to see you succeed, but doesn’t necessarily have a personal stake in the results of your goals.

Also, write down dates in your calendar and set alarms on your phone for check-in points (either every month or every 90 days).

I recommend using a Passion Planner since it’s specifically designed to help you accomplish the goals you’re most excited and passionate about. I’ve used one every year for the past five years. I honestly don’t think I would’ve accomplished as many things as I have without my Passion Planner.

Finally, at the end of each quarter, look back over what all you’ve accomplished thus far. This will give you the confidence and the momentum you need to finish out the remaining steps and tasks for your goals.

The truth is, post-quarantine won’t be any different than pre-quarantine if you don’t make the choice to change.

By the end of this pandemic, instead of saying, “I’ll do it later,” you’ll be saying, “What’s next?!”

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How to Stay Focused on Your Goals During the Remainder of the Pandemic

“Focus precedes success.” Bobb Biehl

Last week I shared with you a goal-setting method for those who hate goal-setting. It appeals more to people who like problem-solving.

But whether you prefer problem-solving over traditional goal-setting methods, or vice versa, it’s important to stay focused.

So how do you stay focused on your goals and solutions, especially during a pandemic?

Taking stock during a pandemic

At the beginning of 2020, I set some goals for myself like I do every year. But then the pandemic occurred which threw a wrench into my plans.

However, instead of letting the mandatory quarantine totally derail my goals, I chose to focus on those I could work on during the extended lockdown.

One of the things I did to stay focused on those goals was to follow what I teach my clients. I help them not just set goals but achieve them so they can pursue their passions in life.

I have an 8-step method to achieving goals which has always worked for me, and also works for many of my clients.

The method has helped me achieve several short-term objectives over the past few years that have added up to the achievement of some long-term and ongoing goals.

The goals I continually focus on include:
  • Improving my career coaching business.
  • Paying off any and all debts.
  • Saving more money.
  • Learning new things.
  • Having fun and adventurous experiences.
  • Growing spiritually.
For example, in the past 12 months I…
  • released my 3rd book
  • took a writing class
  • completed a six-month jiu-jitsu fitness class
  • increased my business’s revenue by 47% and profit by 33%
  • spent more time traveling to see family
  • took a vacation to Florida
  • went on a silent retreat
  • paid off my car
  • and got on track to pay off my home two years early

…all while running a business, recovering from a shoulder injury, helping my uncle in Knoxville who’s ill, and having to undergo surgery this past January.

I’m not special. Anyone can accomplish similar goals, as long as they stay focused and follow through on their goals.

4 things that keep me focused on my goals

When I look at the above list considering all I had on my plate, I wonder how in the world I’d accomplished so much in such a short time.

But I know there were four things that helped me stay focused and achieve all of the above:

#1. Writing down my goals

The simple act of writing down my goals made it more likely for me to achieve them.

I noticed most of the things I wrote down got accomplished, while most of the things I didn’t write down, didn’t get accomplished.

In fact, statistics indicate that people who write down their goals are 50% more likely to achieve their goals than those who don’t.

So even if the pandemic is preventing you from accomplishing some of your goals, you can use this time to put them in writing or update the ones you’ve already written down.

#2. Following a plan

I practiced what I preach by following the 8-Step Goal-Achievement Plan I’ve developed for my clients.

You don’t have to be a paNASH client to utilize this plan. It’s available for free when you subscribe to my basic, advanced, or premium subscription services. (Click here to see what’s included in each subscription level.)

Now may be a good time to start planning some future goals, even if you don’t yet know the full impact of the pandemic on your future plans. You can start planning now, and then you’ll already have something to tweak if necessary in the near future.

#3. Tracking my goals

I kept track of my goals and the steps to achieving them in my Passion Planner.

A Passion Planner is a wonderful calendar resource letting you map out your goals for the year and then showing you how to prioritize the steps to achieving those goals.

“The key to balance is scheduling your priorities a year in advance.” Bobb Biehl (executive coach and author)

The other great thing about the Passion Planner is it has wonderful reflection questions at the end of each month, such as:

  • What were the three biggest lessons you learned this past month?
  • How are you different between this past month and the month before it?
  • What three things can you improve on this upcoming month?

Also, the Passion Planner comes in an academic version starting in August and going to July 2021. And it comes in an undated version, letting you start anytime. These calendar options are especially helpful if you feel like chucking the awful first half of 2020 and starting again with a do-over!

#4. Staying disciplined

Staying disciplined is the most important key to keeping myself focused on my goals!

Like I said earlier, I’m not special. It just takes commitment to sit down and plan what I want to accomplish, diligence to complete the necessary steps, and discipline to follow through on what I tell myself I’m going to do.

And when life throws a curve ball like a pandemic, I remain flexible to revisit, rethink, and retweak my original goals and solutions.

You can do this too!

Stay focused during the remainder of the pandemic

Without these four things, I never, ever would’ve been able to achieve all I have in the past 12 months.

While other methods work better for some people, this is what works best for me in staying focused on my goals.

I’ve also seen it work well for many of my clients. Perhaps it could work for you too!

Just imagine what you can accomplish this summer as you continue during this pandemic to find more time for what’s most important in life.

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