CAREERS & JOB SKILLS
By Elizabeth Bromstein
We are living in the age of the overshare.
We know about people's menstrual cycles, mental illnesses, sex lives,
and relationship troubles. We know when you're drunk, when you're sober,
when you're bad, when you're good, and when you're lying in the fetal
In some ways, and on some platforms, this
is good. This climate has helped alleviate the stigma of mental illness,
But that doesn't mean your whole life
should be about the personal broadcast. There is a time and place for
everything, and the things you might share with your friends or personal
network are not necessarily suitable for the office. The workplace is
one where discretion wins the day. You never know how people might react
to certain revelations. And those reactions can and will affect both
your day to day relationships and your career as a whole.
It's far safer and more professional to
lay off the oversharing at work.
10 things nobody needs to know
about you at work
Who you voted
for. OK, maybe your politics are a big part of who you are,
in which case you go about knowing that trumpeting your opinions might
affect your personal and professional relationships and are OK with that
because being pro life/pro choice/anti-gun/libertarian is more
important. But if this isn't you, avoid political discussions with your
colleagues and superiors. You don't know the political opinions of the
people who can affect your career and discussion can lead to all kinds
What you think
of them, if it isn't positive. If you don't like someone,
there is no need for them to know that. Keep it to yourself. This means
being nice and polite to that person and giving no indication of your
That you hate
your job/boss/office/coworker. Similarly, there's no reason
for anyone to know that you can't stand your boss or the guy who sits
next to you. If you really have an issue, such as harassment, go to HR
or find a new job. Don't talk about it. Even people who seem sympathetic
to your position can turn around and stab you in the back.
The reason you
can't get the thing done that needs to be done. Everyone
hates excuses. If you want to get ahead professionally you will take
care of your responsibilities, deliver what you promise and do what you
are asked. Nobody needs to know that you didn't sleep well or have the
sniffles or had a fight with your partner. Only in very rare
circumstances — a serious illness, death, or accident, should you be
excused from your duties. Not because your printer wasn't working.
The condition of your digestive
tract/rash/foot fungus. If you are going through a serious illness that
will affect your attendance, job performance, and/or morale, by all
means let your colleagues know what is going on. But don't give a daily
play by play of your aches and pains or digestive processes. You never
know who you might make uncomfortable.
How much you make. While some companies
have transparent salary policies, be aware that knowing what other
people make and vice versa can lead to all kinds of bad feelings and
jealousies. It's dangerous to go through life comparing yourself with
others. Resist the urge to ask and to tell.
Why you need a raise. If you're asking
for a raise, keep the request about why you deserve it and not about why
you need it. Nobody cares that you took out a second mortgage. You're
not a charity case. Prove that you deserve it by listing your
accomplishments and showing your value.
That you have a sexual attraction to
inflatable animals, or cars or whatever. You know what I mean. Even if
your sex life is fairly vanilla, keep the details to yourself. While you
might be a sharer, not everyone wants to be shared with, and a lot of
people can be sensitive, squeamish, or guarded about that sort of thing.
That you're mad. I know a few people on
social media who are always outraged about stuff — from big hot button
issues, like large game hunting, to small things like random sexist
comments from anonymous strangers on small blogs nobody reads. It is
super off-putting to be up in arms and angry all the time. It also makes
people afraid to talk to you.
That you're job hunting. If you've
decided it's time to shove off, don't let your colleagues or boss know.
Your boss will figure it's time to start looking for your replacement —
which might mean it's also time to hurry you out the door — and your
colleagues might tell the boss. Keep your job search on the down low or
you could wind up jobless before you're ready.
I recently sat down with Human Resources
Consultant Lorna Hegarty of LCH Resources, to talk about job
interviewing. She gave me the inside scoop on how most encounters look
from the hiring manager's side of the desk. Here's what that can mean
- Visuals are the first point of contact. Employers
assess your look before you even speak, so what you are wearing, how you
carry yourself and the energy you exude are noticed and weighed first
- Dress appropriately for the company environment
and the position you are applying for. Wearing a suit to a Tim Horton's
interview might be over the top, but wearing jeans would be going too
far the other way. Dress up.
- Carry a neat and attractive brief case, portfolio
case or purse. Do not put it on the desk. It doesn't have to be
expensive, but it has to look nice. Don't bring plastic bags.
- Use a pen that you know writes and doesn't have
the Holiday Inn or some such company name written on it.
- Ensure your shoes are polished and the heels are
not scuffed or worn down. Ladies either have fully polished matching
nails — or no nail polish at all. No chips or anything in between. Make
sure your clothes are clean and pressed.
The initial greeting
How you behave in reception may be noted and the
receptionist may be stage one of the interview. Treat all gate keepers
with kindness and respect. (That's just good manners anyway.)
The host, hiring manager or HR recruiter, will
greet you and make small talk. Be prepared to talk about local news and
current events comfortably. Be (or act) genuinely interested in engaging
conversations. You should be trying to make a connection here.
Lorna says that a polite interviewer would not
call you on poor grammar use or saying "like" multiple times in a
sentence, ("So, like, I went to the store, right, and there was, like,
no milk at all left in the fridge") but that it will be noted and held
against you. Proper communication is considered a job asset for most
Getting the interview started
If you are perceived as being nervous, a gracious
interviewer will continue with the small talk or may offer you water or
coffee until they feel you have calmed down and are ready to go. Accept
water, not a hot drink.
Once the hiring manager sits down, the formal
interview will begin. Make regular eye contact, but remember, it's not a
staring contest. Weaker candidates avoid eye-contact out of nervousness
or over-stare to compensate.
You can almost set your clock by the opening
question being some version of, ‘Tell me about yourself!'
- The answer is about how you would be able to work
in the role being interviewed for. They are looking for an organized
response. They want to know you can do the job and that you possess the
skills the ad requires. The number of children in your family and the
fact you like to snow board is not relevant at this juncture.
The heart of the job interview
- Never interrupt when a question is being asked.
Demonstrate that you know how to listen. Pause after the question is
asked and answer with a Situation/Action/Result story. People don't
remember words so much as they remember stories.
- You may be asked WHY you majored in math or why
engineering appealed to you as a faculty of choice. Prepare an
intelligent, truthful response that mentions skills you are good at and
enjoy doing. Also be prepared for the answer to ‘Why do you want to work
at our company?' This is to test what you know about the company and the
contributions you are prepared to make.
- Ask intelligent questions throughout the
- When asked a weakness or development question
never mention a skill or strength that is required in the job as being
one of your weaknesses.
The wrap up
- The interviewer will wrap up the interview. It
looks bad if the candidate cuts it short. Try to have a question or two
at the end unless the interview has been three hours long and absolutely
everything has been covered. You may even ask the interviewer, ‘what do
you like most about working for this organization?' or ‘what changes
have occurred within the company (or your industry) that has affected
the company in the last year?'
- Thank the hiring manager for their time and for
selecting you to be a candidate. Tell them you are excited about the
position, if you are, and what a great opportunity it would be for you.
- Pack up at a moderate pace. There's no need to
rush out or dawdle about either.
- Email a thank you note to the interviewer within a
day or two reiterating your interest in the position and showing
appreciation for their time.
- It's okay to follow-up again, but don't stalk the
employer. Repeated follow-ups won't increase your chances of being hired
and can end up making you look desperate.
In any job interview, you will have to answer
What are behavioural questions? They're questions
that ask you to describe what you have done — your behaviour — in a
variety of situations. These help employers to determine not only
whether you will be capable of doing the job but what sort of person you
are, whether they will enjoy working with you, and how well you will
work with the rest of their team.
There are dozens of examples of behavioural
questions. I've listed some below and you can see more
here. You can't prepare answers for all of them. But if you prepare
just three stories to take with you to any interview, you can cover a
lot of ground. It's imperative that you this, because these questions
will be asked.
Here are the three stories you should prepare and
some samples of the questions to which you might use them as answers:
A time when you solved a problem: Think of a time
when you had to demonstrate your problem-solving skills by getting
creative, or using logic. Maybe you persevered, solved a mystery, and/or
completed a project without the proper resources. Find a story that
illustrates your drive, initiative, creativity, motivation, and, of
course, problem solving skills.
"Describe a situation in which you
had to get creative to solve a problem."
"Tell me about a time when you were
able persuade someone to change their mind."
"Describe a time when you overcame a
large obstacle to complete a project."
A time when you had to deal with conflict: Think
of an instance when a customer or prospect was belligerent or extremely
difficult or when you had to deal with warring factions among team
members. Describe how you resolved the problem and came out smelling
like roses. Be sure not to put down or insult anyone else in the
telling. It's better to say a client "was having a difficult time" than
"was being a total butthead."
"Tell me about a time when you were
able to diffuse a situation."
"Describe a time when you worked
closely with someone who had very different ideas from you."
"Describe a time when you had to deal with a
A time when you totally knocked that ball out of
the park: What are your biggest career accomplishments? Of what are you
most proud? Talk about a time when you did a super amazing job. Describe
how you went above and beyond to do it, or how the success came
naturally. You can also talk about the challenges you faced or the
curveballs that were thrown your way. Find the story that really
illustrates how awesome you are.
"Tell me about a time you set a goal
and either met or exceeded that goal."
"Describe a project you created and
saw through to fruition."
"Tell me about your greatest
Craft your stories, memorize them, and structure
them like real stories — with a beginning, a middle, and an ending.
Don't take too long to tell them and don't be too perfunctory.
These three well-crafted stories will put you one
big step closer to getting hired for the job you want.
Sometimes your brain is your worst enemy. During
the job search it will say all kinds of things to sabotage you. Here's
how to respond.
I don't know where to start.
Start somewhere. Anywhere. Start by updating your
LinkedIn or resume, or by reaching out to your network.
Let's watch TV instead!
No. Turn off the TV.
I don't know what I want to do!
If you aren't sure what you want to do, start by
making lists of your dream jobs, and skills and qualifications. The
figure out what you can do, and start from there.
It's too late in the day. I'll start tomorrow.
Start now. Don't wait until tomorrow. Even if it's
just ten minutes of making lists, you'll feel much better if you do
Can we just drink and play Temple Run instead?
I don't have enough experience. I'll never get a
Yes, you will. You might not get the job you want
but you can work your way towards it. You need experience to get
experience. You just need to figure out where to start.
Nobody is going to see my resume, anyway. Applying
for jobs online is like sending your resume into an abyss.
I know it feels that way but it's not true. There
are people are the other end waiting to look at resumes. I swear.
I know! Let's stare at social media!
Do not stare at social media. I know I can't stop
you from scrolling through your Facebook feed, but limit your time. Stop
wasting it. Regroup, then shut it off.
But that guy who commented on the thing is WRONG!
We have to set him straight by arguing with him for three hours.
Leave it alone, for Pete's sake. You know that
arguing with people online is a stupid waste of time. Stop it. Just walk
Meh. I don't need to look. Something will come
What? A job offer is just going to walk in the
door and sit on your lap? That isn't going to happen. You need to be
But what if I get a job and I hate it?
What a dumb question. Then you'll get another job.
It's way easier to get a job if you already have one. Employers hate
The other candidates will be more qualified than
Maybe. You don't know that. Unless you apply. But
if you already know where the holes are in your skills and
qualifications, why don't you start figuring out how to fill them in?
I don't have all the qualifications. I shouldn't
Employers routinely ask for qualifications they
don't actually need these days. If you meet 75% of them, you should
I don't have all the qualifications. I should
As long as you have 75% of them. Otherwise, you're
wasting everyone's time. Be reasonable.
What if the interviewer hates me?
Then you will fix what you did wrong and wow the
next interviewer. Don't give up.
What if they say no? I'm so tired of people saying
I know. It's hard. But even if you hear
hundred times, remember that it only takes one "yes" to change
everything. And, if you keep trying, someone will eventually say yes.
No they won't. I have bad luck.
That may be, but the only path we have to changing
that right now is to persevere. Keep trying.
What if I fail?
Then you fail. It won't be the end of the world.
And you'll do better next time. Or you'll fail then too. But you're more
likely to get somewhere if you try.
I'm not good enough.
I'll never get a job.
Are you serious? Look, lots of people have jobs
and there are surely some who are worse than you. I mean, some of them
must be, right?
Is that seriously the best pep talk you can give?
That's, like, the worst pep-talk ever.
Whatever. I'm tired of arguing with you. If you
want to be dissatisfied and out of work forever, fine. Just don't come
crying to me when you're old and you've wasted your entire life watching
TV and getting into Facebook arguments. Is that what you want?
No. OK fine. I'll start updating my LinkedIn. ARE
YOU HAPPY NOW!?
Good. I was just doing tough love. You're actually
awesome and smart and talented and you can do this. I believe in you and
I will always believe in you.
Aw. Thanks, buddy.