One reality we have come to recognize is that most people evaluate you, and react to you in a certain way, because of
their impression of you; not necessarily the reality of who you really are or what you can do. The first impression is especially important and you only have one opportunity to make a first impression- for an audience, during a job interview, in a meeting or coaching session with your boss.
Many new grads are looking for jobs right now, and others are looking to change careers or jobs. Even seasoned
professionals are often not experts on writing resumes and interviewing. Since the resume is often your first contact with a prospective employer, it is important that it represents you well; that it creates a good first impression.
There are lots of resources available on how to write a resume. But there are some not so obvious "secrets" that
increase your chances of being selected for an interview. First, employers spend very little time reading interviews. They either "scan" manually or use electronic scanners to select a small select few to be interviewed.
How long do you think employers spend on reading an interview? A recent study indicated that employers report that
they spend an average of four to five minutes on each interview. Some might think that's not a very long time. But using "eye tracking - a technologically advanced assessment of eye movement that records and analyzes where and how long a person focuses when digesting information-shows they actuallyspend only about 6 seconds actually reading a resume.
What are the reviewers looking for? There a few critical elements.
The recruiters spent 80% of this limited time on six key pieces of information:
-Previous position start and end dates
-Current position start and end dates
Beyond those six items the recruiters in the study scanned for keywords to match the position they were seeking to fill.
It is still a great idea to write a simple 1-2 page resume with bolded titles, lots of white space, and easy to read bullets. Customize each submitted resume to include keywords mentioned in the job. For each job/title concentrate on proven abilities and accomplishments over job responsibilities.
In the next blog, I will discussother proven ways to make a good first impression.
Over the years, I have served on many hospital committees including the Pharmacy, Nutrition and Therapeutics (PNT) Committee. This committee is usually chaired by a physician and has tremendous input from an infectious disease (ID) specialist, microbiologist, pharmacist and registered dietitian.
The laboratory has always acted as an ancillary department; providing information, but creating little if any policy. I worked with organizations in recent years in which almost the entire formulary was driven by pharmacy. Sure, physicians had input, but the protocol relating to choices of medication, storage and security of medication in the facility have been set up by pharmacy.
Georgia, like several other states, has had a problem with abuse of narcotics, including the acquisition of drugs through the use of forged prescriptions. It was the state Board of Pharmacy that spearheaded a move to make the prescription process more secure. They drove legislation requiring among other measures that prescriptions for all Schedule II narcotics have to be written on the state board of pharmacy approved paper.
Pharmacists announced they reserved the right to reject any prescriptions not meeting those guidelines- or that were otherwise suspicious in nature.
Can you imagine the laboratory taking such a bold move by developing protocol and dictating standards for physicians to follow; albeit to protect patient safety?
Thinking about this difference in perception of- and expectation from- pharmacy and MLS led me to read again the ASCLS statement on the independent practice of medical laboratory professionals.
It reads, in part:
"It is the position of the American Society for Clinical laboratory Science (ASCLS) that clinical laboratory
testing is the defined practice of qualified medical laboratory professionals and encompass the design, performance, evaluation, reporting, interpreting and clinical correlation of clinical laboratory
testing, and the management of all aspects of these services."
It goes to say that medical lab professionals have the requisite knowledge and skill to perform, correlate, interpret laboratory tests and (with appropriate graduate degrees) direct clinical laboratories.
Functions are firmly grounded in applicable state law and CLIA regulations, according to the document.
Independent practice does not preclude collaboration with others on the health care team. But the profession does have a unique body of knowledge and scope of practice. "Artificial and arbitrary barriers to (independent) practice should not be erected," states the position paper.
Maybe it's time for us as a profession to test those largely unchallenged barriers.
A few years ago I was part of a team appointed by a national hospital company to study and make recommendations for staff retention. The organization had a horrendous record for turnover; in fact in some key areas like nursing assistants the turnover rate was 40 percent!
Such a high rate was untenable because of its cost to the organization, but also because it directly affected patient experience (customer satisfaction), team coherence and clinical competence. There were always new staff members learning processes, procedures and trying to blend in. Current staff members were resentful of, and tired from, constantly orienting new staff, only to see them leave.
Our first charge as a team was to find out why staff were leaving at such a high rate. Surprising to many of us, the main reason was not low pay, lack of resources or even poor management. While those figured into the
equation, the one message across 60 plus facilities all over the country was that employees were leaving because they felt let down by the orientation process. They felt they were misled; somewhat like being conned by false advertising. Many felt that they were turned loose and expected to function before they felt
Onboarding is the first step in orientation. It consists of a series of steps aimed at integrating new employees into the organization. Although we did not study laboratorians as a separate group, the lessons learned can be applied to any professional group-and was successfully adopted in the organization.
First day orientation was revamped to be more of a "welcome to the family." We removed many of the heavier paper heavy topics and just initiated a conversation, introduced key members of the organizations and
answered questions of concern raised by the employee.
We also made the conscious choice to have employees guide their departmental and technical orientation. Different employees have different needs. While we still had a structure and guideline about what should be covered and for how long, we would meet with employees regularly and seek feedback about progress, areas of concern and their comfort level.
Each employee was assigned a (trained) mentor-buddy whose role was to answer peer questions and facilitate movement through the department and organization. Questions could be as simple as parking, location of the cafeteria, who to contact in HR about a problem and who was the technical expert in the laboratory regarding a particular topic.
For two years we sought feedback from employees who stayed and did exit interviews on those who left. We asked what worked and what didn't. One big lesson learned was that the organizational culture was learned best by example and not by mission and vision statements delivered from on high at orientation, or hung on a wall.
Over 2 years the turnover rate for that organization dropped to 11 percent and employee satisfaction rose to the 95th percentile nationally.
Turnover has tremendous costs to an organization (financially and morale-wise). In my experience, effective onboarding is one proven way to both reduce turnover and improve employee and patient satisfaction in a relatively short time. It's definitely worth the investment and returns a huge return on investment.
Most people realize that many job searches are conducted on the Internet. While most jobs are still obtained through personal networking, it is the odd job which is acquired through a cold call or a serendipitous find in a magazine, journal or newspaper.
One site that is a treasure trove of information and is very underused by the typical medical laboratorian is Linked In. Many see it as just a social media site (it is so much more) or a site used only by the most senior executive types (it is not!).
It is a site to connect and network with old friends and colleagues, develop new networks, join professional groups of like-minded individuals and those in the same profession. Of course, you can also use the Job Search tool to search for jobs, applying filters to narrow jobs based on specialty and location.
Richard Yadon, President and CEO of MMS Group has some very useful tips on how to maximize the use of Linkedin in your job search.
Update your profile.
First create a profile that is accurate and current. Do not lie or embellish because that could come back to bite you. Keep your profile current so that if someone happens to stumble on your profile it represents your most recent experience and the type of opportunities you might be looking for. I suggest you go back just 10 years, unless experience before that time shows diversity and highlights significant achievements that make you more attractive and marketable.
Create references for colleagues.
Peers and bosses, past and present, will appreciate your references of them and their work. This can be brief but give a sense of their value, style and interpersonal skills.
Ask for references.
If you offer references willingly, sometimes without even being asked, those individuals are very likely more than happy to return the favor/ that way you have public accolades associate with your profile. Those references as well as endorsements of your skills can be seen by a desired prospective employer; or even someone just trolling the site. Never underestimate the possibility of being "discovered."
Join and participate in groups.
Look for groups of fellow professionals. Seek out industry (medical lab science for example) groups, including subspecialties. Join those groups and visit them often. If someone starts a threaded discussion, jump in and offer a professional opinion. Craft the response as a professional with valuable experience and something to offer.
Too often we use social networks simply as places to check in periodically and scope out who is there and what's going on. But they offer much more, including viable networking and job hunting options. Make an effort to visit site like LinkedIn often. You don't have to spend hours online, but visit, read threads, participate, expand your network and search for jobs in your area of interest, desired geographical area, or at your dream company
On July 4, 1776 the United States declared independence from Britain and a vigorous new democracy was born. This year we celebrate our 237th birthday and our founding fathers would be both pleased and disappointed at the
state of the country. This experiment in democracy has been unbelievably successful, but we still struggle with issues of basic fairness, parity and human rights in some areas.
Isn't that sort of where we are as a profession? We have certainly come along way, but we are remarkably
retrograde in areas of respect, parity, professional independence and professional licensure.
I wrote in a previous blog, "When American patriots chose to defy King, Crown, a powerful power structure, and
even history itself, the conventional wisdom was that the fledgling movement could not survive. There was little more than a deep desire to be free, a belief in the power of determination and the shared aspiration to be
Independence is a scary thought. Whether it is a country, a profession, an organization or an individual, the status quo can be safe because it represents a known quantity. One learns how to cope with the expected; it is the
unexpected that presents the greatest challenges.
But as a country we have coped with challenges in a uniquely resilient way. We have tremendous resources and
an indomitable spirit. As professionals it is easy to give up and say there is no hope for change. We can wait for "others" to make us feel better. We can coast towards retirement and leave the "problem" to new professionals. But as Americans we also know that anything is possible.
We can each live out our creed of a strong, proud profession with knowledge, gifts and talents. Wherever we are
we can still make a difference, independent of everyone and everything else around us. Sure, it's a challenge, but we do not as a people shrink from challenges. We turn them into opportunities. Happy Independence to you!
I am just not a morning person. I decided a long time ago that my ideal job would be that of a stage actor, working at night, relaxing leisurely after work, going to bed way after midnight and then sleeping in the following morning.
Most of us do not have that luxury, however, and we struggle with getting enough hours in a day. It is a constant battle for many people to get enough sleep, rise early and get "stuff" done before they start their long, hectic day.
I just completed reading a book called "What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast," by Laura Vanderkam, a self-described time-management guru. She is a huge advocate of rising early and deliberately
accomplishing certain tasks before breakfast in order to better manage our entire day.
Citing several busy executives and other successful people who have re-engineered their schedule to take advantage of early morning hours, Vanderkam explains the seeming magic of those early morning hours. You are less likely to get distracted in the morning. A busy person's day fills up fast. If you wait until the afternoon or evening to do something meaningful for yourself such as exercising or reading, you're likely to bump it off the to-do list altogether. "There are going to be lots of reasons why you can't tackle a personal priority at 4 p.m.
Things have a lot less likelihood of coming up at 6 a.m.," says Vanderkam.
You have more willpower early in the day. Even if you aren't a morning person, you may have more willpower in the early hours than later in the day. "Willpower is like a muscle that becomes fatigued with over-use," says Vanderkam. During the course of the day as you're dealing with difficult people, making decisions and battling traffic, you use up your willpower, leaving you feeling depleted toward the end of the day.
Mornings give you the opportunity to set a positive tone for the day. If you've ever slept through your alarm, been late for an important early morning meeting or even had a minor disagreement with a colleague you know that starting off the day with a "failure" can bring down your mood and affect your productivity at work all day.
Vanderkam says waking up earlier allows you to start the day with accomplishing something you want to do (a victory) and sets the tone for a happier and more productive day.
So how do you make that difficult decision to rise earlier than your current time? Vanderkam has suggestions for that as well.
1. Keep a time journal. Vanderkam says one of the reasons people say they don't like mornings is that
they stay up too late. She recommends keeping a time journal for a week to show where you may be using your time inefficiently. She suggests that when many self-professed night owls look at their time journals, they are often surprised to find they aren't spending their evening hours productively or doing anything particularly enjoyable when they stay up late.
2. Imagine your perfect morning. Imagine what you would do if you had an extra hour in the day. Would you exercise? Make a healthy breakfast? Pack lunch? Meditate? Getting up earlier isn't about punishing yourself
or even making a sacrifice. It is about accomplishing something. But you will not get out of bed if you don't have a good, specific reason to do it," says Vanderkam.
3. Plan your morning. Once you have decided what you want to do with your extra time, plan how to execute it, and set as much up as possible the night before. For example, if you want to exercise in the morning, lay out your clothes the night before, or gather the ingredients for your breakfast.
4. Build the habit slowly. Vanderkam says you will likely hit the snooze button and sleep in if you try to switch your habits drastically. So instead of setting your alarm for 5 a.m. when you normally get up at 7: 30 a.m. set the alarm for 10 minutes earlier each day. To make sure you don't lose sleep, go to bed 10 minutes earlier each night. If you have trouble hitting the sack on time, set a bedtime alarm.
This last suggestion of setting a "time to go to sleep" alarm is something I have do for myself and have recommended to coaching clients for a while. It works!
I am not nearly where I want to be in terms of going to bed at a decent hour, waking early and using those morning hours more productively and beneficially. But I am better than I used to be. Try it; you might be pleasantly surprised.
Two of the most bandied-around concepts in healthcare are those of privacy and confidentiality. Even before HIPAA mandated measures to ensure that health information be
safeguarded, medical professionals felt ethically bound not to disclose medical information to those who were not authorized or had a distinct "need to know."
The Health Insurance Portability and Acountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) just codified those practices, laying down specific guidelines for implementation, and spelling out the adverse consequences of violating those principles.
Most of us feel our information is pretty safe. As recently as last week I received notification of lab results on my smart phone and I often log in to my medical record through a "secure" portal using my cell phone or iPad. That is all part of the convenience and immediacy provided by technology. Each site is password protected and I am typically reassured by the hypertext transfer protocol secure ( https://) designation that pops up on "secure" sites.
Recently we all heard through a whistleblower insider that the government has in effect being spying on us. The subsequent information coming from providers like Google, Facebook, AOL, Yahoo, Verizon and others indicate the extent of the information routinely accessed by the government's National Security Agency (NSA) and its civilian contractors.
Under a classified program called PRISM, the NSA surveys the communication that flows through the servers of these American-based companies on the pretext that some of that information to and from overseas might indicate a national security threat.
So if you have emailed "confidential" information, shared "private" information electronically with friends, conducted business, accessed "secure" sites, there is the possibility that the government was looking over your shoulder. How does that make you feel?
The feeling that as a law abiding citizen you have nothing to hide might be true but naïve. The current claim that information is gathered and aggregated but not necessarily analyzed might be little comfort. How much of your information has been gathered and stored? What might this information be used for in the future? How comfortable are you with the idea that even your medical information you'd rather keep private might in fact be no longer private?
The debate about the serpentine, complicated Affordable Care Act (so called Obamacare) continues. Aspects of the bill phase in over time, we know. It is also commonly accepted that many more individuals will be insurable and insured; creating a greater potential pool of consumers of medical laboratory tests.
Most people will continue to receive healthcare through employer-subsidized plans through their place of employment. Others will be eligible for Medicare and Medicaid. Not much will change for those people. The people who will be most affected are those who are unemployed or some other reason do not fall into one of the "covered" categories. Just to put it in perspective, actuarial studies indicate that in 2014 just over 7 million individuals, representing 2.5 percent of the population will need to buy health insurance.
Insurance will be available commercially from private companies, or individuals can take advantage of the economies of scale afforded by group purchasing at discounted prices through so called health exchanges or marketplaces run by states or by the federal government if the state elects not to set up its own exchange. As the population grows, this insurance consumer group is expected to grow as well. For example by 2023, the pool of folks needing to purchase their
own health insurance will be around 24 million or 8 percent of the population. Depending on the point you wish to make, you can argue that is a huge number or simply a fraction of the population.
The debate over the cost of the Affordable Care act is so tinged with political bias that it is often difficult to know what to believe. As medical laboratory scientist we are not experts on every aspect of healthcare. However if your friends and family are like mine, they do expect you to be able to speak intelligently about many issues including healthcare
An article in the Wall Street Journal uses the simplest analogy to cut through the clutter and demystify the entire concept of the cost of health insurance acquired through insurance exchanges. It also debunks the knee jerk reaction that says "it must cost more."
It is a little bit of an oversimplification and does not consider nuances like private commercial insurance and tax penalties for not buying insurance, but it does cover the majority of the marketplace. It does use real data from one of the more mature insurance exchange markets, so there is no "guesstimate" involved. It is worth a read.
"Marketing is everything," a friend of mine is fond of declaring with a tone of finality. Recently when I pressed for
proof of such a definitive statement, he pointed to the last Presidential elections. The terms "non-American socialist" and "out of touch rich guy" came to represent the two candidates to such a degree that after a while, the phrases could stand alone as a descriptors without names attached.
The marketing team of each party created a negative brand of the opponent as vigorously as they tried to promote their own positive brand. Many members of the public came to see the assertions of dueling advertising campaigns as fact, rather than "spin." Such is the power of marketing, my friend explained.
We market ourselves every day, regardless of whether or not we are aware of that fact. I have written previously about the importance of creating a personal brand based on a marketing principle called differentiation. Differentiation is what makes your product or service stand out from the competition and what unique benefit you
offer, as compared to the other choices the consumer or employer has.
Wherever you are in your career, chances are there are others competing for the same jobs, pay, promotion and
recognition. Therefore effective marketing must convincingly offer the employer some extra value. The term "branding" might have become a buzzword, but it has been shown to work for companies and, increasingly, for individuals. However, we cannot effectively create our own value as individual scientists until we have a sound belief in the innate worth and continued viability of the profession we represent.
Another marketing principle states that a product or service can successfully be sold based on its perceived or
relative value. Always remember that value is largely is determined by the buyer; dried toast is more valuable to a starving person than is a huge diamond. The seller also must believe in his product or service to convincingly
market it to a buyer.
As a group, medical lab scientists tend to be more retiring than self-promoting. There also is an increasingly
skeptical view of the future of our profession as a distinct entity with its own personality and unique role. Our first task in marketing, I believe, is to revisit our initial calling, to rekindle the spark that drew us to this noble
service profession. Simple and self-evident as it sounds, we need to believe in ourselves before we can convince others of our value. This is always the first step.
Technology has changed exponentially in recent years. Just consider the apps available on your smart phone today compared to what was available just 5 or ten short years ago. In fact the term disruptive technology was coined to describe any new technology that comes along and is so significant and innovative that it "disrupts" the status quo.
In that sense "disruptive" is not necessarily bad (in fact it usually is positive); it just suggests that the effect is so dramatic that it changes our entire paradigm of what's possible.
One new disruptive technology that has great promise is that of the 3D printer. A recent news story showed a gentleman firing a gun that had been made entirely by using a program and a three- dimensional. This gun was not a toy or simply a life-like replica; it was a fully functional firearm.
Think of the application of such printers in our everyday lives. Consider how the technology could be adopted in medicine. A recent article described how doctors in Ohio had used a 3D printer to create a life-saving artificial airway for a baby boy. The child was born with a birth defect that caused his airway to collapse, putting him at constant risk of suffocation.
The article continued to describe other possible uses of 3 D printers in medicine through so called bioprinting: creating spare organs like pancreas and kidneys; creating skin for grafting, making life-like prostheses and even orthodontics (dental bridges, crowns and the like). Just consider for a moment how those vast possibilities would impact the delivery of medical services.
Think for a moment how this technology, which sounds like science fiction, but is already functional, could be applied in the medical laboratory. Anything from inventory to spare parts for instruments could conceivably be printed on demand instead of having to be ordered from a vendor or supplier. But why stop there? At least one researcher is working on creating food using a few oils and powders and a printer.
Would it be possible to bio-print blood products, for example? Reagents? What else? The mind boggles. It seems that possibilities are limited only by the imagination. What would you like to bio-print if you could?
My friend Martha is 60 years old. She had been with her company for years in various roles from manager to director and finally COO. This past year she had some challenges related to her health, her mom died and she got divorced after almost 40 years of marriage. She was coasting towards retirement and looking forward to being able to travel and spend time with her grand kids.
A few weeks ago she was let go for "not meeting quarterly goals for 3 quarters in a row." She was devastated. This came with no warning and she felt victimized and betrayed. Termination means loss of certain benefits, no chance of a severance and personal humiliation. Her replacement is a young (younger) male whom she has mentored and who just happened to be moving into her state to be closer to his family. The timing could not have been worse and was very suspicious to Martha because of certain interactions and recent conversations she had had with her replacement.
I could relate to her dilemma very well as I have been supporting her through this transition. She knew of my work in change management and life coaching and could relate intellectually to much of what I had to say. However coping was/is still very hard. Anyone who has ever lost a job, especially suddenly, knows that empty feeling.
Grieving about a change is not unlike grieving a death: there are the phases of denial, bargaining, anger, depression and finally acceptance. This is not a linear process of course, as one slips in and out of a phase without warning-and then maybe revert to a previous phase one or more times.
Many psychologists describe a transition cycle outlining how one copes with change; finally ending up (hopefully) with acceptance and moving on to a new future.
Author and syndicated columnist Ellen Goodman talks about endings as making a graceful exit. In her final column, Goodman wrote, "There's a trick to the Graceful Exit. It begins with the vision to recognize when a job, a life stage, a relationship is over - and to let go. It means leaving what's over without denying its validity or its past importance in our lives. It involves a sense of future, a belief that every exit line is an entry that we are moving on rather than out."
To whoever is facing a transition, I gently remind you, "You'll be alright. You are simply moving on, not moving out."
It is that time of year when we celebrate National Medical Laboratory Professionals Week (NMLPW). This is a week when the various, often competing, laboratory organizations join forces to honor the more than 300,000 medical laboratory professionals around the country who perform and interpret more than 10 billion laboratory tests annually. As stated in this year's slogan, whenever there is a medical dilemma or need, scientists, technicians and others in the medical laboratory get results.
In the past few years, I have challenged my colleagues to turn outward and use NMLPW to educate others about the value of the profession. Too few individuals, even those within healthcare, and many who interact with us realize the extent of our education and use of critical thinking in providing useful information to positively impact patient care.
If a profession can be compared to an individual, medical laboratorians are introverts, even reticent to choose one dominant professional organization and select a logical descriptive professional title. I am not a fan of
self- congratulatory slaps and feasting on free meals provided by vendors while we wear brightly colored tee shirts emblazoned with slogans, and play games behind closed doors in the lab. I still feel that way, but this year, maybe it's time to gloat a little.
We are as a nation riveted and saddened by the disasters and acts of terrorism in the news. With attention concentrated on these matters, NMLPW is even more likely to be overlooked. Ironically laboratory professionals are among the heroes working long hours, going the extra mile and drawing on their unique skills to provide information to diagnose, treat and monitor those who have been hurt.
As our hearts go out to those affected directly and indirectly, as we commend first responders and our colleagues on the healthcare team, we can also smile with pride at the part medical laboratorians are playing. Medical laboratory professionals are there and not just for disasters and heinous acts of terrorism. I for one am glad medical laboratorians are there serving 24/7, 365 days a year. Yes, you, take a bow. Thank you and happy National Medical Laboratory Professionals Week!
Do you dread those interviews that start, "So tell me about yourself"? I used to hate those as well and
apparently we are not alone.
Most individuals answer that question by giving a biography of where they were born, where they have worked and the types of jobs they have had. Maybe they throw in the job titles they have held in their professional
Writer Jessica Hagy writing in a recent issue of Forbes magazine makes that very point. She says we tend to talk ad lib about what we do, where we live and went to school. However, most of us avoid talking about our journeys, core character traits, and victories; far more interesting and informative facts. We would sound "more interesting and human if we talked about ourselves like corporations do," says Hagy. "We have stories to tell."
Another mistake is to talk about what we are not, instead of what we are, or what we have accomplished.
The "tell me about yourself" question might be boring and inartful but the questioner wants to get some information about you to answer the ultimate selfish question, "Will this person be an asset to me and my
organization?" Very little else matters and might even work against you.
The best way to be prepared for that question is to actually deliberately prepare ahead of time. Use one paragraph max to summarize where you worked, your certification, your titles, jobs, where you live and so on. Then based on the nature of the job, tell stories about your achievements, point out your transferable skills (that will make you suitable for the job in question. Make connections and emphasize highlights that might not be apparent from reading your resume.
This tactic takes some getting used to. But it makes you appear more multidimensional, interesting and even accomplished. Besides since no two stories are identical, it makes you stand out from the pack.
It is April and here in the Deep South every day is a
guessing game. My daffodils are just shedding their colorful blooms
and I can see tender buds tentatively peeking out from the trees in the
The last couple of weeks have brought
thunderstorms, snow, nippy keep-the-heat-on days closely followed by
shorts and T-shirt weather. I keep an umbrella and a jacket in my car
just in case. This weather reminds me of what my grandmother used to
call in-between times.
An in-between time could be
a period of unemployment, location to a new city, end of a relationship
or even a death in the family. Those are all times when there is much
change and unpredictability. It is very human and very tempting to
become depressed and immobilized.
As with the
currently weather here in Atlanta, changes -while stressful- can be an
opportunity to plan and regroup. This can be an ideal time to prepare
without the added pressure of a short deadline. In a rushed and hectic
life we often feel unprepared for every new onslaught. An in-between
time can be that welcome
interlude to take a breath, do some research and even look more critically at possible options.
This is also a time to take care of other often neglected responsibilities. Whether doing the laundry or baking,
example, you don't usually just sit there and watch the process. Do
you? You tend to use your time to do other things. This is the classic
definition multitasking: using the same period of time to accomplish
I have used a period of
unemployment to study and obtain a certification, to use a prepaid
ticket to visit my folks in Toronto and to catch up on reading my stack
of "must reads." Not only did I feel that I accomplished something
useful, but I was so engrossed and stimulated, I did not sit around and
pine and obsesses. I learned what it really meant to turn a challenge
into an opportunity.
In between times don't last
(thank goodness) and that recognition by itself is a relief. But rather
than simply waiting them out, think of ways to use them to your
We all know the saying "birds of a feather flock together." This does not only refer to the fact that those with common interests and values tend to be friends and hang around each other.
Research has shown that adopting synchronous body language (essentially mirroring someone else) tends to make the individuals feel closer without consciously knowing why. This is a technique you can use to your advantage every single day.
I was reading posts on a social networking job board recently, and when a senior-level job hunter mentioned the use of mirroring in job interviews there was a huge level of interest by many who had surprisingly not heard of this technique before. Actually this technique has been known for quite a while and is practiced in disciplines from debating to social sciences to psychology to even criminal justice and mediation.
Some theorize that mirroring is an essential evolutionary survival tool. For example, body language and reflexes like yawning are mirrored not only in humans, but also in many of our primate ancestors. While that device might not spell our literal survival today, it can still mean the difference between success and failure in many social interactions.
Let's look at how it might be used in an interview situation. You might choose to adjust your body dynamic and speech pattern to match those of the decision maker. Everything from the tone or volume of voice to body posture may be significant.
To use mirroring, try the following:
Carefully observe the person's body language, including gestures and posture. If the person is sitting with both hands clasped, then sit erect and do not be overly animated and familiar. As the person grows more comfortable with you, he or she may relax and sit back. In that case, mirror this change in posture as well.
Mirror the other person's spoken language. If he or she uses simple, direct words, then you should too. If the person speaks in technical language, then match that style if appropriate. When you respond, you can also reiterate key words or phrases that he or she used.
Copy the other person's speech patterns, such as vocal tone and volume. For instance, if he or she speaks softly and slowly, then lower the volume and tempo of your voice. Research by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) suggests this is the most effective way to establish rapport. It's very subtle, but it makes the other person feel comfortable and, most importantly, it makes them feel that they're being understood. The FBI uses this method a lot in interrogating witnesses and persons of interest.
Mirroring works because it creates empathy. So it can be effective not just for interviews, but in casual conversations at a party, dispute resolution sessions, meeting with your boss, giving a speech and a whole host of other scenarios. People just tend to like those who are like them or those who they perceive as being on their "team."
During the discussion on the website I mentioned, the author of the post offered specific words to say and suggested that a literal imitation of body language during an interview will land one a job. I have to disagree.
The body language and stance of an interviewer (sitting, standing, crossing their legs, leaning in, sitting straight up in a chair) all give different signals and the other person automatically feels "sympatico" if you give off similar "vibes." But don't think you can copy them too deliberately and literally, like "monkey see monkey do." If you do that you will look silly and the other person will be amused or even offended.
The best advice is to follow the "vibe" and act in a generally similar manner. Convey the same sense of relaxation or formality. You do not want to mimic the interviewer or your boss.
One less obvious way of building rapport is to discuss areas of similar interest unrelated to the interview. Do you see a certificate on the ball, a pennant, or a cup that suggests an alma mater or fraternity? Mention that in a complimentary manner and establish common ground.
Also if the interviewer mentions something topical such an item in the news, weigh in without being too controversial or opinionated. Make a safe sympathetic comment and he/she will feel you are similar in some way. Points already gained.
Conventional wisdom suggests you should always be enthusiastic during an interview. Certainly be energetic and engaged; give the impression you care and want to offer a solution. For example at some point in the interview you might ask about the biggest challenge or gap this vacancy is causing for the company and offer a suggestion or two.
But I have had several bosses and colleagues who are turned off by this approach and have complained about interviewees being too chatty or aggressive; or even taking over the interview. So use this technique carefully.
There is no doubt that mirroring works. I just want to say there are no secret "open sesame" magic words to land you every job. However, using mirroring techniques subtly and judiciously is definitely advantageous.