A Story of Contentment & Purpose
A Toddler is Born
Business had started but it was progressing slowly, and I was entirely comfortable with that. Not having to pay a mortgage or rent helped, of course, but I knew that this thing would take a long time to build. I was going to have to do some proper marketing.
It was all going to be done online, and I had zero presence at that point. I’d always hated social media, and I still find it difficult to work with, so there was a lot to learn. Luckily, Ellie was working and earning just about enough to support us both.
I really wanted to make money, not just so there was some kind of income coming in, but just to know that this business, this machine I was building, might actually work. And even though it would yet be a long time before I was making a reasonable amount, I felt that, in not knowing what I was doing, I knew exactly what I was doing. Because what I was doing was learning. Having had a few happy CV clients, who’d used my work to get interviews, I knew the product was good enough, but marketing was a complete mystery to me.
I honestly thought that, once my website went live, it would just start attracting customers from Google. I had no idea what SEO was, or the colossal amount of work required to make my website visible. I had no clue about the intricacies and vagaries of social media. I wrote blog posts that might be read by 10 people, if I was lucky. And while I’m still very much learning all of this, and always will be, I can see how far I’ve come since those days of naïveté.
And oh my god, were there so many experts out there with so much advice. So much trite, irrelevant contradictory advice. So many ebooks, free courses and webinars. Countless stories of how anyone can build a multimillion dollar business overnight. All you had to do was buy one of any number of amazing courses for $1997.
I knew that some of those courses were probably good, but had no way of knowing which ones. I mean, I’m sure some people do know some valuable stuff and, if so, why not make a fortune teaching others? But they all had wonderful ratings, and I knew they couldn’t all be great.
Your strategy should be about content, they said. Well, I was writing bloody content and nobody knew it existed.
You should get social proof, they said, but I just couldn’t believe that. People would buy things just because some stranger online said so?
Accept all connection requests on LinkedIn! Be really selective about your network! Give all your advice away for free! Don’t ever work for free!
I was confused. So where were my first principles now, when I needed them most? The problem was that I didn’t have any. I still struggle to understand the first principles of marketing, although I’ve learnt some really key ideas.
This stumped me. I’ve always been a communicator. I know how to craft a powerful, compelling message, so why wasn’t I getting any traction? The answer was staring me in the face all along.
Bullshit. There’s just so much bullshit out there. Yes, there are people sharing valuable ideas too, but if you can’t tell which ideas are good, and which ones are bullshit, then they are effectively all bullshit.
And now we take a little diversion. I want to explain why I keep using the word ‘bullshit’. I’m aware that this word may put off some of my readers, and it does actually strike me as a little crass too. The problem is, no other word quite conveys the meaning so precisely for me. When I use the word ‘bullshit’ it means all manner of low quality information and disinformation. Bullshit can be true but irrelevant. Bullshit can be needlessly complex, or stupefyingly simplistic. Bullshit can be lies. Bullshit can be obfuscation. Bullshit is poor-quality information, and poor quality information is just noise.
And while the Twentieth Century is a strong contender for the title, the Twenty-First is the Century of Bullshit. Everyone’s a creator now. Have you heard that statistic about how more photos were taken this year than in the entire history of photography?
Probably bullshit. But it’s undeniable that there are more photos than ever before, and most of them are shit. And everyone’s a writer. Or a YouTube star. Kids are getting rich making toy review videos. So far, nothing of any worth has been invented in the 21st Century. Think of one thing.
The only thing I can think of that’s remotely interesting is the smartphone. I mean it’s a computer in your pocket, just like I dreamed of as a kid. That’s cool. Most people use it to consume or produce all the bullshit we’ve been talking about, but that’s not the smartphone’s fault, per se.
iPhones don’t zombify people; people zombify people.
Everything else that has been invented in the last 20 years has just delivered new ways to deliver new bullshit. Facebook? Bullshit. LinkedIn? Bullshit. NFTs? Bullshit.
I’m mildly excited about electric cars but most of the interesting technology in them is 50 years old, at least. I do believe some truly exciting things are to come though. It really does look like we might be getting nuclear fusion this time. Quantum computers do now exist, even if they’re in the most nascent of nascent stages.
It’s safe to say though, since the dawn of the web, nothing has really happened. And humans just cannot cope with the dizzying quantities of bullshit whizzing all around them. We are simply not emotionally equipped for life in such a hyper-connected world.
And so you can watch in slow motion as, without the necessary societal structures to manage this new world, the institutions, the laws — without any kind of repository of traditions, rituals or folk knowledge to draw on — we take guidance from the one voice that we can make sense of. This voice comes from the amygdala, deep inside our lizard brains. It has spoken to us for aeons, and unlike anything else these days, is constant and unchanging. And while it has not the slightest idea of what’s going on, because we’re living in a world so very different from that in which it evolved, it talks anyway.
It tells us to fight. It tells us to run. It tells us to fuck. It tells us to join the strongest tribe. It tells us to gain status in the tribe. And it tells us that we must survive at all costs.
And we listen to our old friend the amygdala, the only familiar voice left. Where’s the tribe? It’s on Facebook. Where’s the fight? It’s on Twitter but frequently spills onto the streets. Where do I run to? Just run round and round. How do I fuck? Use YouPorn. The amygdala speaks and we just about manage, in this nonsensical world we’ve created, to find targets for its instructions.
The greatest piece of technology ever invented, the cerebral cortex, stays out of it. Unlike the amygdala, the cerebral cortex is slow, but its strength is in its ability to parse information from a complex environment, to process this data and forge ideas, plans and models of the world. But it can’t handle this. At this point, we’re downloading centuries’ worth of articles, photos, and porn onto a ZX Spectrum, and it simply does not compute.
Why is this happening now? The times have always a-changed. How did we cope in the past?
The problem is that everything is changing faster now. The change itself is happening more quickly. The horse was the fastest form of transport for thousands of years. For most of the thousands of years, nothing really changed that much. Progress is not linear; its exponential. Change begets more change. We’ve barely started getting used to each brave new world before it gets replaced by a braver newer world.
The contradiction is that, while our lives have not been materially improved by new technologies in the 21st Century, we have learnt to make our technology smaller, cheaper and more convenient and, because that technology is primarily concerned with the creation, distribution and consumption of information, it churns it out with less and quality control. Most of the information is bullshit.
And the cerebral cortex can’t handle all of this; it just checks out. There’s just too much noise.
And that makes it very difficult to engage people’s brains. It’s no coincidence that so much of our cultural output is now focused on our feelings. This is the age of validation, false confidence and feel good memes. We can no longer think, so we just feel. So this is what I was up against.
And my god, did I love it. No matter how challenging it was to make my message heard, I knew I had to keep trying.
You know when somebody has a terminal illness and they remark on how precious life is, and they want to spend their remaining days as profitably as they possibly can? They don’t want to waste another second. Have heard anyone say that? I’d be interested to know if you understand what they mean? I never used to get it. I always held the belief that, should such an awful fate befall me, I would want to die as soon as possible.
Now I get it.
Those early days of running my business were remarkable. I felt that my whole life had been spent in the smog of some filthy industrial city, and I was now in the Himalayas. I was energised by the air that, until now, I never knew could be so fresh.
I’d wake up in the morning — every morning — feeling like the day was something to experience, not something to get through. And don’t you believe that I was going to be doing anything exceptional; I would be on LinkedIn, I’d be reading and researching, and I’d be planning. This mundane life had never felt so thrilling.
I still feel like that today. Poor Ellie, who had to suffer through the darkest days of my alcoholism, now had to come to terms with a life shared with an overgrown toddler. I still get so excited by the mundane details of my everyday existence that I have to take frequent naps. Ellie loves the new me more than the old one, of course, but it is an exhausting house for her to live in, it really is.
I couldn’t have lie-ins anymore. No matter how late I’d gone to bed the night before, I’d have to be up and working. And then sleeping, and then working.
It was in the early days of excitement that I noticed that, for the first time in my life, I always knew what date it was. I became aware that there was little monologue in my head saying, ‘The 6th of April — today is the day that we took on an accountant… The 5th of May — today is the day that we spoke to our first prospective client…The 12th of June — today is the day that we launched a new service.’
I had discovered what it feels like for life to be worth something. I had rarely wanted to die before this, but now, I really wanted to live.
A Story of Contentment & Purpose
Alcoholism, Suicidal Thoughts & The Beginning of a New Life
As I write this at 39 years old, I have, for the last 2 ½ years, been completely sober. Prior to this, I spent nearly two decades drinking heavily. The sum total of days I didn’t drink during this period probably stands at fewer than 30. Every night, and often during the day, I would drink alcohol in whatever form was acceptable and available, and lots of it. While I was, by any definition, an alcoholic, my condition was hardly remarkable; that isn’t the subject of this story. It isn’t about alcohol, or giving up, or the wonders of an alcohol-free life; there’s plenty of all that elsewhere. This is about what I learnt after giving up. It’s about how it might apply to you.
Having spent many years agonising about how much I drank, lying about how much I drank, and trying all sorts of little strategies to reduce my intake, I was depressingly aware that my only option might be to give up altogether. But how? The task seemed Sisyphean. Perhaps I could occasionally go one day without the poison, but two days? Then three? Then weeks? And months? Years? To never drink again? It felt like the longer I resisted, the stronger the urge would grow, like pulling an elastic band. The more I pulled, the harder it would snap back on me.
Quite apart from the addiction, there were the other things — the actual reasons anyone drinks — even those who indulge only occasionally. How would I relax at social gatherings? How would I celebrate the weekend? What would I drink with meals? How would I find my creativity?
And then, if I finally did manage to go teetotal, what would I tell people? How would I deal with the shame? What a huge, huge problem giving up would be. So I didn’t.
And then, in October of 2018, I got a new job. I was delighted at first, as it seemed to be everything I was looking for. I was an English teacher, and this company would hire me full time, after years of taking random private classes. There seemed to be good opportunities for progression within the company, and I’d have a stable income.
But it wasn’t as it seemed. The company was poorly managed and the teachers were pretty much left to our own devices. There was no recognition, morale was low and teachers would get fired on a whim. The only people who actually had been promoted were the owner’s mates, and they didn’t often last long.
The real problem with this was that I was starting to feel like there was no way of achieving any progress in my life. I knew I had real skills but they would probably never be valued properly. The EFL sector (English as a Foreign Language) is a broken mess of cowboy companies and there’s very little money to be made, and not much job satisfaction. That’s why it’s the preserve of students and teachers from poor countries. So, I felt like my options were extremely limited and I would always be penniless and exhausted.
I fell into a deep depression, started drinking more and even experienced suicidal thoughts. Ellie, my incredible girlfriend, urged me to go to the doctor. He prescribed me some medication and I took sick leave. I also knew that I was never going to back to my employer.
A few weeks passed and, having seen me incredibly drunk a few times, Ellie became deeply worried. To be fair, while I had always drunk too much, it was rare that I’d get paralytic until that point.
And then, after a really bad night, on the 23rd of March 2019, I knew I would never drink again. This decision, one that I had agonised over for years, suddenly felt so simple. Alcohol was fucking up my life and Ellie’s. It was also harming my other relationships and making everything harder than it needed to be. I just knew that it was an incontrovertible net negative in my life, and that my time with it had ended. I didn’t care how difficult it would be; I knew it would be easier than being hungover every day.
And then it wasn’t difficult at all. Ever since I stopped, I have experienced zero cravings. Occasionally, I might think, ‘Oh a cold beer would be nice’ when the weather is hot; such is the paucity of non-alcoholic non-sweet drinks. But I also know, on a deep, visceral level, that it wouldn’t be nice at all. The small buzz of pleasure would last a few minutes, before being replaced by the desire to drink more. That desire is not pleasant, and it leads to darkness.
And then something really weird happened. Gradually, life became more colourful, more real, and more fun. I started to get really excited about small things, like having our favourite dinner or playing a video game. Properly excited, like a child. Ellie saw less of the cynical side of me, and much more of this big boy that wanted to do dumb, fun things together. At the same time, I was growing more responsible, ambitious and hopeful. I decided that, rather than making almost no money as an English teacher, I would help people get jobs; I knew there was a future in that. I set up Shewbridge Coaching.
There was a side to me that nobody had ever seen before. I was more considerate, more sensible and yet a lot sillier too. Ellie loved it and I did too.
And I’m going to say something now that I hope you’ll read with caution. Please understand that I am not recommending you develop a crippling addiction to anything; it really isn’t worth the risk. But the truth is, spending nearly 20 years with a hangover makes you resilient as fuck. It really does. I was what is commonly known as a ‘functioning alcoholic’; so I went to work, merrily taught kids, and did the supermarket shopping, all while feeling like complete shit.
After that training, everything became really easy. I almost feel like I’m cheating now. That doesn’t mean that I’m incredibly capable at everything; I am just super persistent. If something is difficult, I work it out. I Google it, I practise, I think — really hard — and then I become more and more competent. And I know that I can teach myself more or less any skill. Very few of them are beyond me. Sure, my body and the laws of physics mean I’ll never be a professional football player, nor will I ever have the time or dedication to master chess, but most valuable skills aren’t anywhere near that difficult. It takes time to learn anything, of course, but I now dispassionately dedicate my time to learning the next important thing, whatever that may be. And I just keep going.
At this point, I should make one disclaimer, and be very clear about it. Just before I stopped drinking, my mum gave me and Ellie a house. Seriously. She had this property in Spain, which wasn’t worth much and she was having difficulty selling. She knew that, without the financial pressure of rent, I’d have more chance of making something of myself, so she offered me the deeds. I’m paying her back over time, but the house is ours forever. That gives me an incredible sense of security that allows me to take my time trying different things with the business. We still have financial obligations of course, but I am extremely lucky in a way that I know you may not be. So, to be clear; I’m not saying I’ve done this on my own; I absolutely haven’t. But my luck has imbued in me a huge sense of responsibility; a visceral need to help others less fortunate than me. I do this most days in one way or the other, but I rarely talk about it, as there’s just no need.
But back to the new, alcohol free me (I promise we’ll get to you shortly). Why wasn’t I craving alcohol? Why was I feeling fine — at the very least — and usually much better than fine? The conclusion I reached, and still wholeheartedly believe, is this:
Almost everything that is accepted as common knowledge about alcohol is bullshit.
Mull that over for a while because, while it may be a bold assertion to make, it’s worth thinking about. It is possible, if only based on my own anecdotal evidence for now, that almost everything you think about alcohol is wrong. And if so, you might want to think about what that means for you.
Here’s what I think: the most difficult thing about giving up alcohol is believing it will be difficult. And if you no longer care how difficult it will be, or don’t think it will be difficult at all, it’s not. Sure, you’ll have cravings for like 5 days at most and then, boom, no more pain. You do have to be aware that your neuroplastic brain has changed as a result of the alcohol, and that if you drink again, the cravings will almost certainly return. It may take years for the brain to change so much that you can drink again without harm of addiction. But you won’t care. As long as you don’t drink alcohol, you won’t want alcohol. It really is as simple as that.
But what do you do about social situations? How can you be fun and funny? How can you celebrate the weekend? How can you get over a bad day? How can you enjoy holidays?
Well, here’s the thing: if you’re not enjoying those things while sober, they’re just not that enjoyable. And if you’re not fun and funny while sober, then you’re even less so when drunk. Trust me on that. But don’t worry, it turns out that you will enjoy those things, and much more than you used to. Sure, some social situations will be boring and awkward, so just drive home. No one will notice.
But anyway, this lush of an article is getting out of hand, so let’s stagger gracefully back to the point: In my experience, almost everything that anyone says about alcohol is bullshit. And, what’s more, many thousands — if not millions — of people share the same experience as me, so the very least we can say is this:
For many people, giving up alcohol will be extremely easy, no matter how addicted they are.
And when I discovered this, I got to wondering what else might be bullshit. And it turns out that, while I can’t be sure that any one particular idea is bullshit, quite a lot of them probably are. That’s a far more powerful statement than it sounds, but we’ll get on to that later.
Anyway, so everything was getting better and I started working on building up a business. It was incredibly liberating and, free of the shackles of alcohol, it all seemed quite easy. It has taken a long time, but every day, I get a little busier. Basically, you just pull out all of the stops and delight your customer. At some point they’ll recommend you to someone else and it just gradually but exponentially builds from there. But how do you know how to do a good job? Well, it turns out that I think in a way that is based on an idea called First Principles, which frankly, is common sense as long as you filter out all the bullshit.
First Principles thinking is an approach by which you strip a problem back to its fundamental truths. You forget all the layers of bullshit that may have accumulated on the problem over the years; they just get in the way.
Think about cars, for example. If you design a new car, and you want it to be fun to drive, you’ll want to make sure the gears change satisfyingly and the engine makes a good roar because everyone knows that. Because that’s what drivers love. But hang on. Forget about the gearbox and engine note for now; they’re not fundamental to car design. Just design your car as well as you possibly can and then adapt the design later.
As you’re thinking about the car, you realise that, for many reasons, an electric motor is fundamentally better than a dirty petrol engine, so you go with that approach. But you’re worried because there will be no gears to change and no engine roar. Well, perhaps you’ll think of something later; maybe a synthesised engine noise?
As you take the car to market, worrying about the lack of engine noise, something weird happens: the car flies off the production line, with even dedicated petrolheads buying it. You can’t make enough to satisfy the demand. So what’s happened? Do people no longer care about engine roar and gear changes?
No, they don’t. Because they never did. They cared about having fun and showing off. And your new electric car, with its wow factor, incredible acceleration and massive iPad, is far more fun and showy than gear changes and engine notes ever were. Who knew?
The thing is, it is not a first principle that cars have gear sticks and growly engines. It is a first principle that cars be fun and impressive. First principles thinking can be applied to any situation.
So that’s what I did, back when I started Shewbridge Coaching. I asked myself, ‘What is a CV for? What is an interview for? How can you make them as powerful as possible?’
I quickly realised that a CV just has to say to whoever is reading it, ‘I understand your problem, the pain it causes and how to take it away.’ Because a really useful first principle here is that people don’t like pain. They will throw money at you if they believe you can take it away.
Of course, you can’t just say that on a CV; nobody will believe you. People only really believe stories, so your CV has to tell the story of your courageous battles against project overspend in the pursuit of continuous improvement. Tell that story well enough, with engaging enough language that a bored, stressed manager can make sense of it, and you’ve got a good chance of getting an interview.
And yet, look on the internet about how to write a good CV, and you’ll see pages and pages of stuff about ‘action verbs’, never using pronouns and all sorts of dumb shit that is tangentially related to reality but is all spectacularly missing the point. I worried a little, when I started out, that I might be making a mistake in ignoring this — in sticking to my first principles about what made a good CV. I even told my first clients that it might be a bit unconventional but we should give it a try anyway.
I needn’t have bothered. My clients loved the CVs, and the interview invitations all started flowing in. Not everyone gets an interview for the first job they apply for, but it’s usually pretty quick. There are still factors outside of my control, like fake job adverts, internal candidates, and rival candidates with much more experience, but these CVs just work. And I break all of the rules because the rules don’t make sense.
As the business continued, I reimagined what it could be, again, based on first principles. I thought about who might use my service and what their pain was. I used a bit of imagination and empathy, and thought about why people hate job hunting, and what I came up with was these principles:
- People, rightly or wrongly, derive a lot of self-worth from their work. They are personally invested in how valuable their job makes them feel and being rejected really hurts.
- People get anxious when they have to write their own CVs, because they’re constantly worrying about if they will meet expectations.
- People want their jobs to feel important and to give them a chance to be and look competent.
- Jobs not only contribute to our self worth but our ability to fund our existence. The pain of not knowing how long it will take to secure another job is unbearable for these reasons.
- People get confused by all the conflicting advice out there, and that’s demoralising.
And I thought about all of that. And I thought, and I thought…
A Story of Contentment & Purpose
Introduction: Why Should you Read This Series?
Well, let’s be honest, maybe you shouldn’t. After all, you’ve probably read loads of things which served no other purpose than to waste your time. But it’s impossible to know until you give it a try. And, as we probably know each other — at least to some extent — I hope you’ll trust me enough to accept that I honestly believe what I’m about to tell you, even if it turns out to be wrong:
I have found deep, sustainable contentment in my own life, and I want to share my story with you because it may well help you to achieve the same.
Now, words like these are cheap. They look tacky and bullshitty, but the problem I’ve got is that they’re entirely sincere, so what can I do?
But back to that contentment thing. I can’t promise my story will help you. Everyone’s different. But don’t make any excuses because of that; people are not that different. We tend to all have the same basic needs, even though we may find a multitude of ways of meeting, masking and ignoring them. If you’re already content: well done; you have overcome great hurdles to get there. Even then, this series may help you to gain a greater understanding of what contentment means, so that you can share that knowledge with the people you love, as well as preserve it for yourself.
I’m not going to give you a dictionary definition of contentment. The first rule of story-telling and, actually, conveying any message, is to show, not tell; I’m going to do that in a story in the next part of the series. I’m not going to present myself as an expert on anything, other than my own life and the lessons I’ve learnt. I will never tell you that you must implement anything I’ve done, or even agree with anything I say. We’re equals, and it’s up to you to process these ideas for yourself, and think carefully about how they might apply to you. What I will do is present a framework to guide you and help you find your own contentment. Again, we’re all different, and a life that makes you content may not be anything like mine, and that’s ok. I’ve built this framework by reverse-engineering the happy and fortunate circumstances that led me to where I am today, with the intention of guiding you to your own life of contentment.
But why am I bothering? What’s the problem I’m trying to solve?
It seems that there is a disease in the modern world — an insidious, invisible malaise that infects the lives of millions. People are not content. The homes, offices and streets of affluent countries are host to legions of rudderless, lost souls who lunge from one distraction to another, trying only to get through the day, rather than live it.
Somehow, these people know there should be more to life; every day, they swallow some false promise in the hope of finding it. They have been inculcated with the lie that if they work and buy, they will discover happiness and meaning. They rarely do unless — that is — some peculiar series of events should conspire to open their eyes to the bullshit around them, give them the bravery to resist it, and the wherewithal to construct a better life.
I now invite you to take a look at your life and ask yourself if you are a sufferer of this disease. It may not be a comfortable question for many, but for those who are prepared to take a difficult, introspective look, this series may just be the beginning of the solution.
This is a story about purpose and contentment, and it is a strange story. Some of it is set in the past, with me as the protagonist, as we look closely at the events that took me to where I am today. Then, if you’ll take them, I’ll hand the reigns over to you. The next part of the story is unwritten, and I’d like you to write it with me, as you begin your own journey towards contentment, with me at your side.
We are delighted to feature this guest article by Linda Chase of Able Hire, who help people with disabilities build rewarding, successful careers.
(Photo via Pexels)
Choosing a career path is challenging for most young adults. Whether you recently entered college, or are planning to earn a degree in the near future, you’ve likely been spending a great deal of time thinking about what the future has in store.
This decision-making process can become even more complicated when considering how one (or more) disabilities will impact your day-to-day work life. Whether you experience physical, emotional, and/or cognitive challenges, it is important to think about what careers will best suit your specific needs.
More and more young adults facing disabilities are finding that a career in business is a wise move for a number of reasons. Shewbridge Coaching provides information on why a career in business is beneficial for young adults with disabilities and tips for success in the industry.
A career in business opens the door to self-employment
When facing a disability, a set 9-to-5 schedule, high-stress corporate environments, and commuting each day may not be realistic. Even though companies are required to make reasonable accommodations, you may not feel comfortable with many of the requirements of working in a typical work environment.
As an alternative to having a career that requires in-person attendance — and a firmly set schedule — you may want to consider becoming self-employed. By pursuing a career in business, you will have an easier time achieving this goal.
When coupled with another field or degree program, you can unlock a vast number of opportunities. For example, many people who’ve worked in business start their own consulting firm. If you were to also earn an online degree in IT, you could expand your area of consulting expertise to information technology, data analytics, or cybersecurity. Alternatively, you could earn a degree in marketing or accounting and start a consulting firm around those fields.
Increased opportunities to work-from-home
If you are comfortable with the expectations of standard business jobs — but have the physical limitations that make it challenging to commute to an office — there are plenty of work-from-home opportunities available in the industry. This is even more true today as the COVID-19 pandemic continues on. If you face sensory challenges, working from home also allows you to be in a controlled environment every day.
When searching for jobs on most major platforms, you will now notice that you can filter by remote work positions. Unlike just a few years ago, searching for remote work jobs — across areas of expertise and experience level — yields pages upon pages of results. There is no shortage of part- and full-time business jobs that are 100% location independent.
Getting the education you need to succeed
If you are currently in search of a business degree program, it is important to choose one that is aligned with your interests. It is also important to be aware of which degree programs and careers are the most lucrative.
If you have a bachelor’s degree, an MBA is a wise educational choice. According to U.S. News & World Report, the current average starting salary for graduates with an MBA is $79,043. If you are still looking for a bachelor’s degree program, figures from PayScale.com show that degrees in accounting and finance open doors to some of the highest-paying positions in business.
Landing your first internship and entry-level position
When you are ready to look for an internship — or your first entry-level position — it is important to do your research. Review articles and employee reviews about which companies are the best for those who have disabilities. Additionally, to reduce your job search stress and land the perfect role, consider utilizing Shewbridge Coaching’s Job Hunter’s Toolkit, Interview Coaching, and more.
If you are leaning toward earning a degree in business, begin by browsing lists of the top career paths. Carefully consider what roles sound most interesting, your long-term goals, and which positions sound best for your individual needs.
Somewhere hidden in this article there is a heartwarming sentence that will make you feel sparkly and happy, but exactly where, well… that’s a secret. You’ll just have to read the article one sentence at a time until you find it. I don’t feel proud of using this sort of underhand tactic to make people read my stuff, but it’s just that this particular article is all about how to write a CV, and that’s not a subject known for its natural magnetism. That sentence though; you’re going to love it; I just know you are!
One reason that people find the subject of CVs so boring, though, is because they fundamentally don’t understand what a CV is. A good CV is an extremely powerful document that can open all sorts of doors for you, doors that lead to rooms of opportunity. In those rooms of opportunity are big parcels of better pay, chairs of challenge and a sideboard of success. Please don’t read the last two sentences and think I’m suggesting you litter your CV with overwrought metaphors; I’m really not. I just got overexcited thinking about what a great CV can do for you, and then my mind wondered on to the following paragraphs in which I show you how easy it is to write one.
Have you noticed how businesses are now obsessed with stories? You certainly will have if you work in marketing. Some years ago, after the internet had become massive, and social media had fully taken hold, companies realised that they needed to be communicating with their potential customers all the time. They got Twitter accounts and
twat tweeted about special offers and slogans and stuff, but nobody cared. They quickly realised that the only way to communicate something memorable is to tell a story. Allow me to illustrate my point with this sociological chart:
If you carefully study this chart, you’ll spend a lifetime and still have no idea what it means. I certainly don’t know what it means. OK, presumably, there are some people who could get some information out of this. But they’re sociologists, and they look at this stuff because it’s their job; you have to pay them to do it. The problem with this sort of chart is that it doesn’t tell a story. Oh, I bet there are lots of stories hidden within it, but you’d have to find them, translate them into words and then tell the story. There are many, many ways to convey information, and they all have their strengths, but unequivocally, by far, the best way to transfer meaning into the brain of a human being is by telling a story. And your CV — if you want to convey the meaning that you are a fantastic choice for this job — should tell a story.
And before we continue, don’t confuse ‘information’ with ‘meaning’. Most of the CVs I see make this mistake. Information is just patterns that represent something. ‘Meaning’, in this context, is information that connects with a human’s consciousness and subconscious and says something…meaningful to them. If you read something that makes you think, ‘Yeah, so what?’, you’re reading information that has no meaning to you. The vast majority of CVs are like this. And a recruiter who’s reading these CVs, if sufficiently motivated, can get the information they need. It’ll be boring and hard work, but they can do it. After all, like the scientists who have to make sense of that thing above, it’s their job. But do you really want the recruiter who’s reading your CV to be bored, and to feel like it’s a chore? No, of course you don’t. So your CV has to be easy to read, meaningful and, above all, it should tell a story. The story is called Why This Job and I are Perfect for Each Other.
Of course, your CV has to follow a relatively conventional format, a format that doesn’t just exist for the sake of formality, but to enable the poor sod who has to read these things to quickly find the information they need. But within that format there is the scope to tell your story.
The biggest mistake people make, by far, is in the Career Summary section. Most people just describe what they had to do in their previous jobs. I mean, so what? What were your achievements? How did you accomplish them? Living in utter peace in a warm house, with unlimited free food, and lots of places to hide, my cats are probably some of the happiest beings on Earth. There you go; I hope you enjoyed that! Here are some more of the most important things to bear in mind when writing your CV:
- Make sure that, in the intro text for each job, you write about how it was a crucial step towards the role you’re applying for; this is how you turn your CV into a story. What skills did you learn? Think especially of the skills you’ll need in the target job.
- Another mistake many people make is stuffing their CV with keywords to get it past the ATS. Yes, your CV should contain keywords, but they should form a natural part of the structure, not just be thrown in willy-nilly. If your CV is hard to read, people are less likely to read it. And as we CV writers often say at industry gatherings, ‘Unread is dead’*.
- Your summary, the paragraph at the top of the CV should also describe who you are in a way that is enticing and memorable. Think carefully about the type of person the recruiters need, the sort of person who could solve your new line-manager’s problem, and try to write yourself as that person.
Following these tips will make your CV more successful, and that will make you more successful. Of course, you can always get a pro to do it for you; that way you’ll have a fantastic document that’s worthy of your accomplishments, without going through countless rewrites and uncertainty. But there is no reason at all to be sending off boring, barely intelligible CVs and hoping for the best.
I leave you with a recent example, written by Your Humble Servant, to help give you an idea of what you should be aiming for.
*If there are industry gatherings for us, I never I get invited to them; I just made that phrase up. Sadly, you’re reading this disclaimer, but I don’t expect most people to.
And Why Your Current CV is Holding You Back
What’s the point of you? It may sound a little rude to ask that, and perhaps downright imprudent to blurt it out at the beginning of a blog post that I’m hoping you’ll read, so let’s try again: What are you for? No… that’s worse, if anything. I’d ask you about your hopes and dreams, but… I just… don’t care. Nobody does, apart from your mum and your friends, and they’re faking it a lot of the time.
This only sounds so terrible, I think, because we now live in a world in which everyone is supposed to be special. You’ve grown up being told that you’re worth it and fascinating and important, and so it can seem a bit much when Mr Random Internet Man contradicts it. You might try and feel better by telling yourself that I’m just a damaged, broken mess who gets pleasure from hurting others. Or you might laugh at me and shout about your qualifications and experience and intelligence and all those other wonderful things. And even if I could hear you, I still wouldn’t care, because, honestly, why should I?
If you’re still reading this, then I guess you know that I can’t possibly plan to write the rest of this article in a similar vein; it’s got to get less offensive and more interesting at some point, surely? Well, yes it will, and to thank you for pushing on this far, I’m going to give you probably the most valuable advice you’ve had all year, in just the next paragraph.
That was a bold claim, wasn’t it? I hope I live up to it! Well, let’s give it a try: in order to be both fascinating and rich, you need to work out what my problem is and prove to me you can solve it. If you can do that, I will find you extremely interesting and I’ll gladly give you some money. Then do the same for lots of other people. Because in order to be fascinating and rich, you need to stop thinking about you and your needs and your hopes and your dreams and your problems and your stuff and your things, because you are the only person in this world that will ever find those things interesting. The secret to true success is really understanding other people’s problems and solving them for a fair price.
And this applies to you whether you’re a business owner like me, or an employee. Don’t be tempted to make the excuse that this doesn’t apply to you; it does, and I know I’ve just repeated myself but that’s how important it is.
You see, the trick to writing a CV, or giving an interview, or engaging in practically any kind of professional activity is a simple one: identifying a problem you can solve and proving you can solve it. And while this may seem simple and, I hope, obvious, I can tell you that doing this is very rare. Most CVs that I see are a jumbled mess of management-speak, qualifications and duties. They’re poorly-written, hard to read and lack a key message. But therein lies your opportunity: the fact that most CVs are like this. With some careful thought and an understanding of the problems you can solve, you can write a CV that really speaks to hiring managers and gets you invited for an interview.
But before I can address how to start doing that, I want to tackle the question of why so few people do this anyway. ‘I don’t know’, is the short answer, but the long answer is speculative.
Certainly, from my own perspective, I’ve never really been trained in how to sell myself. Nobody ever explained the point of a CV. I knew it was a document that you had to write, that it was a total pain in the arse, and that recruiters asked for them. As far as I was concerned, it was just a hoop you had to jump through. And then I started to think about it more carefully. I think that people possibly get so bogged down in formalities and procedure, that they start to lose sight of what a CV is and what it should do.
A CV is, at it’s heart, a list of all the jobs you’ve ever done and what they involved, as well as your qualifications etc. But if you write it because you think that that is the purpose of a CV, then you’re entirely missing the point. The purpose of the CV is to say to the person who would be your next boss, ‘I know what your problem is and I can fix it.’ If you can do that, you’ve got an interview. And that’s why it’s crucial to understand what your professional value is. It’s so important that I’m going to make the sentence a standalone paragraph in italics.
Your professional value is your capacity to solve the problem of someone who can pay you for it.
Forget the formality of the recruitment process. Forget the requirements in the job ad. Forget the myriad doubts that buzz around your head, and ask yourself these questions:
- What is my professional value?
- What problem do I solve?
- Who has this problem?
If you’re in Sales, your professional value is that you increase the company’s revenue; the problem is that there are people who need your company’s products that don’t buy them; this is a problem for the Sales Director.
If you’re in HR, your professional value is that you get the maximum amount of value from the company’s employees; the problem you solve is that people don’t deliver maximum value 100% of the time; the HR Director has this problem.
And here are some things that are not your professional value: your willingness to go the extra mile; your 10 years of experience; the letters after your name; your ambition; your hunger. These things may lie behind your professional value, but they are not, in themselves, your value. The reason being that these things are of no interest to anyone because they are not solutions to their problem.
Yes, companies have policies and recruiters have requirements, but these can easily be overcome and waived if somebody important enough will benefit from it. The trick is to show, through the narrative you create with your CV, that you can solve your next boss’s problem.
And in the next blog post, I’ll show you how to do just that.
This is a question that I get asked quite frequently, and not just by my younger clients. It’s a really good one to ask because it signifies that you are taking your job hunt seriously and planning ahead. Instead of focusing on only the interview stage, I’m going to widen the scope to encompass the whole recruitment process for advertised jobs. Even seasoned professionals may find useful advice and tips here, and the process varies a lot, so let’s crack on and start from the very beginning.
Stage 1: Searching for Jobs
My two personal favourites for this are Indeed and LinkedIn. They aggregate jobs from loads of other sources, including recruitment agencies, so you’re unlikely to miss anything if you stick to just these two. In fact, most postings will be on both platforms anyway, so even using only one of them is a good way to see almost everything without getting overwhelmed.
The trick here is, don’t be too put off by the requirements. Remember, recruiters can ask for whatever they want but it doesn’t mean it’s essential in all cases. Yes, if you’re applying for a role as an airline captain, you’re going to need a pilot’s license, of course; that unspecified degree they ask for? Don’t worry about it. The point is, if you realistically believe you can do this job, and really want it, you owe it to yourself and the company to apply for it. A high-quality CV, cover letter and LinkedIn profile should see you through to the next stage.
A special note now for female readers: research shows that, generally, women only apply for jobs when they meet 100% percent of the requirements, whereas men apply when they fulfil just 60%. So, ladies, just apply and see what happens!
Make sure your CV and LinkedIn profile are as compelling and attractive as possible. It’s a numbers game, so the better they are, the more interviews you win — more success; less heartache and frustration.
Stage 2: Screening
This is usually a phone call but can be a video interview, with or without the aid of artificial intelligence. If it’s a phone call, you’re most likely speaking to someone from HR who isn’t necessarily familiar with your role or function. This means that they’re looking for answers that show you meet some fairly basic requirements. They may ask questions that have been answered by your CV or LinkedIn profile; just answer them anyway as best you can. Obviously be truthful, but you can always round answers up. You haven’t been a project manager for three-and-a-half years, but four.
A video interview, which may use AI as a screening tool, is usually a bit more in-depth, which is why companies are using them, but will still not be the main interview. With that in mind, don’t worry if you haven’t had a chance to say everything that you wanted to say, you’ll get it later.
The trick with video interviews is to get used to treating the camera as if it were a person. Practise by making videos answering common interview questions again and again. The more you do it, the more natural it will start to feel. Also, try and understand that you may be at home, but during a video interview, you are in a professional environment. Dress the part, and speak clearly and in a business-like way. Remember to make eye contact with the camera and don’t look at your phone or another screen. Practise, practise and practise, and then be yourself.
The Main Interview
Well, here we are; you’re rocking the main stage now. This is so important that I’ve written another post covering the main questions and how to tackle them. You need to practise selling yourself for this job, though, not parroting the answer to loads of questions ad nauseam. I can make you an interview god or goddess if you want to invest in learning this most valuable of life skills.
There may a second interview for you to meet other people in the company, who are usually further up the food chain. If you’ve got this far, that means you must have done pretty well; answer questions in a similar way and don’t be surprised if you get asked the same questions again. You may also like to bring out something new by showing them your strategy for getting off to a good start and making meaningful progress straightaway. Don’t overthink it and don’t use Powerpoint unless specifically asked to.
The Thank-you Note
Because you are going to write one aren’t you? It’s a short email thanking the main interviewer for their time and reiterating the parts of the interview where you really saw eye-to-eye. Think along these lines and you won’t go too far wrong:
‘Thank you so much for taking the time to see me earlier. It was great to meet you and xyz in person, and it only reinforced my desire to work at abc. I was pleased to get the opportunity to discuss how I would bring a 30% cost reduction immediately. I also look forward to discussing further your goal of increasing success in the EMEA markets; I believe I have a few strategies that might help.’
Don’t go on much longer than that. It’s a brief note. It’s a nice thing to do and it reinforces your relationship.
So, that’s another job-hunting question answered!
You might also want to check out my top ten interview tips
Ciao for now!
While the world falls apart around our ears, and while that is a terrible thing in many ways, it is crucial that you don’t miss out on the many fantastic opportunities it offers.
I am in the business of helping clients get the job of their dreams, and I am really starting to see two distinct patterns – two separate groups – emerge; this is visible in LinkedIn posts, direct messages and articles.
One group, which is by far the biggest, is talking about the negative effects of this pandemic on the economy, how it is difficult to deal with personally and wondering when it will end. They’re not doing anything wrong; they’re humans and they’re blindsided. They’re also sharing support with others, both verbally and practically. This is good, normal behaviour.
Then, there is a second group. They’re struggling too; they don’t want to see others suffer, and also want to help where they can. They’re seeing something else beyond that, though; Group 2 are seeing opportunities, and they are taking them. And oh my god are they winning.
To be extremely clear, I’m dealing with people from both groups every day. The sole distinction between them is one of attitude. Both groups contain people of all races, genders, social classes, professions and nationalities. Honestly, I don’t know which life events cause you to fall into either Group 1 or Group 2, but there is a divide. This post is designed to help those in Group 1 make the move into Group 2. Group 2 have an advantage, which I’m trying to share — sorry not sorry, Group 2.
Economies are going to shrink; if recession isn’t already here, it’s coming. That’s bad, and people are going to lose out. But, tragic though that is, it’s not the interesting part. What Group 2 are seeing is the shakeup; this is where the action is and where they are.
A whole tranche of job adverts has just landed on LinkedIn, and they’re still coming. These jobs are, as you’d guess, in anything IT related, healthcare and logistics; big, big sectors. Particular professions which are thriving right now: business development, transformation management, programme/project management.
And if you’re thinking, ‘Well, those sectors and professions are not relevant to me’, then you’re thinking in a Group 1 sort of way. Just because your experience might not be in these fields, it doesn’t mean you couldn’t thrive in these roles. In these areas, it’s a job-seekers market, and they’re calling the shots, because the need to have these positions filled is just so high. Group 2 have already discovered this. Take a look for yourself on LinkedIn Jobs.
OK, So What Can You Do About It?
If you’re still with me, then I guess I’ve convinced you that amazing opportunities are there for the taking, all you need now is some advice about how to take them.
Well, like with everything else in life, you need a strategy, and I’m going to outline that in the rest of this post.
Step 1: Search for Some Great Jobs
Go shopping! What you’re focusing on here are jobs you want, not jobs you think you can do. Be realistic, of course; don’t search for jobs that demand hard skills you just don’t have. I want to be an astronaut too, but it’s not happening. Think of professions that you’ve had your eye on for a while but, for whatever reason, it wasn’t the right time. Or that step-up in your own career. You know you could do your boss’s job, but the openings weren’t there. Be ambitious but realistic. Try and find at least twenty different postings.
Step 2: Filter This List Down
Now you need a shortlist. Some jobs were, upon closer inspection, not at all appealing, or you really don’t think you have the skills; get rid of those. Be careful not to return to Group 1 thinking though. I see it all the time: taxi drivers who don’t realise they have amazing communication skills, veterans who could write books about teamwork and supply chain management. I even work with business owners who don’t realise they have a working knowledge of pretty much every aspect of running a company. If you think you can do it, you can prove it. My business is all about helping my clients do just that, so we’ve got that covered.
Step 3: Optimise your LinkedIn Profile
I’m not going to go into too much detail here, as there is loads of advice around about this. I also offer this as a service if you want to get it written by a professional who knows how to write stuff that people want to read.
It should go without saying that you should have a high quality business-like photo, though; it really does matter. You should also make sure your headline appeals to recruiters and is likely to come up in a search. That means, ‘looking for opportunities’ is a really bad idea. ‘Looking for opporunities’ is even worse, but over 7000 people are still trying to use it to get hired. Your headline should include your job title — not your current one necessarily, but the one you’re going for.
Now, make sure your ‘About’ section is clearly laid-out and describes your achievements; things you’ve done which are relevant to your target job are a good idea. Quantify these achievements; you beat your sales target by 60%? Why didn’t you say so?
Step 4: Optimise Your CV
Your CV should have a similar vibe to your LinkedIn profile and, again, there is some great advice about how to write one. And yes, I would say this, but you’re giving yourself a real advantage if you get a pro to write it. We can work magic that no ‘how to’ can compete with.
If you’re going it alone, you need to make sure your CV is limited to two pages and sells your benefits, rather than your features. Managed a team? So what? If you successfully led that team to overcome Brexit challenges and increased sales by 60%, then I’m interested.
The key is to optimise your CV for each job you apply for. Include all relevant achievements and cut out everything else. You’ll know when your CV is done because it will look like everything you’ve done has just been preparation for the dream job you’re now applying for.
Step 5: Apply
Just go for it. See what happens. Get your beautiful CV out there doing its job!
Step 6: Prepare for Your Interviews
Again, there’s advice all over the place about this, including on this wonderful website. Read all of this advice and practise with someone. For the eagle-eyed amongst you, you’ll already have spotted the trend in which I advise that you get professional guidance. That’s because it really is the best way to secure your advantage; If the other candidates are communicating their message really well because they’ve been coached, well, you’re going to struggle.
Have You Moved to Group 2 Yet?
If you’ve read this far, then the answer is probably ‘yes’. Great; now you have your strategy, go out there and use it! And, please, do let me know how you get on.
And How To Answer These Interview Questions Like The Perfect Choice You Are
When you’ve been invited to an interview (congratulations, by the way!), the first thing you’ll ask yourself is ‘what interview questions am I likely to be asked?’ The truth is, you don’t know, and regular followers of me and my blog will know that I’m not an advocate of memorising answers anyway. The correct approach is to internalise the answers to these common questions, and use them as a guide to how you should approach any other question you’ll get about yourself. I’m really referring to the Behavioural Interview in this post, which is what most people think of as the ‘normal’ interview. You can find out about the other types here.
But, hang on, what do I mean by ‘internalise’ the answers? Well, to internalise the answers means to really, deeply understand them, and how they relate to reality, rather than just memorising words. When you internalise an answer, it means that:
- You really believe it
- You can say it in lots of different ways, and in various contexts
- You can back it up with a range of evidence
Learning answers is, in comparison, much flimsier. That’s one reason you often feel nervous when you learn answers; you know that they only work when you are asked a certain question in a certain way. Also, humans don’t remember exact phrases very well, but we do, on the other hand, remember complete ideas—once we truly understand them. So here are the most common behavioural interview questions and how you should approach internalising great answers to them.
Tell us a bit about yourself
Only narcissists like this one, and they totally screw it up by going on at length about everything they feel you should love about them. But, really, this question is a doddle if you know how to handle it.
You need to think of the part of you that is extremely good at this job and really loves doing it. If you’re already fully conscious of this aspect of you, great, you just need to back it up with evidence. If not, you need to do a little preparatory work first.
What are the key responsibilities in the role? We’ll call these ‘Requirements’. Think of times throughout you career in which you’ve excelled at this kind of task. We’re going to call these examples ‘Stepping Stone 1’. Next think of times in which you’ve come to realise how much you love doing these things. We’ll call these ‘Stepping Stone 2’. I’m calling them ‘stepping stones’ because they punctuate your answer and guide you through it.
So, to be super clear:
Stepping Stone 1: Example of you doing a core task in this job well
Stepping Stone 2: Time you realised you really love doing this thing (may be the same as Stepping Stone 1)
Write these examples down. Now when they ask you this question, you need to answer it like this:
Your whole career has been preparing you for this exact role. The time has come for you to apply for it and everything about it is perfect for you, and you believe you are a great fit for the job.
You would describe yourself as a natural leader (or any other Requirement) as evidenced by (Stepping Stone 1). You also realised how much you enjoy this kind of responsibility during ‘Stepping Stone 2’.
Do this again twice, so you are describing yourself as having three Requirements. Easy, isn’t it? Practise a few times using different wording and you’ll start to truly internalise the answer and say it in a really natural way.
The Stepping Stones are there to help you cross the river of uncertainty towards the bank of awesome. If you’re answering this question and you’re not on a Stepping Stone, you’re in the rapids of confusion. It’s time to put this thoroughly exhausted analogy to bed and move on to the next of our common interview questions.
Why do you want this job?
You should see this as an opportunity to talk in more detail about examples of Stepping Stone 2 (Turns out the analogy is back and fighting fit, dear lord. That’s because it’s resilient just like you were that time when you did x, y and z.)
You can add detail, and you can add examples, just don’t go on for longer than about 30 seconds.
‘This particular job appeals to me because it really encapsulates everything I love doing. I realised that when I did (Stepping Stone 2) and it became clear to me that this is the direction my career needs to be going in.
‘I’ve always been a natural (Requirement), and even as a child, I was doing (more Stepping Stones 1 & 2) whenever I could get the chance. It’s also clear from my CV that (Requirements) are when I’m delivering the most value. I am this job and this job is me, as far as I’m concerned.’
The more you internalise this answer, the more you’ll feel it, and you’ll start looking forward to the question.
Why do you want to work here?
This is easy. When you look at the company’s website, they’ll basically just bang on about how brilliant they are. You simply absorb that message, with the cynical part of you neatly in it’s box in the cupboard.
Again, it’s all about finding ways to talk about how everything you’ve done has prepared for this wonderful company and its commitment to x, y and z. Use more Stepping Stones to prevent you getting lost.
You finalise the answer by discussing ideas you have for furthering the company’s agenda (from the website) and that you’d love the opportunity to discuss them further. Don’t overthink these answers; until you’re in the company you don’t have enough information for them to be fully fleshed out. It doesn’t even matter if they wouldn’t actually work, as long as they’re plausible.
What are your greatest strengths?
In relation to this job, that is. All the answers should directly relate to the job but this is one where people really get lost. That’s because their greatest accomplishments are their babies, and they’ve been waiting to talk about the time they won man-of-the-match or completed a half-marathon wearing some sort of hilarious costume or that they’re really good at baking. Stop it. This isn’t about you. Well, ok… it is about you, but it’s about a very specific version of you; the bit that will be doing this job.
So, again, refer to the Stepping Stones. The ones that describe you doing this job very well are your greatest strengths. Internalise this. Again, it’s just so easy!
And then something terrifying happens… (seriously, play Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor as you read the next bit)
What are your greatest weaknesses?
I’ve gone through how to answer this question at length here: https://medium.com/@contact_32090/how-to-answer-the-most-difficult-interview-question-like-a-boss-8fda913d6c6b
Have a look at that and come back.
Wow, I didn’t think you’d actually come back; thanks for that. You really are working on your inability to finish things, aren’t you?
Anyway, do you see what I mean about internalising these answers? This process covers all the important aspects of your dream job and helps you to answer these particular questions, but also pretty much any other question you might get about your ability and desire to do this job. The point is that you will start to really get to know the version of yourself that was born to take this role, and then you’ll be able to tackle any question about that person.
Come and talk to me on LinkedIn for more info and advice about interview questions and anything else in the terrifying world of job-hunting. It’s not really terrifying though; you just need an expert in your corner.
Also, don’t go away without checking this out:
When it comes to job interviews, amongst all the usual confusion is the question, ‘what types of job interviews are there?’ Today we’re going to look at those various different formats and help you prepare for each particular one.
Remember: The interview type will often not be signposted beforehand, so you may have to do a bit of googling as part of your prep; look up the company and industry to find clues about what interview types you can reasonably expect.
Before we go into detail about the interview types, you should also think about using an interview coach. They will help you prepare for absolutely anything those nasty recruiters might throw at you! You should also try to align your desire to get the job with the needs of the company. What does this mean? It means you should try and excite yourself about achieving success for the organisation, and working out how you will do that. Again, an interview coach can really help with this.
Remember that there are no ‘easy’ interview types. They’re all about eliminating people from the recruitment process, so you have to say the right thing to ensure that doesn’t happen to you. OK, with that out the way, let’s crack on with looking at the various interview types.
The Telephone Interview
The telephone interview is usually a screening call to determine if it’s worth inviting you to a proper interview. The person on the other end is usually from HR and is just ticking boxes and writing down simple facts. This means you should give nice, straightforward answers to each question. Don’t lie, but do give the positive version of any uncertainty. For example, if you have three and a half years’ experience in customer service, say you have four.
The difficulty with these interviews is that you never really know when they might happen. If you think you might get a phone interview, be ready for it even before you make your application; they may call you within minutes. You might even get one straight off the back of your LinkedIn profile, so always be prepared for this.
The Behavioural Interview
This is probably what most people think of as the ‘normal’ interview type. Here they will ask questions about things you’ve done in the past. Without going into too much detail here, a really good approach is to identify times in the past in which you’ve done impressive things, and then structure these stories according to ’S.T.A.R.’ This is where you describe the Situation, your Task, the Action you took and the Result.
When you’re thinking about particular accomplishments, you really do need to be referring to the job description, to make sure they’re relevant. If you’re going for a sales position and you once won Salesperson of the Month, that’s great; that time you managed to do a bar crawl covering every pub in your town is best shared with your friends.
The trick with behavioural interviews is to very clearly translate your past achievements into likely successes in your new role. How would you repeat these accomplishments? Could you even top them?
The Case Interview
This interview type is, on the face of it, the most challenging, because the questions appear to be more difficult. As I mentioned above, though, all interviews are hard; it’s not the questions you’re competing with, it’s the other candidates!
Case interviews tend to have a fairly limited range of questions so, while preparing for them is essential, is also not that difficult. You should also make sure your mental arithmetic is up-to-scratch; practise dealing with percentages and fractions, and run through your times tables at the very least! You’re normally going to be asked to solve a real-world business problem, such as considering the financial case for the acquisition of a competitor.
The Group Interview
These are just horrendous cringe-fests and whoever came up with them should be shot. Sorry about that; normal service will be resumed shortly.
Now I’ve got that off my chest, let’s look at how these interviews work. In group interviews, the interviewees are asked to answer questions in front of each other and participate in any number of humiliating exercises. Normally held in the name of efficiency, group interviews also show how well you work with others, so remember to bring your social skills with you. That means listening, letting others shine and co-operating.
There is always one guy at these things (and it is always a man) who takes it upon himself to be the ‘leader’. He tries to crack jokes and organise everyone in a really positive way. He makes everyone else die a little inside and doesn’t come out of this well. Do not be him.
The Date Interview
This is a weird type of interview that is also high in cringe. This is where you meet your interviewers for dinner or lunch. It is most likely to take the ‘unstructured’ form (see below). It is not impossible to plan for but it does take deeper thought. Order something easy to eat and don’t drink too much.
The Unstructured Interview
There is only so much planning you can do for this freeform type of interview, but plan you must. You don’t know what questions you’ll be asked and the format is more conversational than anything else. A lot of my clients are being interviewed in this way, so you need to know how to manage these.
The key to mastering this interview is to answer this question to yourself: ‘How am I going to add enormous value to this company? Think about how you have done it in your present and previous roles; research the organisation to familiarise yourself with their pain points. Look at their strategy. How are you going to further this company’s objectives in ways that nobody else can? If you can internalise great answers to these questions, you stand to do very well.
Why not connect with me on LinkedIn for more info and advice?
Also, be sure to check out my Top Ten Interview tips as well.
Don’t Approach Them until You’re Sure You’re Ready
The most important thing to understand about recruiters is that they are employers. Whether your recruiter is on your potential employer’s payroll or part of an agency, they have some influence over the decision to offer you the job. That means, like in all other aspects of life, first impressions count.
The better your CV and LinkedIn profile are, the better the recruiter can help you. If your CV and LI Profile are dull, uninformative or confusing, you’re not going to get very far. You’ll never be top of the pile and it will just take so much longer for them to find a role.
So make sure your CV and LInkedIn profile are spotless.
You also need to approach recruiters who will treat you well. I have a growing list of recruiters that I recommend, as they are known to be respectful and conscientious.