Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Interviewing: Tell Me About Yourself

Most interviewers will start with a request to “Tell me about yourself.” Even though it is an easy request to anticipate, it often causes undue stress and anxiety, resulting in rambling responses that include complete life stories. With a little preparation, you can use this question to clearly articulate your strengths and accomplishments, setting a confident, positive tone for the rest of the interview.

To craft a strong response, start by carefully reviewing the job requisition, researching the employer, and asking these questions:
  1. What strengths do you have that are pertinent to the position? (3-5)
  2. What are key accomplishments that have benefited past employers and are relevant to this position? (1-2)
  3. What personal traits (or soft skills) do you have that complement your other skills?
  4. What educational credentials enhance your employment background? (diplomas, degrees, and professional certifications)
Create a script including information from your answers.  Keep your response relatively succinct. It is surprising what can be said in just 30 to 45 seconds.  For example:

My passion is numbers. With more than five years experience in accounting, I have been recognized for completing complex accounting projects under stringent time restraints. In my current role as a fund accountant, I generated over $230,000.00 in cost savings by identifying expense reduction opportunities. I enjoy collaborating with others to understand my employer’s pain points and addressing problems head-on.  My bachelor’s degree in accounting is a strong foundation for my accounting career and I am currently on track to obtain my CPA License by this October. 

In most instances, avoid sharing personal matters or ancient work history. Instead, focus on highlighting:
  • how you can do the job
  • what you have previously accomplished 
  • how you can help the organization
Practice with your script until you feel confident, but avoid memorization. Your response should sound natural and conversational. With a thoughtful, prepared response, you are bound to make a memorable and positive impression.

For additional interview preparation resources or to schedule a mock interview, please contact WGU Career & Professional Development. We are here to help.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Career Exploration: What is Your Future Telling You?

When deciding on a career, in addition to discovering your values, personality, interests, skills and talents, it can be helpful to identify an ideal future lifestyle that takes into consideration what you would like to accomplish in all areas of your life: personal, financial, social, physical, and spiritual. You are defined by more than your career and it is important that your career goals align with your lifestyle ambitions and vision of the future.

Composing a Letter from the Future is a powerful exercise to help you visualize your ideal future lifestyle and a great way to generate career goals that will support your vision.

Composing Your Letter from the Future:
  1. Identify to whom you would like to write your letter from the future. Decide on a special supportive person in your life (a relative, friend, mentor, etc.) to whom you feel comfortable writing. Or, you can write the letter to yourself.
  2. Write (or type) a letter from the future - one, three, or five years from now.  Try to write a minimum of one page.
  3. Describe your life at that time and your accomplishments over the intervening years.  Write about your accomplishments in the past tense, as if they have already occurred.  For example, “I moved to…, I earned that promotion…, I finished training in…”
  4. Be as specific, detailed, and concrete as possible.  For example, don’t simply write, “I earned a lot of money.”  Such statements are too vague.  What do you mean by “a lot of money”? $54,000? $110,000?
  5.  Be imaginative, optimistic, and realistic.  Your accomplishments should be consistent with the skills, interests, and values that you have already identified for yourself.
  6.  Explain the ways in which you believe your life was successful.  Consider writing about accomplishments in each of the following categories:
    • Job or Career
    • Finances
    • Family/Personal Relationships
    • Education/Training/Certifications
    • Health/Fitness
    • Use of Free Time
    • Volunteer Activities
    • Travel
    • Home/Meaningful Possessions/Transportation
    • Spiritual/Religious Growth & Pursuits
When you are finished writing your letter, take time to reflect and answer the following questions:
    • What does this lifestyle suggest for my current work/career decisions?
    • What interests did I describe in my letter?  
    • Am I pursuing any of these interests now?  How might I incorporate them into my personal or professional life?
    • What skills do I use in my future life?
    • Is my future life style similar or different from my lifestyle today?
Find a way to use the letter as a source of inspiration and power. Some ideas include sending it to the recipient for safe keeping (when was the last time you mailed an actual letter!?), posting it on your blog, printing it and keeping it with you, posting it in a visible location to serve as a daily reminder, or utilizing the information to create both personal and professional goals, just to name a few.

Share with us in the comments below your thoughts on this exercise and any insights you may have gained. In addition, if you are a WGU student or alum, do not hesitate to request an appointment with a WGU Career & Professional Development Specialist for strategic guidance in bringing your vision to life.