Monday, April 22, 2013

Practicality: Job Interview Skills and an Unexpected Epiphany

Well I blew it big time. Apparently I am unable to read job requirements. I had CM1 apply for some on campus jobs that asked that people be undergraduates. Now of course, he is still technically an undergraduate, but (hopefully, if all goes according to plan) in two weeks that will no longer be the case. I actually had not thought anything of the discrepancy. Honestly I suppose I should have been more astute. In truth, I was really excited when he got an email asking him to come in for a job interview. It never dawned on me that "summer" non-undergraduate would have even been an issue. Of course his expected graduation date is right at the top of his resume. Apparently the interviewer didn't read his resume any better than I read the job requirements.

Needlesstosay we did spend some significant amount of time practicing interview skills. I can say that by the time we were done, CM1 started yelling at me. I definitely got on his last nerve. But whether he liked it or not these are skills that everyone needs to practice. This is what I taught him:

1. Stand up straight.
2. Walk in with you head held high. Do not look down at your feet.
3. Hold out your hand and shake nicely. (I modeled how strongly and how long to hold a hand shake.)
4. I taught him how to sit in a suit. (CM1 just inherited several suits from his grandfather and I had him wear one to the interview.) Sitting in suit pants is not the same as jeans or khakis. Most men I see hike the thighs of their pants up just so slightly so it is more comfortable to sit own.
5. Sit with his legs together and hands in his lap. CM1 is not one to cross his legs, so the leg-together-posture is much better than sitting with your legs spread apart leaning forward over your lap.

We then practiced what kind of questions the interviewer would ask:

1. Why did you study your major? Your minor?
2. What do you hope to do with your life and why?
3. After graduation what are your plans?
4. Why that particular graduate field of study?
5. What was your favorite job on your resume and why?
6. What do you hope to learn from this job?
7. How do you feel about doing XYZ job requirement?
8. If the job is part-time, make sure your child has an idea when he is available to work. We told CM1 that he is available any time right now.

I also had him think about what his answers to these questions would be. I helped him think them through and even fixed how he relayed the information. Here are a few extra tips:

1. It is important that in the ensuing discussion and practice sessions you remain positive.
2. The answers to the questions should be upbeat.
3. No complaining allowed. (Let your child know that to a potential employer if they complain about a former employer or job, the potential employer will think that they will be complained about in public as well.)
4. You need to project an air of confidence and selfassuredness.
5. Be proud of your accomplishments.
6. Be direct and sisynced in your answers. Don't hem and haw.

And yes, even in the car as I drove him over to the interview we practiced and practiced how he answered these questions. Sometimes he forgot and became a little confused with his answers. I am certain it was nerves. He is fine when he talks about facts and figures, but when he talks about himself he always gets stymied. That is why he cannot go into any interview cold. (Actually he did that several weeks ago when we were trying to get him an internship with a non-profit and it did not go well. At least I learned from that fiasco.)

I have to say that CM1 looked very handsome in his suit. All dressed up he looked full grown, which I know that he is. No more my little boy, but a youngman about ready to enter the workforce and begin his journey into independent adulthood (well eventually).

In the end I think CM1 did pretty good. He did not get upset in public when he found out he was not eligible for the job. He came out and had me talk to the interviewer. I am certain that most 22 year-olds don't have someone talk to their mommy, so its one more item to think about next time. There were also a few other little quirks that we will fix for next time as well. But nothing drastic and nothing that would have kept him from getting the job if he had been eligible.

On the way home, CM1 was upset for the waste of time. But I tried to explain to him, and the behavioralist tried to explain to him later that day, that the practice was good for him. The only way to get better at job interviews is to go on job interviews. You don't have to have aspergers or autism to not be good at interviewing. Like so much in this world, interviewing is an acquired skill. There are very few of us to whom this comes naturally. So practice does make perfect. That is something he did come to understand.....eventually.


On another, even more personal note, I have to tell everyone there were some very telling answers to some of the questions I asked my son. In fact answers I didn't even expect...took me quite by surprise.

When asked why he wanted to study computer science. He said it was his calling. He told me that when he codes and creates on the computer he feels like a wizard. Now you can't get better than that. I was afraid he would say because he has no idea what he wanted to do and he needed to study something practical. I was so overjoyed to know that this choice was made for the right reasons. That he is not only motivated and happy with his prospects for the future but that he is excited by what is to come.

The next answer I didn't totally expect came when we were discussing what he would say when asked why he studied history and the holocaust. He said, as I did expect, that history is important because its the only way to know where the mistakes were made so that the world doesn't make them again. (Not that the world ever does seem to learn from its mistakes, which CM1 pointed out in our discussion) But when he told me why he studied about the holocaust you could have knocked me over with a feather....

"On my skin I am an atheist, but deep down inside, at my very core I am and will always be a Jew."

You have to understand that everytime we plan to celebrate a religious holiday or we discuss something of a Jewish religious nature CM1 almost has a stroke. Religion really annoys him. He feels adherence to a religion is beyond superstitious and foolish. It's why to this very day he refuses to wear the Star of David I bought him for around his neck. I have tried to teach him that it is the history of the Jewish people that makes him who he is even more so than religion. That he should look at the Torah as the early history of the Jewish people and not simply a string of miracles. I have tried to get him to think about humanistic Judaism as the way to go.

That he is able to separate out the history of the Jewish people from the practice of Judaism while understanding who he is and where he comes from is something I didn't really expect. Perhaps that is the ultimate lesson he learned from his study of the Holocaust. That antisemitism, or any kind of hatred, has nothing really to do with religion, how you pray to God, your level of charity or kindness given to the world, but is based solely upon the irrational absence of humanity. An absence that sadly exists in ever growing proportions worldwide to this very day.

I try to teach my sons that they do not have to practice Judaism but that they should always be proud of their heritages, both as Jews and as Americans. Who knew that CM1 actually was listening when I was talking....I guess miracles really do happen.