Does this Shirt go with these Jeans?

In many ways a first interview and a first date are very similar. A first date is an opportunity to present the best version of yourself to an individual who has no prior knowledge of you who are.  Essentially, the goal of a first date is to convince your date to consider you attractive or appealing in order to influence their decision to continue seeing you. Or it’s the opposite and you worry the whole time what embarrassing thing they’re going to do next and how you can possibly leave sooner.

My first date was not like your typical first date. The whole time I was looking for a way to somehow get out of there. We went to a very nice restaurant and he acted like a child. He showed up dressed very causally, was mean to the waitress, and he kept eating food off my plate when he was finished with his. So needless to say this date was clearly not a cultural fit for me.

On the other side of the coin, the goal of your first interview is to convince the company to hire you. Candidates for a job are selling themselves to their potential employers in order to distinguish themselves from other applicants, but also to prove that they are the best fit for the company. The purpose of interviewing is to determine if a candidate is a good match for a company, in terms of culture and experience.

A few weeks after my first date I was asked to be interviewed for the first time. When I was asked I got very nervous and my mom told me.

“Don’t be nervous, an interview is just like a date.”

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Oh great! Just what I wanted to hear after my horrible first date experience. But, I didn’t let this stop me and I went on my first interview. It ended up going much better than I thought and it’s because I was able to successfully influence the hiring manager by letting them see who I was.

Prior to the first interview, I questioned myself; How should I act? Am I what they are looking for? Why do they want to see me? What should I wear? Are we going to have common interests?

All these questions made me nervous and made me second guess myself. But, I didn’t let them, I answered right back with my greatest strength keeping in mind these four tips:

BE WHO YOU ARE. You will be far more comfortable and confident being no one other than yourself. Do not deviate from doing or saying anything that you normally wouldn’t. Potential employers can detect candidates who are simply saying things that the employer wants to hear. Employers are interviewing you because the want to know more about who YOU are. They don’t want to hear the textbook answers to interview questions, so give them what they want! In order to do well, you must be the best version of yourself.

CONFIDENCE IS KEY. They want you because you are smart, organized, honest, and have a personality that fits in their culture and mission. Focus on conveying the traits you have that you think makes you distinguishable from other applicants, but also makes you a seamless addition to the company.

DRESS TO IMPRESS. Try on the outfit the night before. Be careful of rainbow hair and florescent nails. Look sharp, clean, appropriate, and professional enough to catch peoples eye.  Look the part! Wear something that makes you feel good that is suitable for the company, and if you have questions, ask! Look good, feel good, work great!

BE SPONTANEOUS. Don’t plan for things to happen a certain way or have any prior expectations.  Let the conversation flow naturally. Don’t be scared to deviate from your original talking points if the conversation goes in a different direction than you anticipated. Be open to different possibilities because a new opportunity may surprise you.

Tips are great to help you prep beforehand, but what happens when you are a minute away and it hits you that this is actually happening? Don’t panic and remember these four things in the moment:

First impressions matter.

Both your interview and date start the second you walk through the door. People never forget what they thought and felt the first time they met you. There’s no re-do or rewind for first impressions, so take yours seriously!

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Come with a checklist.

It is a two- way street. You want to make sure you love the company or the guy as much as they love you. You want to establish what key core values are going to be critical that the company or your date has that matches your values.

 

Don’t complain about your past.

Avoid complaining about a previous employer that you hate or an ex you could do without. Instead, discuss what these challenging or negative experiences taught you and how they have influenced your actions moving forward. This will demonstrate your ability to think critically and consciously about how you act, which is attractive to future employers and dates.

Send a note.

A little note of appreciation goes a long way. Thanking an employer for the opportunity of having an interview or telling a date that you enjoyed the time both show that you took the time seriously. Don’t wait for them to send you something first. Acknowledging the time spent by showing respect reflects your interest and commitment to taking further steps.

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After all, both interactions come down to similar questions, such as whether you can picture yourself being with the other person or potential employer. It is important to be adaptable to different personalities you encounter on future interviews and dates. There will always be crazy, unique, awkward and seemingly unexplainable personalities of people you encounter; however, being able to handle yourself in any situation, with anyone, whether the experience is going good or bad, is something that I learned made me most successful in both an interview and a first date.

 

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From Classroom to Cube – Navigating Corporate Culture Shock

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Prior to my internship experiences, I had no idea what to expect about corporate America. Of course, my schooling at Bryant University had attempted to prepare me with lists of dos and don’ts and PowerPoints on what not to wear, but I was never quite sure what was expected of me day to day. When I began my first internship the summer after my junior year, I was extremely nervous. Walking from the subway to my office building, my stomach was in my throat. I was anxious that I would be too casual or even too formal. As I exited the elevator and opened the doors to the front desk, the receptionist welcomed me with a smile. The women asked how I was doing and told me she was excited for the summer interns to begin. Immediately, I felt more comfortable. My first impression of corporate America was the smiling receptionist who made me feel welcomed and at ease. My day continued with enthusiastic employees and an incredibly friendly Human Resources Department. Throughout the rest of my internship, I realized nonexempt employees and executives alike were excited to hear about me and my experiences. I understand that my office was very welcoming compared to others, but I have found other business people generally behave the same way. Before I began my internship, I wish someone had been more candid with me about what I would experience in a corporate environment. Below are pieces of advice that helped me a lot when beginning my first corporate experience.

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  1. Be nice to the office administrator. Not only are they people too, but office administrators can have a lot of influence on your reputation in the office. Ask them how they are doing or make small talk – it is the easiest 30 seconds of your day.
  2. Physically stand up when you are meeting new people. When being introduced to other coworkers, managers or executives, standing and shaking hands is essential. Eye contact and a smile should follow. This shows professionalism and gives you a presence in the room.
  3. The company hired you for a reason, be confident. There is a reason your company hired you. Not only are they confident in your ability, but they believe you will fit into their culture. Be yourself and use your experiences to shine in your new setting.
  4. Schedule meetings with people on your team and other departments you may be interested in. Schedule meetings with people around you to learn about their career path and experiences. Prepare thought provoking questions to ask and show interest in their answers. By reaching out to other departments, you expand your network and show initiative in the company.
  5. Eat lunch with your team. Spending time with coworkers in a more casual setting is a great way to get to know them and the happenings of the company. Sharing your own personal experience gives you an opportunity to connect with the team and show them who you are.
  6. Be cautious of what opinions you share. As we know, not all subjects are appropriate for the office. Besides the obvious topics to avoid, I would suggest also dodging gender issues, religion, etc. If a coworker brings up these topics, tread lightly and be respectful of all views.
  7. Ask questions after trying to figure it out on your own, and only ask once or twice. Before asking your manager for help, research. Research. Research. Make sure you can say you tried XYZ and still could not figure out a solution. This shows your manager you explored all avenues, and can work independently. Pay attention to the answer and try to only ask once or twice, saving the time and patience of your manager.
  8. Write everything down. Bring a notebook with you wherever you go. You never know when you will learn a new piece of information, or be given a time and place for a meeting.
  9. Keep a journal of your day to day activities, complete with how you felt at the time. It sounds silly, but keeping a bulleted list of tasks you completed can be very helpful for your future. Keep track of specific data points or systems you used. You can use these specific situations as great talking points during future interviews, or performance meetings. Also, writing down your emotions towards your experiences can be a healthy venting tool, or steer you in a direction of what you like and dislike about your position.

With all of this in mind, remember that the corporate world is what you make of it. Balancing professionalism, while still showing your personality takes time and effort. With these tips in mind, I was able to successfully build relationships and integrate myself into my company’s culture. Preventing corporate culture shock can be tricky, but experimentation and patience can lead to a more seamless transition from classroom to cube. Everyone’s experience is different, so remember to adjust your strategy based on the relationships you build and company environment!

Split, Aim, and Shoot to Score a Goal in Life

See, catch, cradle, run, dodge, split, roll, aim, shoot, score. The sport of women’s lacrosse. A game in which is described to be played in a process or, better yet, steps. Steps in which you as the player, along with your teammates and coaches, create this game plan in order to succeed to your greatest ability. However, there are two sides to lacrosse in my eyes that make it a true art to succeed: practice and game time. An interesting question arises in my head, “How do I differentiate these two from one another?”

Define Practice: A time when the steps can be followed. A coach tells you what to do, and you do it. There are no outside factors targeted against you. A captain tells you to run a play, you run the play, exactly how it supposed to go. Memorize the plays, go over them in your head and never forget them. Go to morning workouts to get stronger, go to the trainer to get iced, do this, do that… done.

Define Game Time: A time where the comfortability of following steps or the game plan gets questioned. You now have this outside force, (the other team), fighting against you. You always need to expect the unexpected. What if I’m face guarded? What if I’m double teamed? How does one become adjusted to stepping out of the game plan that was taught to us? Will I get a free position? Will I get benched because I messed up a play?

Look at the difference in these two definitions. In the practice definition, there are no question marks as compared to the game time definition.

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My steps from start to finish:

See: 

Lacrosse: I walk onto the field to see how the competition looks. I take it in. I see how my teammates are adapting, how the coaches are acting.

Life: I see the opportunities I have for that day. I see how people in my environment are acting that day. I see what I am in store for.

 Catch:

Lacrosse: I see the ball coming for my stick and I catch it. I take control at the exact moment and the ball is in my stick.

Life: I catch the opportunity that is given to me and the process of executing that opportunity has now begun.

Cradle: 

Lacrosse: I swing my stick back and forth while juggling the ball to get away from the defensive players on the other team. I cradle until I have a chance to make a move.

Life: I relate cradling to multi-tasking. I’m able to juggle a few tasks, with outside forces, while keeping the path to the end goal completely clear.

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Run:

Lacrosse: Clear the ball, get the ball on your side of the field.

Life: Take that task and go with it. Keep chugging along.

Dodge: 

Lacrosse: fake the other player out, spin around them to get yourself closer to scoring that goal.

Life: learn how to fix a problem that comes at you head on. How are you going to stop this current obstacle? What are possible solutions?

Roll:

HALT- all of a sudden when going through these steps in my head an outside force comes, and I am now double teamed. All players are on me. This isn’t what we practiced. How am I going to adapt to this situation in seconds? Will I do the right or wrong thing?

I like to compare this game to my life. How you can be completely ready for a situation? You practice, study, prepare, etc. for a certain event. But do you really know how that event is going to go when the time comes? The ability to be adaptable is one of the best lessons lacrosse has taught me to use in my everyday life.

Don’t be afraid to deviate from your original game plan. Being too scared of failure is not going to better yourself in any situation. If something isn’t going exactly as planned, pause, think and come up with the next step. Be adaptable to the situation. This way you can finish with that perfect shot to score the winning goal in life’s game plan.

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