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Panic Attack!
     …the terror of an interview

AND 4 Key Components of a Job That Fits

Jobseekers willingly submit themselves to what might feel like cross-examination and interrogation during an interview. I am certain that isn’t the intent of the interviewer, however, with so much at stake, managing fear and sometimes even panic, is critical.

Panic attack? Me? No way! …until…
The thought of me having a panic attack had never crossed my mind. People have told me about their panic attacks and they sounded awful. But I let the words pass by me without really thinking about it. I was sorry they were dealing with this challenge; but I didn’t relate.

Enter John:
John is my marketing guy. He’s really good and wants the best for me. He’s more than a marketer. He’s my business coach.

John understands people and he values trusting relationships. He doesn’t take customers for granted and he wants what I want: to clearly understand my customer and how to help them.

There wasn’t a problem …until…
I can speak in front of 80,000 people. That’s the largest group I’ve ever performed for. In the last several years I have presented 100’s of programs for jobseekers, all over Connecticut in libraries, community centers, churches, and town halls.

It’s not only something I’m compelled to do; I feel that if can bring credible hope to people, even for an hour or two; and if something I say “clicks” and helps them along the way, then I want to be there. It’s the least I can do to help us get through this economic disaster.

All that said to make the point that I don’t get stage fright. I’ve been a professional musician most of my life and being on stage in front of people just isn’t a problem.

StressMeter_StuartMiles So when John said,
“Make a short 2-minute video.”

Sure! No problem I thought. I’ll put together 10 or 12 PowerPoint slides and record over them and save them up to YouTube and we’ll have a video. I’m ready!

No, that wasn’t what John wanted. He wanted me to push all that stuff aside, and he wanted into my home, the place where I live, the place where I’m really me.

You see, I spent over 15 years in universities and my overall demeanor in front of people can come off a bit guarded. John wants to see the “real me” …not my academic or stage persona.

I panicked.
John continued,
TheScream_EdwardMunch
“I’d like to see you talking to jobseekers over coffee at your kitchen table.”

“WHAT!”
I couldn’t believe this. I’ve worked for six years to build a professional expectation with my audiences. Over coffee? Just chatting at the table? What about my PowerPoint? What about my long skirt and dressy blouse? What about my name tag with the Forward Motion globe on it?

My insides were shaking. I was gripping the arms of my chair and my knuckles were white. My entire body was rigid. My mind was blank and going in a thousand directions—all at the same time. It was hard to breathe and I was sweating. I tried to hang on and ended the call as quickly as I could.

As I put the phone down, I realized I was about to hyperventilate and I had had a panic attack. I owe an apology to everyone who has told me about their panic attacks when I just let their words pass me by and didn’t really listen. I’m so sorry.

Regrouping:
The next morning I was able to think more clearly. Helping jobseekers is an urgent matter with me. I desperately want to connect with them and help. Where could I talk to people from my heart, without the professional persona and where I was comfortable too?

I had an idea:
Here it is: my first attempt:


I felt so exposed.
So I put myself out there. I felt embarrassed to take off all my professional wrappings and stand there in my garden attire. The thing that kept me going is that I have a heart for jobseekers and I truly want to help them… and I trust John. I forced myself to swallow hard and make the video.

I cried.
Later that morning, I sent John a link to the video and waited for his response. It was hard to work on anything else. My thoughts were scattered and I checked email every 10 minutes. No response. By afternoon I couldn’t stand it any longer. I called him up and in the most casual tone I could muster, I mentioned that I had sent him my first efforts. He promised to get back to me. UGH!!!!!

Later that day he responded by email with “AWESOME”…I sat down and cried. I was exhausted.

Similitudes:
This whole ordeal struck me by how similar my experience is to jobseekers.
  • Entering an interview, even by phone, can be terrifying.
  • Interviewers have only a short period of time to get to the core of a jobseeker and try to assess the job fit. So questions can be abrupt and highly personal.
  • Interviews are places where people feel exposed. There is nowhere to hide, only one chance to make it, and with so much at stake, a panic attack is not an unreasonable response.
I’m not suggesting that my experience is the same. I could simply put the video in the trash. However, my business is very personal too, and it is my livelihood.

MarciasGardenHat Suggestions:
  1. Interviewing is a skill set that has to be developed. Preparation and practice are key.
  2. Hiring has been made into an industry in the U.S. Consider professional help to learn the ropes.
  3. When interviewers ask personal questions about your core being (such as, “What is your greatest weakness?”), they are doing their job. In that particular question, they want to know if you are self-aware.
  4. Bill Cosby said, “Decide that you want it more than you are afraid of it.” That comment has helped me through many challenges. It musters my determination. I hope it helps you too.
Oh yes, the four critical components of a job that fits:
From the video:
  1. Values: what we value determines whether the work will be meaningful. Our job should align with our values.
  2. Attributes: this is what we are no matter where we are. Examples include a sense of humor, positive personality, organized, thoughtful…
  3. Sets of Skills: we have sets of skills that are valuable. Most jobs won’t use all of them, however, they should center on those that are well developed and where we have experience.
  4. Optimal work environment: do you work best in a large company with a small team? Medium sized company working with many people? Or independently working from home? Where do you thrive and do your best work?
Request for feedback on the video.
If you have suggestions or feedback, please….let me know your thoughts.
So far:
  • Hold the camera sideways.
  • It’s hard to see my eyes because I’m squinting.
  • …your help and feedback goes here.


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2 Responses to Panic Attack!
     …the terror of an interview

  1. Gregg Gabinelle July 6, 2013 at 3:50 PM #

    Hi Marcia. I really enjoyed the video. You were very sincere and appear to have overcome all fear. Very nice garden too!

    Gregg Gabinelle

  2. John June 27, 2013 at 3:59 PM #

    Marcia- Just a wonderful job!

    John