COLUMN: Being successful isn't as hard as you think

The first question was an icebreaker asked to help cut the tension in the air.

I pulled a card from a fanned-out stack and read the question aloud: “What is one thing you want more of?”

What? What do I want more of? Do I go with the political answer or the honest truth? Because I could really use a beer right now.

This is a job interview; of course the nervous me went political.

While twisting and turning my way through why I want more honesty from people, I found myself talking about how I’m in college right now and how I think a lot of people lie. A lot of people should just say what they really mean even if it hurts, and you meet a lot of your lifelong friends in college, and we need to make sure those are truthful people, and I’m sorry, does that all sound silly?

This was my icebreaker, and I felt like I created an iceberg.

The interview eventually got better when they got to the answers I rehearsed the night before in my hotel room. I was moving through conversation, using my hands way more than any Italian guy at the dinner table.

My words were flooding out of me like vomit, but it tasted good. It was going OK now.

Then it got to another question that could have jeopardized my internship potential: “What makes an event successful?”

I paused, gathered my thoughts, and said “I know an event is sucsexful when…” and then myself, and the two interviewers across the table, all kind of stared at each other for a couple seconds.

Naturally, I laughed to break the awkward silence. I began again. “I know an event is sucsexful when…”

I went on to say “sucsexful” two more times before laughing, giving up and saying, “you know what I mean.”

They stared at me like I was losing it–as if they could see the sweat dripping down my spine.

I finished my interview, shook their hands and took one last look at the distracting Chicago skyline behind them, thinking it was my last chance to drool over it.

Two nights later I sat on the couch in my living room in a pair of my brother’s XL Adidas sweatpants, leaving just enough pauses to breathe as I shoveled my face with popcorn.  I opened my e-mail, and there it was: a job offer.

Just when I thought I blew it by talking in circles, making a word raunchy, and just being nervous overall–I got the job offer.

That’s when I realized what they’re looking for.

People are looking to hire people, not some robot that memorized every detail about the company or knows the perfectly rehearsed answer to every question they Googled.

I may have given a few off-the-wall answers and went in some unnecessary circles to get where I needed in conversation, but I was me.

While a lot of people are going on summer internships or job interviews, just remember this: be yourself and you won’t blow it.  If they don’t like you when you’re being yourself, then you won’t like the job either.

And practice saying “successful” in the mirror if that’s a problem for you, too.


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