I may be an anomaly, but I will literally find myself in the middle of an experience, particularly difficult situations as work, when I think ‘this would be a great story to tell in my next job interview.’ Have I applied for a new job? No. Am I looking for a new job? No. Am I preparing for my next job interview? Abso-freaking-lutely! I prepare for my next job interview every single day, even if I have no idea when or where or for what that interview will be. Part of this is probably driven by the shift in interviewing questions (at least in my world) toward a more behavior-based mindset—“tell me about a time when…”. Interviewers are looking for examples of how the candidate has historically exhibited certain behaviors that predict success in a particular or universal situation. If you can be self-reflective enough to recognize why you succeeded or failed in a particular circumstance, and speak intelligently to how that has driven adjustments to your behavior or skill sets to increase the likelihood of your future success, that tells me far more about you than your resume.
The challenge is, you never know in the moment when an event or experience will turn into something relevant for teaching you how to learn, grow, or improve. Therefore, every day could be the story you tell in your next job interview. It could be how you gracefully handled the unsolicited feedback you received from a coworker. It could be how you navigated the hurdle of a catastrophic IT downtime. It could be how you put forth a little extra time and energy into developing a relationship with a peer who seemed to be struggling that ultimately led to effective collaboration. And when you are living it, it may just be one more good or bad day. But if you take advantage of the opportunity to reflect and process, it may become the characteristic example of one of your strengths in your next interview.
One of my former roommates was a medical resident navigating the transition from her first year as intern to her second year as resident having to supervise those darn first year interns. She came home one day complaining about a difficult conversation with one of her interns who had shown repeated unprofessional behavior. She was frustrated by his actions, more frustrated that she was expected to be the one to correct him, but mostly exhausted because the crucial conversation had drained her physical, emotional and mental energy. This is where I think I’m an anomaly because my first words to her were, “Yeah, but what a great example you can use of effective communication, constructive feedback, and courage when you are interviewing for jobs in another year!” It was true though. Those moments that feel so challenging and hard to navigate often teach us the most- about ourselves, about how to be better, about skills that may be worth investing in.
Granted, viewing every day as preparation for my next job interview is really just a surrogate for viewing every day as a chance to improve myself, but that doesn’t mean I can’t write down these experiences for future reference. If you are not actively looking for a new job, spend a week pretending you are and ask yourself how your behavior in each situation would have made you a better or worse candidate if you were to share the story in your next job interview. And then tomorrow, be the better candidate.