Key to interviews: don't look back

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Herald Jobs' monthly career advice column is your opportunity to ask the experts.

Students struggling to identify study preferences need a parent with a cool head to help them make decisions.
Students struggling to identify study preferences need a parent with a cool head to help them make decisions.

Q: Recently I was shortlisted for a management role I really wanted but was unsuccessful. The feedback from my final interview was that I didn't demonstrate sufficient confidence to manage an existing team of experienced managers. Knowing this role was a big step for me, I prepared well with plenty of examples. The interview went very well until I lost my focus when I had to refer to my own questions for the panel and I then lost my edge. What tools and techniques would you advise to help me to prove my capability at interview for bigger roles? JM

A: Firstly, good on you for going for a role that was a stretch for you - and putting time into the preparation. The key thing I tell people is to over prepare and then throw away your notes - even the questions you want to ask.

When in the interview:

Pay full attention to those interviewing you and the process they will put you through.

It's like surfing or climbing - you must be fit AND fully present. Having notes takes your focus away and may cause you to flounder. If you do make a mistake don't dwell on it, regain your focus and don't look back.

Be very clear about your strengths and have actual and credible examples of how you have added value to your employers.

Finally it is important to go into an interview being open to any outcome. When we are attached or emotionally invested in an outcome, we are bound to be overcharged and therefore vulnerable to disappointment. It's about having a healthy combination of confidence and detachment - and trusting the process.

Kaye Avery

Q: I teach a Diploma of Architectural Technology and find that my students, both young and mature age, often have little confidence in obtaining employment after their training. I try to instil the importance of networking by attending industry meetings and in obtaining work experience in the industry. However, work experience is quite hard to get as many organisations are wanting degree students instead of diploma students. What advice would you give to a student currently studying, to improve their chances of obtaining a position within their area of study, and how long before they finish their qualification would you suggest that they start job searching activities? Tony

A: Although gaining the qualification in the field that you want is the first step, to be successful also requires building your reputation through networking, attending industry events, and gaining work experience as you quite rightly instil in your students. The New Zealand Institute of Architects (www.nzic.co.nz) allows students to join as "Architecture Student Members". This will give access to events and members. While attending events, your students should make themselves known to members, volunteer to work or complete a project for them as well as ask advice on how to secure work. I would recommend this early in their study to give them an opportunity to become known, gain opportunities over time, build their reputation, their knowledge and their real world experience and therefore become the applicant of choice in securing a job.

Caroline Sandford

Q: After working in the same company for 15 years (IT) I have been made redundant. I have applied for a number of jobs but have rarely received feedback about why my applications were unsuccessful. LR

A: Nothing is more frustrating than not receiving feedback on your job application. What can be done about this? Actually, a lot. You have 15 years of solid experience in your field and recruitment consultants make their living matching great people to great roles.

Recruitment people may be making some assumptions about your ability to change and adapt in new IT/IS environments if you have been in the same role/company for 15 years so make sure your CV outlines all the systems change projects you have worked on and how you have taken on new and different responsibilities. A great CV is essential to get you the interview.

The key to receiving feedback on your job applications is to build good relationships with several recruiters and get their advice. They will be an excellent resource about what is happening in your industry, provide an opportunity to clarify preferred roles and companies and give advice on your CV.

With your significant experience you might be better to maximise your networks than rely on applying for advertised vacancies. People whom you have worked with over the years will have moved on to other companies and might know of opportunities not advertised.

Broaden your experience by taking on contracts if permanent roles are not coming your way.

Judi Lubetzky

Q: My son is in his last year of school and is struggling to know what to do next. Nothing is standing out. He has passed NCEA Level 2 with merit, and is currently studying Statistics, History, Economics, PE, and English. He loves sport but doesn't want to work in sport. I am tearing my hair out about how to help him. Can you help please? Linda

A: Your role is to support your son, not provide all the answers or tell him what to do. Things you can do:

* Help him own the process.

* Encourage his exploration and research into ideas and study courses.

* Help him find people to talk to about areas he is interested in.

* Help him identify his strengths and things he is good at.

* Don't criticise his ideas and aspirations, rather ask open-ended questions to help him think these through.

* Go with him to open days at tertiary institutions.

* Talk with him about subjects he likes and could possibly study.

* Talk about how you made your own career decisions, and what you do at work.

* Be prepared to discuss a gap year and work options.

New Zealand has a high dropout rate among young people from tertiary study courses. One common reason seems to be because children are in courses that parents told them to do, rather than ones they chose for themselves. As a parent, step back a bit from the process, chill out a bit, and allow your son to figure it out for himself. The first career decision your son makes will not be his last. Learn to be his support, not his boss.

Janet Tuck

* The Career Specialists (www.careerspecialists.org.nz) are a network of independent career development specialists in their own practices, who provide career services to both organisations and the general public in New Zealand.

Each member of the Career Specialists is qualified in the field of career development, and has membership with the Career Development Association of New Zealand.

Need advice?

If you have a career-related question we have a new advice column. Simply send your question to careers@nzherald.co.nz, please put Career Specialist question in the subject line.

- NZ Herald

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