A winning mindset

Breaking out of the Comfort Zone

Many years ago, I used to treat the job search as a painful process. In my current job, I knew the work well and knew the values I bring to the company. I was very comfortable in my own comfort zone. Applying to a new job requires venturing into the “unknown” where it brings up many uncomfortable questions like: Am I good enough for the new jobs? Do I have the right skills? Can I compete against so many talented people out there? Especially when I was under financial worries, there were extra pressure to find a job as soon a possible to take care of my family.

It does not help that when I turned in my resumes, it seemed to have gone into a black hole with no response. I also went to screening interviews where I did not know how to stand out. And I often walked out of interviews felt like the interview was like a painful visit to the dentist to pull wisdom teeth.

The interviews were painful encounters because I went in with a reactive mindset thinking “I will just wait for the interviewers to ask me questions and hope that I will answer them clearly.”  This approach is reactive because I was waiting for what the interviewers would ask and then scramble to string together barely coherent replies.

Knowing your story

These days, I take the completely different approach. I come in with a clear understanding of :

  • Who I am
  • Why I am applying for this job
  • What this job requires
  • How I can exceed these requirements

With these understanding, I turn the interview into a meaningful engaging discussion with the interviewer. It is no longer a lopsided interaction where the interviewer holds all the power, knowledge, and ask all the questions.

With a clear understanding of who I am, what I want, and what values I bring to the table, I come into the interview with the mindset that this discussion is a two-way assessment. We are both establishing fit. If you know what values you bring to the table, don’t sell yourself short. Don’t settle for jobs where you don’t respect the company, products, or management team. Having a mindset where you are willing to walk away from a job offer help you to be more relax, confident, and desirable throughout the job interview process.

Embarking on a self-discovery adventure 

I go into job interview as if I am embarking on a new adventure.  I get to discover my preferences: what kind of jobs I like and what I don’t like.

I treat failures and successes as experiments that ultimately make me a stronger person. So in this sense, the interviews are battlegrounds where I get to test my strengths and improve my weaknesses. Whatever happens, I am stronger for the next round.

Learning new knowledge

Throughout the job interviews,  I get to learn things about new companies, products, and industries. For example, in an interview with Khan Academy, I learnt about how Salman Khan structures his lessons to be most effective. I am using some of that lessons in these career development classes.

To really impress the interviewers, I normally take 7-10 days researching about the company, product, and industry. Some other candidates are not willing to invest this amount of work because they are thinking “what if I don’t get the job, then I just wasted 10 days of my life.” I believe that knowledge is transferrable, the more you learn more you see how things are interconnected. So if I don’t get a job offer, I will be able to used what I learn in the next interview and save more time on the preparation. Plus, I always going into interviews with the mindset that I am going to do everything that I can to crust the interviews. I don’t waste time and energy thinking about the “what-ifs” failures.

Meeting new people

My mindset going into the interviews is that I am here to meet cool and amazing people. After all, that is a key reason why I am applying for this company! With this mindset, I have reached out to interviewers who have rejected me. We ended up having coffee and turn into friends. Some of them even refer me to new jobs. 

Please make an effort to really get to know your interviewers. They are great people who are just doing their job. Do not view them as the enemy if they don’t hire you. There are many reasons why a company does not hire you: not the right skill fit, not the right cultural fit, prefer to hire internally, headcount was not approved, or financial problems. Remember to treat everyone with gratitude. Be grateful that they have given you their valuable. When you are truly grateful, you will act with kindness and friendliness toward the interviewers and you will have a lot more fun.

Enjoy the adventures.