I don't perform well in interviews, I get really nervous and then I am lost for words, especially when I interview in German. With English being my native language, applying to German companies is always a challenge.
After getting yet another rejection by a German company, I thought I needed to get help. Most women only go to coaches once they are already in a high position, whereas men tend to be in middle management and they proceed in getting a coach.
I went to get help from Heidi Stopper, who was a former Chief of HR for a fortune 500 company. I had met her once before, I won a group coaching via the German Women's Network Panda. Back in the day, our first assignment was to write down adjectives to describe the first impression we had of each other. I had written them down in my notebook which I took to the session. It was something like: energetic, hectic (I remember coming in late as usual, totally out of breath), smart (I was wearing a suit that day), intelligent, unapproachable. I tried working on the last one, because up to that point, I thought I had to be tough at work, which I interpreted as not to smile and to be super serious. That is of course bollocks.
Since that last coaching session, I went through a phase of just trying to be myself, but I think my sarcastic humour, sometimes gets the best of people. I think now, my challenge is on how to become more senior, when we move into leadership roles, suddenly listening becomes so very important.
On the day of my coaching, I left the house early, but I was so nervous I missed a stop and went too far with the tram. Obviously, I came late again. I apologised as we walked in, and we started the session right away.
My takeaways from the session were:
- I have a nervous laugh, which I do when a situation is uncomfortable for me. She gave me a compliment and I said: 'Thank you' and then I laughed awkwardly. When she pointed it out, I noticed that I felt slightly uncomfortable in that split second. Instead of laughing, I should just say: 'Thank you, I am glad you feel that way!'. Apparently a lot of women have these weird ticks. It's these small things they have learned throughout their life, to make themselves 'small".
- She told me to listen more. This is what The Trust Equation says; in order to build trust, we need to listen and be interested in other people. My way of communicating is somewhat storytelling based: If you are telling a story and I also have a similar story, I will listen to your story, and then I will probably tell you about my story. Instead, sometimes I should just ask a couple of follow up questions.
- Body language. She said I should just sit back, put my hands in my lap, and give the other person some room. Body language is so important, but I think we often forget just how important it is.
- Most importantly of all, she gave me breathing technique to calm my nerves and to stop me from being so nervous before an interview. I am not going to lie, it really helped with my last interview. It is a breathing technique from Yoga, where you breathe in and out through one nostril (closing the other one with a finger) and then doing the same on the other side. Do this for a minute and anxiety really decreases.
These things are not really that new, but I think I really needed to hear them from a professional, so that I actually change the my way of approaching things.