Dust Off Your Suit

Last year during interview season, I made a significant commitment, one that may or may not end up being one of the longest in my life. I bought a suit. Yep, a lady-suit, meaning I bought a suit jacket, pants and a skirt (to increase versatility). I remember walking into the store, muttering to myself, “This is ridiculous. Why buy an outfit that I’ll only wear a few times a year – at best?” You see, I’m much more of a corduroy/khaki person myself. This whole “business” attire seemed foreign to me. Remember, I was an elementary and middle school teacher, which is code for “I used to climb on/under/around desks to help students understand prepositions.”

A year ago, I was interviewing for graduate programs. I was pitching myself while simultaneously scrutinizing programs to see if they would be a good fit for me. It was an odd experience. What I learned from this experience, and what I continue to learn through interviewing for practicum sites, is the following:

  1. Preparation is key. Learn as much as you can, whether it’s from an inquiry to someone who may already be there (practicum, intern, or program student) or from other information sources. Always go into an interview with a few questions in mind. Sure, they may actually be answered during the course of the interview, but it’s a good idea to have them at the ready. For some people, it’s helpful to role-play interview questions in the mirror or with a friend.
  2. Interviewing is a conversation. I think my stronger interview experiences were when the interviewer and I seemed to sustain a good conversational flow.
  3. Interviewing is a little bit like a first date. It’s an exploratory introduction. I’m learning about them, and they’re learning about me. Hopefully, we identify some professional passions we share and there’s a spark. Also, see the point above.
  4. The most important (and sometimes most challenging) point: be yourself. Even in the fancy lady suit, I often take a minute to reflect on why I’m doing what I’m doing at that interview site, grounding myself in the purpose of being there.

Good luck!

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