#CareerConvos: Unlock Your Dream Job with These 3 Important Questions
Updated: Jan 1, 2021
Hey y’all, welcome, what’s going on? How are y’all doing on this beautiful fall day? We literally went from 98 degrees to 40 degrees overnight here in the A so it’s been a lot of leggings and sweaters and fireplace days over here. I got my water today - watermelon and parsley - an unexpected, crisp, and sweet combination.
I had the pleasure of once again having my career advice featured in Forbes a few weeks ago. I shared 3 interview questions you must ask to unlock your dream job but we need to unpack this discussion and talk more about how to find your dream job. Many people find themselves in unsatisfying jobs simply because they didn’t ask the right questions. Too many of you are in jobs that just pay the bills, or jobs that are easy or jobs that you’re hanging on to until your dream job comes along. Sometimes your dream job will find you but most times you have to find it. It’s out there, you just have to quit taking detours and settling. Let’s talk about how you get there.
The days of asking “typical day” questions in a job interview are over. Regardless of your industry or pay grade, it’s important to pursue the job opportunities that you enjoy and align with your career aspirations. Most have yet to find that perfect dream job, but you can get close by asking the right questions. These 3 questions will provide the clarity you need to make informed career decisions. Starting with. . .
WHAT'S IT'S LIKE WORKING HERE?
Ask this question to understand what you’re really getting into. The interview is not just for putting your skills on display - you obviously have an appealing background if you’re at the interview stage for the role. The interview stage is more about FIT. What if you go into this role as a person who works well independently only to take the job and learn that your boss is a micromanager and 3 weeks into the job, you’re ready to quit? Back on the market, realizing too late that you don’t thrive in this environment and considering all the “TEE” - time, energy, and effort you’ve put into a job that doesn’t suit you. The point is know when it’s time for you to move on - and MOVE ON. Know that as you search for your next job you need to ask those pointed questions. Candidates feel awkward asking these questions for fear of being too assertive thinking it will ruin their chances of getting the job. If you don’t feel comfortable asking pointed questions, practice in the mirror or do mock interviews, but find a way to get comfortable. While preparing for the interview, check out the interviewer’s background to find shared interests: maybe you attended the same universities or have mutual connections - find something to “break the ice” and ease your way into the questions. It may be uncomfortable at first, but you’d be surprised how transparent some hiring managers are willing to be (myself included).
Let’s talk about shared connections too. If you look at the interviewer’s LinkedIn profile and see that you have mutual connections, reach out to those people and see if they can give you suggestions on how to approach the interview - they might know the interviewers personality or have other tips to help you here. Also, make sure that you’re reaching out to someone that you have a rapport with, not just somebody who you sent a request to and you’ve never talked to. When I accept an invite I send a note and say “Hey [person’s name], thanks for the invitation, glad to connect + something else like love the blazer or great article.” Your network is nothing if it’s full of people you don’t know. Next time you accept an invite, consider sending a quick note. Don’t wait until you need something to break the ice - build rapport now to create mutually beneficial relationships.
Listen to this podcast episode below:
WHAT'S YOUR APPROACH TO LEADERSHIP?
Back to micromanaging - many people don’t do well with someone constantly looking over their shoulder wondering if and what they’re working on. I remember being on the way to work one morning and got stuck behind one of those horrible Atlanta trucking accidents that shut the whole expressway down. The accident made my usual one-hour tripe about 2 and a half hours (don’t know why I just didn’t turn around and go home - that being committed thing), and I had been texting my boss the entire time about what was going on. When I finally made it to the office, she asked me to put a note on her calendar letting her know I was late. I’m like what?! Interestingly, I was in the elevator with her boss, who had been stuck behind the same accident! After that, more of her micromanaging tendencies came out. For no reason - I was doing well in my job and my performance reviewed reflected that - she was just a micromanager.
Unfortunately, there are some instances where micromanaging is warranted, especially with performance issues. If an employee is underperforming, it’s necessary to have more frequent check-ins and status updates to ensure deliverables are met. If an employee is NOT performing I’m going to tell them NOW so they can correct it NOW.
You don’t want a boss that’s aloof either. Asking your potential new manager how they will lead and provide feedback is important to your professional development. Most managers fall somewhere in the middle and asking this question tactfully will provide insight into the type manager you’d be working for. It’s important to align yourself with a manager who will help you identify goals and a plan to achieve them.
Like I’ve said AD NAUSEUM, have ongoing discussions with your boss - about how you’re doing at the office and what you have going on outside the office. Build the relationship - even if you don’t get along personally. I can work with ANYBODY when it comes to getting a project or job done. We don’t have to go out for happy hour cocktails after, but we can get this money and get this work done. Whether we like each other or not won’t stop me from getting to my bag!!!
Know what you’re getting into from the leadership perspective. Understand what kind of manager you might be reporting to so you can decide if you can deal with it. Another very important question you need to ask:
WHY DID THE LAST [INSERT JOB TITLE HERE] LEAVE?
This question is very telling, and you should listen very closely to the response. A lot of what you’ll encounter your first several weeks on the job will likely be linked to your predecessor in some way. While your boss and colleagues are showing you things you will hear this person’s name mentioned or even see their name on files or old emails. The other thing is you might find that you’re viewed as an extension of your predecessor.
Let’s say you took this job that “Wilma" used to have. Your colleagues, instead of seeing you as Nikki might see you as Wilma’s replacement and compare & contrast you to that person. You’ll hear things about that person’s habits and performance - which is usually somebody’s personal opinion and not related to what you’ll be doing in your job. Those people who say those things are also the people you need to keep at a distance. Depending on the departure, this person may have left urgent projects undone that you’ll quickly have to learn. You may find yourself inundated with messes you’ve inherited. But that’s why you’ve been hired - the company fee like you’re the person to fix the problems they’re dealing with.
Why These 3 Questions Are Important
Notice that these questions focus on the things you’ll deal with at work on a daily basis - even if your job responsibilities vary. If you’re working on analysis today and a new project tomorrow, the culture and leadership remain constant. These questions are designed for you to focus the discussion on those things that don’t change as much. If you go into an interview asking questions only about the job, how will you know what management is like?! When people leave jobs their departure tends to have something to do with issues with managers. Also, the answers to these questions most likely aren’t mentioned in the job description.
RARELY will you find that your job is exactly what a job description says. Most job descriptions have that “other duties as assigned” and that can encompass a lot of things.
Speaking of the job description, study it. Look at those bullet points - first look at how many bullet points there are. If there’s 3 or 4 bullets, maybe the company threw a generic description together just to get the job posted. That speaks to the haphazardness of the company and usually means there’s an urgent need to simply get someone in the job. Lazy job descriptions attract lazy candidates. On the flip side, let’s say there’s so many bullet points that it’s overwhelming to read. That means you’re waving goodbye to any ability to disconnect from your job. A long job description either means there’s such a great need in the role or the company is looking for talent so specific that they will only consider candidates that meet all requirements. Either way, you must scrutinize these job descriptions the same way these companies are scrutinizing your resume - it’s a MUTUALLY BENEFICIAL thing.
Considering the sometimes insane amount of time we spend working, it’s important that you treat your career like a business and manage it accordingly. Had you known on your first day, what you know now, would you have accepted your role? Money aside, benefits aside, talking strictly about what you do everyday? Is your job that you’re doing true to what was presented in your interview?
Let me know in the comments.