Image courtesy of Sean MacEntee via Flickr.
Fear. It’s an emotion few people like to feel; even fewer of us, it would seem, have a solid strategy in place to deal with it when it arises.
In the workplace, it seems fear is everywhere. Accountemps did a survey of workplace fears in 2012, and “making errors on the job” topped the list as the biggest workplace fear, with 28 percent of employees surveyed admitting that was what kept them awake with fear at night. If you’re job hunting, fear, especially of “not doing it right,” can lurk behind every new activity or stage of the process.
But fear not! Since fear is such a common human emotion, plenty of people have taken time to figure out how to tame it, or at least make it less predatory. This month’s links all address dealing with fear on some level, including how to answer those tough “tell me about your biggest weakness” questions at job interviews (don’t you just LOVE those?), how to fight back against job interview jitters, and how to help employees thrive during stressful (and most likely fear-filled) periods at work.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt said “We have nothing to fear, but fear itself,” and often conquering your fears is more than half the battle. Read on and learn how to do just that!
I don’t know about you, but I’ve always thought those “tell me about your weaknesses” questions were something directly out of the H.R. From Hell Playbook. Career coach Peggy McKee, writing on CAREEREALISM, says it doesn’t have to be that way. She offers 2 main strategies for answering this question truthfully, in a way that elevates you in the interview.
- Use an actual weakness that is also a strength for this position.
- Use a weakness that you’ve found a way to manage.
She advises against talking about a weakness you’ve overcome — because it’s not your greatest weakness anymore, now is it?
This is a brief post, but if this is one of those common interview questions that trips you up, you might want to print this post out and use it as you rehearse for your next interview.
Just thinking about the unsettling job interview questions you could be asked (like the one in the previous link) is enough to create anxiety. Shweta Khare offers 4 avenues for calming your jitters so you can appear confident and poised.Two of my favorites from the post are her emphasis on projecting positive body language (she gives the example of boxers strutting their stuff before a big match as part of their strategy to psych-out their opponent) and her caveat that practice makes perfect. She advises readers to treat any interview they get, even for jobs that aren’t part of their desired career trajectory, as opportunities to practice answering questions strongly and to work on positive body language and other skills.
Author Tim Ferriss always has really interesting people on his podcast, and this episode is no different. He interviews Caroline Paul one of the first female firefighters in San Francisco, who has gone on to be a published book author (her latest is “The Gutsy Girl,” which she calls “‘Lean In’ for middle-grade girls”), a pilot of experimental planes, and an adventure sports enthusiast.
The entire long (close to two hours) interview could be great for learning how to deal with fear, but if you want the “too long, didn’t listen” version of the show, you can jump in and just listen to this segment, where she talks about how she prioritizes her fears when she needs to act.
Lots of career posts focus on how employees can deal with performance pressures — fewer of them focus on the fears of their boss — which is often that his/her team will let him/her down during a critical juncture in the team’s life together.
Suzanne Lucas, who is known for her “Evil HR Lady” blog, argues that the road to creating stress-hardy employees begins during the job interview, when asking the right questions can help identify those most likely to to be resilient when things start heating up in the workplace. She writes,
“You need to come up with ways to find out how people (whom you’re interviewing) deal with pressure, without giving them the opportunity to speak positively about something that isn't positive. Try some of the following questions:
- What type of environment do you thrive in?
- Tell me about your favorite boss. What did he or she do that made your experience a good one.
- We get a lot of last minute demands from the powers that be. How have you dealt with such things in previous jobs?”
She also reminds bosses that they have a good deal of control over how stressful their employees perceive their unit to be.
“If you're the boss and your department is always stressed out, you can probably change that …. Examine your own methods. Are you setting proper goals? Are you pushing back against senior management when you should? Do you have the ability to say no? It's your job, as the manager, to create an environment where your employees thrive. If that's not happening, you need to change your approach. That's part of your job.”
The post does cover some pretty basic ground on how to performance-proof your employees, but this is an area in which the basics cannot be stressed enough.
~ Liz Massey, Managing Editor, ASU Alumni Association