So, how do you feel about job interviews?
No matter how confident you are in your interviewing abilities, you may find something in this story that will come in handy for any type of anxious situation.
My interview for a sales clerk at a GAP store began as the worst interview ever, I implemented one trick that turned it all around, and then, I got the job.
The job that end up being the worst job of my life but…that’s beside the point. The point is the one trick, Step 1.5, my best way to stay grounded when anxiety gives me tunnel vision.
I hope Step 1.5 can do the same for you. But in the very least, I hope this story gives you humorous solidarity that you are not the only one who gets anxious.
Step 1: Show up late to interview
My mom taught me everything I know about interviewing, especially to show up at least a half an hour early just in case.
So, I arrived 30 minutes before my interview for a sales clerk at the GAP and went inside to browse for clothing items I could discuss in the interview.
After five minutes of perusing, my fancy interview clothes and resume must have given away my true purpose because the store manager approached me and said, “Hi. Are you here for an interview?”
I smiled and nodded, expecting him to praise me for being the only candidate to show up early.
He responded with, “You’re late.”
When I explained that actually, I was 30 minutes early, he said I got the time wrong and the interview started an hour ago.
Anxiety and shame crept from the corners of my vision, closing in on my surroundings. It was getting harder to think straight. How could I have been so stupid?
I followed the manager into the break room where the interview was located. As I entered, nine smiling faces with fancy interview clothes and resumes of their own greeted me.
This was a group interview.
Oh. My. God.
I was the only one out of the ten interviewees to show up late. A half an hour late. And now I was supposed to sit around the table and answer interview questions like I still have a chance of getting this job?
If that’s not anxiety-making, I don’t know what is.
As soon as I took the single empty seat, the tension in the other interviewees disappeared, as if they were thinking, “At least I won’t be as bad as that girl.”
My tunnel vision of anxiety turned into a swirling vortex of shame and negative self-talk. My arms were tingling and it was difficult to control my breathing. This was going to be a miserable hour.
Step 1.5: Embrace the vortex
Once the anxiety tunnel transforms into a full-blown vortex, I’m toast. It cascades in on itself and creates a continuously deeper and darker hole that it sucks me into.
Even though I was familiar with this vortex (thanks to years of high-pressure sports), sitting around that table was the first time I actually became aware of it. It was extremely uncomfortable, but once I was aware of it, something inside me was able to say, “So, I’ve got this vortex that makes it hard to think straight and speak words. And I’m stuck in this stupid break room for the next hour. I could let it do what it usually does, keep compounding every time I don’t say something perfectly. Essentially, resulting in a graph like this:
…or I could just embrace the fact that I am probably not going to say anything perfectly and maybe end up with a graph like this instead:
While this graph doesn’t offer much hope of my shame and anxiety decreasing, it’s still better than the first.
I decided to embrace that my vortex of shame was going to make me say multiple stupid things and to give it my best shot anyway.
Step 2: Get the job
Turns out, my “best shot” after embracing my vortex was the most bestest shot in all the shots I’d ever shot.
I went on an interviewing rampage.
After a few warm up questions, I became the bubbliest, most enthusiastic one in the room. My answers to each question was on point and I wowed the manager with my critical thinking skills.
The mood of my competitors shifted again as they realized the girl who showed up late actually had some serious interviewing game.
Only 15 minutes left and I was surprised to find my vortex of shame and anxiety to be gone. It was replaced with this weird sense of…happiness and confidence? Who woulda thought.
And then it was time for the role-play portion of the interview.
Oh, hello again, tunnel vision.
Each interviewee was required to pretend they were ringing someone up, and role-play how they would sell the customer a GAP credit card.
Aaaand que the vortex.
My arms were tingling again, my throat constricting.
Since embracing the vortex worked the first time, I might as well try it again. I accepted that I probably wasn’t going to make headlines with my role play performance given the whole ‘throat closing in’ thing, and decided to not let my shame and anxiety compound even more when I barely choked out, “Hi.”
My mantra became, “Even though I’ve got this vortex, I’m going to do the best I can with it. And that is enough.”Even though I’ve got this vortex, I’m going to do the best I can with it. And that is enough. Click To Tweet
The store manager directed me toward a makeshift cash register and some clothes I was supposed to pretend to ring up while spouting off all the benefits of the credit card that only had five minutes to study.
One quick confession – I lied earlier. This was the most bestest shot in all the shots I’d ever shot.
I rang those clothes through that fake cash register like I was born for it. I explained all the GAP card benefits with such enthusiasm I might as well have been Oprah.
“You get a card and YOU get a card and YOU get a card!”
When it was finally time to crawl back into my car and drive home, I felt exhausted. But I felt good. And instead of a vortex of shame and anxiety, I had a quiet river of confidence and peace.
I was hired the next day.
I found out later that only one person out of the ten people they interviewed got the job.
And that person was me.
The one that showed up a half an hour late.
Do you have any other tricks that help you get through sticky situations? Or an area in your life where you can apply this trick?
Let me know in the comments!