It’s 8:30am, you just walked into the office of the company of your dreams. You’re interviewing for a position you’ve wanted since, well, you can’t remember when. You had to get up early today. Typically, your day doesn’t start until 10am, so you’re used to sleeping in and moving at a leisurely pace. Your alarm went off entirely too early for your liking this morning, so you pushed the snooze bar one too many times and that caused you to have to rush a little to be on time. You’ve run through your favorite coffee stop and purchased the largest espresso you can buy, and to your anguish spilled half of it on yourself. You barely have time to clean up and compose yourself in the waiting room before your name is called and the interview begins. The first question the interviewer asks is, “How are you doing?”. What is your answer?
The obvious response, or so you may think is, “I’m doing great, I’m so excited to be here!”, but you would be surprised at how many times this answer goes downhill – especially for early career professionals. So many people think that the person on the other end actually wants to know how you are doing. When, in reality, it’s just a common pleasantry. I have asked this question thousands of times, and I am still shocked at how many people tell me they are tired, they just woke up, they don’t feel well, or some other personal piece of information that makes me think that they are setting themselves up to not make a positive impression.
On the interviewer’s (and manager’s) side of the table, they want someone who’s positive and can see the silver linings in the dark clouds looming overhead. They don’t want to hear about your bad morning, how hard your life is, or why you weren’t able to do something in a timely manner. Quite frankly, complaining about how rough you have it to someone you just met can make them uncomfortable at times. It is very rare that anything will go 100% the way you thought, so learning to be positive in those down times is an extremely useful skill!
I often meet with early career professionals who will walk into my office half awake and lethargic. I will ask how they were doing and they begin to complain about how they just woke up (it’s always seems to be after 9am), how they had to stay up late to study and are exhausted, and that they have so much on their plate that they just don’t know how to get it all accomplished. I absolutely get it – that seems overwhelming even to me! But on my end, this is what I’m thinking: I’m tired too. I’ve been up since 3am, had to take care of a sick child, get to work by 7am, and my day just gets progressively busy with limited or no breaks until I put my kids to bed at 8pm. I avoid mentioning this information because no one needs to compete on whose day is worse. And, more importantly, it’s not professional.
Like I said, I get it. We all have our burdens and sometimes we are exhausted. But professional settings are not the opportunity to air those burdens. Not that the person on the other end doesn’t care, they just more than likely want to focus on the task at hand, and not start being a carrier of your burden. Be respectful of the space that everyone is in. Be aware that though you may have had a bad day, the person sitting across from you could be managing a smile under trying circumstances as well. Obviously, you want to be able to connect with those around you so that your space is welcoming and inclusive. However, there is always a time and a place to bring up certain topics. Understanding makes a good impression in a professional environment and personal environment will help you differentiate yourself in the workplace and can serves as a sample of what to expect from your attitude in the future.