Throughout college, I completed internships, worked hard, and frequently contacted acquaintances at PR agencies seeking advice on how to prepare myself to land an agency job upon graduation. I thought I was doing everything I could or at least doing a decent job of it.
Recently, my hard work paid off and I landed an interview at an agency I’ve been chasing since freshman year. I was instructed to prepare a short presentation on myself, and I did; I practiced, rehearsed, smiled, did everything “right.”
Then I got to the interview. I quickly realized it wasn’t going to work out. I didn’t get the job, but I did get a handful of lessons learned. Hopefully they’ll help you to keep your cool if your dream job presents itself.
1) Be prepared for anything, but pay attention.
Halfway into my presentation, I saw the face – you know, the “I’m bored, get me out of here” face. I quickly changed tactics. My audience wasn’t responding the way I’d hoped, but I kept my cool. I think my interviewers were relieved I changed gears on them. It showed me to carefully watch how you are presenting yourself. A slight change might save the entire interview.
2) They may just want information; make them want you.
One of the first questions I was asked was what agency my current employer, a major corporation, uses. I didn’t expect it and I fumbled some vague answer, all the while trying to maintain my loyalty to my current employer. After I realized what happened, I was hurt. It felt like they wanted information from me, not me. Whether that’s the case or not doesn’t matter. What should have mattered is how I presented myself. If you are ever asked this question, don’t forget to make yourself valuable to them. They brought you in for an interview, show them why they should keep you. If you don’t know how to answer appropriately, tell them that. If you don’t feel comfortable answering, tell them that, too. If they don’t respect you for your answer, you can at least respect yourself.
3) Don’t compromise yourself or your values for anyone.
I thought that working at this agency was what I had worked the last four years for. But the warm fuzzies I felt from scoring the interview were quickly replaced after the interview was over. I had a gut feeling that I wasn’t the right fit for the company; and that they were not the right fit for me. I wish I stood my ground more and had not been so desperate to land the job I thought I wanted. After the interview was over, I walked out with my head held high. Maybe I didn’t do so well, but I still felt like I passed the most important test: I wasn’t going to change to fit in when it went against my own beliefs.
That’s the best advice I can give to anyone struggling to find a job right now. It’s really tough – I still haven’t found one – and we all feel desperate, the need to prove something. Don’t take a job just because a job is offered, or looks perfect on the surface. If your gut tells you that it’s not going to work, then listen to it. You won’t be happy in a job where you feel like you lost yourself, and it won’t benefit your employer, either. Most importantly, no matter how bad you think an interview went, realize that there will be others, and keep faith that one day you will find the job of your dreams – for real.
Aubrey Mondi is working in Pittsburgh while pursuing a graduate degree in digital marketing communications at West Virginia University. She received a B.S. degree in May from WVU’s PI Reed School of Journalism.