Do you remember the first time you had to go for interview for something? Maybe a college place, your first job or a promotion. I can vaguely remember mine. It was 25 years ago for a place in Art school. I don’t remember many of the questions but I do remember how I felt… nervous. Of course after the interview I realised there was nothing much to be nervous about, it was just a bunch of questions, talking people through my work and explaining why I wanted a place. (I decided not to go, but that’s a story for another day). Post rationalizing the event didn’t help much though and even today interviews sometimes make me feel a little anxious.
I was feeling a little anxious yesterday because my son was invited for an interview for a part-time job. The opportunity of part-time work is important to him; university is very expensive and he’ll be there for 5 more years. Racking up huge debts isn’t a great way to start out in life but it seems to be the reality most of our higher education students face these days. I knew my son wanted to do well in the interview and as a Mom I could also anticipate the disappointment he’d feel if things didn’t go as hoped. So I offered a little help because that, in my view, is one of the important roles of being a Mom. It doesn’t matter how old or experienced we are, every now and then we can all use a little help.
We researched the company, went through the application form and decided to hold some practice interviews making them as realistic as possible by pretending we didn’t know each other (challenging) and giving feedback on the interview performance (more challenging). As a parent who strives to be good, kind and supportive this was one of those times when there’s a very fine line between offering honest feedback that’s performance-building and providing comments that might seem demoralising or critical. Fortunately my son and I have a good relationship and he knew any feedback was designed to help him do well in the real interview.
Having the kind or relationship where we can be honest with each other is important. It takes trust, love and genuinely having the other persons best interests at heart (not our own – we get confused about that sometimes). Being able to listen attentively before offering comments that are affirmative, compassionate and actionable is part of how we learn and grow but I’m not sure how often we stop to think about this in our everyday lives. We get consumed with our own thoughts, the rights and wrongs of situations, opinions and judgements. Stephen Covey once said “Treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he can and should be and he will become as he can and should be.” Our growth depends on an honest appraisal of where we are today so feedback to ourselves (or those we care about and want to help) has to be meaningful, empathetic and constructive.
My son was nervous before our practice interviews; he was concerned he wouldn’t be able to find appropriate answers to the questions. Each time we practiced he improved and a few hints and tips about eye contact, posture and timing made sure his physical state remained focused thus enabling his inner capabilities to shine through. Seeing his face after the interview was worth a million dollars – he was very happy and felt pleased because things had gone well. I felt pleased for him and that made me happy too.
We’ll know on Monday if he’ll be offered the job but more than anything we know he’s much better equipped for similar situations in future. We also know when we work together to practice a new skill it’s not a teacher/student situation. I learn as much from him as he does from me and that makes me happy too.