Three years ago I was in the midst of a grueling job search. I was trying to make the jump from financial services to the tech industry but getting nowhere.
Despite landing interviews with exciting tech companies like Pandora, The Muse, and Buzzfeed, I couldn’t get passed the first round. I became frustrated with my lack of results and began to dissect my interview performance.
One of the things I noticed was my heightened anxiety before each interview. In the minutes leading up to each call, my heart rate jumped and my mind raced in a million directions.
What was causing this? I wondered. Were these just normal interview jitters that everyone experienced?
One thing was for sure, I had to get to the bottom of it.
The next interview I landed was with a company out in Silicon Valley called Meta Co.
Leading up to that interview, I did my normal preparation. I reviewed the job posting, read up on the company, and practiced my interview questions. The night before my call, I felt ready.
But as the call approached, I felt my body and mind start to speed up again. Dangerous thoughts ran rapidly through my mind.
I don’t know anything about tech.
I don’t understand their product.
Why would they even want me?
5 minutes before the start of the call, I stood up and took a look out of the office window onto the streets of Boston below.
It was the end of summer in Boston, just before Labor Day, and people were eating lunch outside at a cafe in the park. A couple was sitting down and the waiter came and asked for their order.
A minute later he came back with their drinks. The couple smiled and thanked him. He smiled back and left. A job well done.
I blinked out of the scene and checked my watch. Two minutes until my call. I took a breath and looked back at the waiter.
I noticed there was no stress or strain in this transaction. The waiter simply served the couple. He gave them what they wanted.
I thought about all my interviews up to that point. Who had I been serving in those interviews? Was I serving the interviewer?
No. I was always trying to serve myself.
My focus had always been on me. My heart raced and my mind swirled because I was afraid of what the interviewer would be thinking of me.
Never once did I think about what the interviewer wanted.
What did any interviewer want? To fill an open position with someone who would do a great job.
I sat back down in my chair and prepared for my phone to ring. One minute until the call. I thought for a moment.
What if, on this call, I try to serve the hiring manager just like the waiter served the couple?
What if this time I focus on his needs rather than my own?
The clock hit 2:00 PM. It was time.
I took out my pen and found a blank space at the top of my interview prep form.
I jotted down YOU’RE HERE TO SERVE.
I put down my pen and waited for the call.
For the first time in my job search, I got through that round of interviewing and onto the finals. And while I didn’t end up landing the job, it was an important lesson I’d carry through for years to come.
Since that day, I’ve used the “You’re Here To Serve” mantra before any big interviews or presentations. It helps to get me out of my own head. It reminds me that these big moments aren’t about me.
Now, when I start to feel my heart flutter and mind speed up before a big call I just close my eyes and picture the waiter in the park on that summer afternoon.
It helps to remind me that I too am here to serve.