Takin’ Care of Business


Dear Dharma,

I’ve been with the same company for over 10 years now and I want to make a career change. My last interview was 2 years ago and it did NOT go well. I have extreme interview anxiety…  This is the only thing holding me back from leaving my job. I don’t want to face that dreaded interview.

I prepared as much as possible beforehand. I researched the company, reviewed the Top 20 interview questions, practiced them out loud, etc. The night before I was so anxious that I didn’t sleep and my eyes were swollen… Make-up can only do so much!  During the interview I completely froze. They asked me a question and I went all deer in the headlights. I was shaking uncontrollably and just blanked. Let’s just say I didn’t get that job.

What do I do?! I am generally a confident person, but when it comes to interview questions I turn into a different person! Do you have any tips or tricks to calm my interview nerves?

Bag of Nerves

Dear Bag,

10 years is a long time to be at the same company, so it makes sense you would be looking for a change.

By the time you have an interview on the line, the pressure is already on, and it sounds like that may not be the best time for you to start working on this. I think you need get in front of this now, before there is an actual interview to stress about.

The first thing that comes to mind is looking into something like Toastmasters.  Their program is designed to help develop communication skills, both personally and professionally.  Imagine – if you get to a point where you are comfortable speaking in front of a crowded room, then sitting across from 1 or 2 people in an interview will seem like small potatoes, non?

Another thing you can start doing now are dress rehearsals.  Ask a friend to help you out by drafting interview questions and have them play the role of the interviewer. Meet up at a coffee shop, dress for the occasion, and then do all the things you are really good at – show how prepared you are.  Being in a public place like that will probably still make you a bit nervous, but it’s kind of the middle ground.  Even if you freeze up, you’ll shake it off quicker than normal because you are in a non-threat situation. You kind of want to tackle this in baby steps, right?

I would do this on a regular basis until it’s just plain old boring.  Then, when you are called upon for the real deal, it will feel like so last week.

Also, you need to put this into some kind of perspective.  It’s not just them judging and assessing you, you are checking them out just as much!  Not every interview you go on is for the dream job, and you may not even want to join their ranks after meeting with them.  Thinking this way puts a little power back on your side of the table.

Some other helpful hints for the day before are to do a drive by so you know exactly where you are going, avoid caffeine and get some exercise so you can get a good night’s sleep.

And if all else fails, what’s the saying – just picture them in your underwear!  I mean… in their underwear… whatever…

The main thing is you don’t want to let fear dictate your career, so start with these small changes today so that you can move on to bigger things tomorrow!



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  • Sam says:

    Good advice Dharma! Just before the interview.. Another tip for Bag, I will listen to calming music before hand! It’s that hour before the interview when I start to feel the nerves, which I think is completely normal. I put on my favorite song that makes me feel happy and calm! Everyone has to have that one song.

  • daisygirl114 says:

    i like the idea of dress rehearsal interviews! and the repetition is probably the key to success here – kind of like feel the fear and do it anyway til it’s not so scary anymore…
    good luck, bag!

  • Anastasia says:

    I can totally relate to this… Practice really does make perfect. I used to be terrified of interviews, feeling totally under a microscope! If you find you are too comfortable with the friend, maybe ask your friend to bring along another friend that you don’t really know. That may make it a little more “realistic” feeling and also add another, unbiased perspective!

  • Ivana Coke says:

    Ooh! Bring a portfolio of your work and previous accomplishments. It will physically show them what you are capable of…. and if the interviewer is one of those super organized folks he/she will be totally impressed. Then you can focus on being proud of your accomplishments instead of your nerves.

  • Eva Sloane says:

    I like the dress rehearsal idea too, but you can take it another step by going on some actual interviews! I don’t mean to waste the potential employers time, but you never know, and then you get experience and you may accidently find something you like. Or you get an offer and you don’t have to accept it – if it’s not the right fit.
    Also, for a song I like Bob Marley’s “3 Little Birds”… it really reminds me that “every little thing’s gonna be alright”, as the song says.
    Worst case scenario, you don’t get that gig, so no biggie. You are no worse off than you are now – employed, roof over your head, food on the table, friends, family… (just a hunch) and probably a whole list of other things that you excel at.

    • George says:

      Plus, this way you might also be surprised and find something you like that that you normally wouldn’t have thought of!

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