Over the past few years Ramadan has been in the summer months, and every year, I feel nervous before the month begins. A few days before the month begins I ask myself, “Is it possible to go through the long summer days and fast”? And every year, as soon as the month begins, tranquility descends. The temperature drops, clouds roll in and provide shade and something that didn’t seem possible to do feels doable and full of mercy.
In an interview, it is impossible to anticipate every possible question you will be asked. You can prepare by thinking of possible questions and practice ways to structure your answers, but even with the best preparation, you still need to be comfortable with uncertainty. Without that comfort, it can be difficult to access your creativity and thinking skills at a time when they matter a lot.
Investing in your skills is one way to practice. But when I speak with students in advising appointments or in workshops, learning to be confident in unfamiliar situations is a recurring theme in our conversations. And because of the frequency of these conversations, I’ve been curious recently about how to become more flexible and confident in interview situations. To learn more, I recently went to an improv class for people of colour hosted by the incredible and welcoming Blind Tiger Comedy.
I don’t like change, and to be at ease, I need to know exactly what is going to happen so that I can plan for it. In other words, uncertainty is my least favourite thing. Improv on the other hand, is all about working with the unexpected and creating something meaningful, so taking this class (something miles outside of my comfort zone) was the best way I could think of to simulate what an interview situation might feel like.
Here are some of the things I learned through the class:
A few weeks ago Jay-Z came to Vancouver to perform for his new album 4:44. I’ve never really listened to his music, but my husband is a fan, and so off we went for my first stadium concert experience.
As I was sitting in the audience trying to figure out what was going on (despite trying my hardest I just could not decipher any of the songs), what came to mind was appointments I’ve had with students to prepare for interviews. Often the students I see have researched the company they are applying to and have read tips on how to conduct a good interview, but when we practice questions like “why are you the best person for the job?” or “why are you special?”, a lot of people freeze up. It doesn’t feel natural to claim that they are better than other candidates or that they are unique. They themselves aren’t sure whether they are the best person for that job. This feeling or conviction makes it difficult to answer the question with confidence.
How do you move in the direction of your dreams? And how do you actually discover your dreams? Though those questions are the topic of many a cheesy self-help book (*judging from the spines of book at the library), they are also questions that are important. To help develop my skills in supporting others and myself in answering these questions, at the end of November 2017, I spent three days in an appreciative inquiry and appreciative coaching course. It was fantastic. I’m always hesitant that courses will be not inclusive/not diverse but this course surprised me and surpassed my expectations.
This is not an exhaustive list, but here are some of the things that I learnt during that three-day experience:
My day job is to help students at a large research-intensive university make meaning of their experiences and build purpose. I’m an experiential educator, a position that is a new application for me of my social planning background. And although the past year has been a steep learning curve, I’m enjoying and growing in this new line of work.
Part of that learning has involved reading ”career” books, and one thing I have noticed is that it’s hard to find books about career that are written by people of colour. And so, every time I find a book that is written by a POC and talks about intersectional identities, I want to tell everyone I know about it.
And so as part of that slowly building list of books, I have two career books to share.
“One day I craved a fish taco and could only find it in a single restaurant in Toronto. A year later my city was crawling with them, from a dozen dedicated fish taquerias that sprang up overnight to really bad fish tacos served in faux British pubs. How did this happen? I wondered why my father was suddenly eating pomegranate seeds with every meal and why my wife’s best friend spent thirty dollars to attend a food truck event, lining up for an hour to get in, only to line up for another hour to buy a lobster roll, which sold out right before she finally reached it. Meanwhile the Sri Lankan samosa vendor twelve feet away sat and wondered why nobody wanted what he was selling. Why was one food more popular than another? Both the lobster roll and samosa were delicious, and both cost around the same amount of money – so why the discrepancy in demand?
[..] At its worst, when you’ve eaten your fifth mediocre fish taco in a week, you realise that this onslaught of food trends can be relentless, vapid, and exhausting. Why does food have to be trendy? Why can’t it just taste good on its own merits? I often find myself just wanting to be given a grilled chees and then left alone. Not”artisanal” aged cheese, mind you, or ancient grain bread. Just cheese. And bread.”
~The Tastemakers: Why We’re Crazy for Cupcakes But Fed Up With Fondue by David Sax (2014)
Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about persistence. So often the message we hear about persistence is that we just need to decide to keep going , and what is often missing from the conversation is how to regularly fill our well so that we have something to give to others and to the daily commitments we want to honour in our lives.
When I take the time to pray calmly for example, prayer fills my well, when I go for a walk and spend time spaces of greenery I rejuvenate my soul, and in November, rupi kaur’s Vancouver show for her new poetry collection “The Sun and the Flowers” was a source of life-giving water.
Here are some of the things that I particularly appreciated about the night: