Rocking a Job Interview – Tips for the Nervous

So a LONG time ago I promised a post about interviewing for jobs…then I promptly started my new job and forgot my promise. But now, now’s the time!

I’m going to be honest: job interviewing is like a weird sort of natural high for me. I get really keyed up beforehand, I spend a few days prepping and deciding what to wear and making sure I have 8 alarms set (if it’s a morning time slot). I’m weird. I also like doing my taxes, what can I say?

Maybe this comes from one of my first job interviews, which was terrible. I didn’t get the job, I didn’t even get a follow-up phone call, so I vowed to NEVER have a terrible interview ever again. I’m by no means the master of interviews now, but I leave them feeling relaxed and happy and confident in my abilities. Here’s a few tips that I’ve come to rely on in the last years.

First – do your research. Make sure you have a decent understanding of what it is you’re applying for, and the background of the company. When they ask you “Why do you want to work for us,” have an answer that’s more specific than “this is a great opportunity.” Know something about their philanthropic efforts, their workplace environment, awards or accolades they’ve won. Make it personal – you want THIS job, and you want it for a reason. It was easy to do this with my latest job interview; I grew up wearing their clothes, and they were a big part of my childhood. I knew something about company history that I could bring up (I used to go to warehouse sales when the company was just getting off the ground). It was easy to establish a connection with my interviewer through this.

Practice practice practice. I have my husband ask me interview questions in the days leading up to my interview. You can find tons of interview questions online to practice with. Work through a few main points that you want to touch on. For instance, if you have a strong work ethic, figure out how to incorporate that into a few different answers. Ask for critiques and be flexible with your choice of wording and phrasing. Your practice interviewer might hear something in your words that you do not.

Be yourself, but don’t overshare. Your interviewer doesn’t need to know your quirks, not right off the bat. I’m pretty sure an answer to the simple question “what sort of books do you like to read,” is what made that terrible interview head downhill. I was too specific. So I read about religious cults, I find it fascinating…but I could have stuck with “I read a lot of non-fiction.” Don’t offend your interviewer or make them feel uncomfortable.

Dress comfortably. This obviously varies according to the business, field of work, etc., but here in the Pacific Northwest, we are generally pretty casual. Unless you know that the office is business formal ALL the time, I don’t feel that it’s critical to wear a suit. I always do slacks or a skirt, paired with a stylish top in a non-cotton jersey fabric, and maybe a blazer, or cardigan, depending on the weather. If you can’t walk in heels, don’t wear heels. It’s so easy to dress up flats, and stumbling into the room while you’re attempting to stay balanced on your stilettos isn’t the most flattering way to make an introduction.

Lastly, remember that the interview isn’t just for the company to decide whether or not they like you; you also need to decide whether or not you want to work for them. Try and get a sense for what it’s like at the office. When they ask if you have any questions, ASK some questions. I once heard that it’s bad if you don’t ask questions, because that makes it look like you aren’t engaged with the opportunity. Think up a few standard questions you can ask at all your interviews – this can help you compare opportunities if you are ever lucky enough to juggle multiple offers. Also, if you see anything of note in the research you did before the interview, bring it up. Show that curiosity! I did one interview where I figured out about halfway through that the job didn’t sound interesting, and I had no desire to work for the manager. Without asking the right questions, I may not have made that realization.

And don’t be discouraged! I graduated from college at the height of the recession, and it took me six months of applications and interviews to finally land a job. Yeah, it can suck to be rejected, but the right opportunity will come around, and it will feel oh so good.

I’ll leave you with a picture of me that was taken minutes before I interviewed for what ended up becoming my first real adult job. It helps when your cousins are around to photograph these moments for you! Stay confident, trust what you know, and go land that dream job!

Dressed for success!

Dressed for success!

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A 12th (Wo)man Kind of Sunday

Oh my word, ya’ll (I wish I was southern), what a WEEK. As much as I tire of the monotony of getting up and going to work and working and coming home from work every day, after this last week, a little routine and some down time ain’t a bad thing.

But first, yesterday was just magical. I am hoarse from screaming at my television over the Seahawks game. I have never had so much nervous energy pent up during one game. I really thought it was over during the third quarter and now I’m ashamed that I didn’t believe in the power of the 12th Man. Since Portland doesn’t have a team and I lived in Seattle for four years during college and consider it my second home, I feel some “hometown pride” for them. When I was up there in Seattle on game day this fall, I couldn’t believe how many people were rocking jerseys. A little sports success, which always seems rare in the Pacific Northwest, has really brought everyone together.

Ramsay hates football season because our yelling interferes with his nap time.

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After the game, I was so wound up that I took the dog out for a two mile jog to decompress. It was short but we managed to make it home just before the skies opened up and the apocalyptic rain started once again.

While I decompressed on my run, husband celebrated by baking some monkey bread which was a delicious smell and taste to return to.

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Now, it’s Monday again and I’m back on the train on my way to the office. Last week I got to go to my first ever company party, which was fun, especially considering it was at a swanky club on the east side and my previous company didn’t really have parties. Another night was craft night where I stayed up way too late laughing with friends and family and drinking All The Wine.

This week it’s just work, sleep, and keeping up with house work, and that sounds just perfect to me.

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I’m ready for my hike from train to office, which always makes me feel like I have the city to myself for half a mile and I love it. How did I live for so long without working in the city? I mean, my lunch game has really stepped up.

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So, your turn. Who are you rooting for in the SuperBowl? How do you entertain yourself during your commute? On a scale of 1-10, how tired are you right now?

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Random Rainy 5k

Sometimes your friends invite you to a random, free, early morning 5k fun run and you whine about it for hours and stay up late the night before and then just HAPPEN to wake up on time to go. So you go, hang out with some great people, and get a good run in that makes you feel great about your running goals for the year, because your mile splits were decent considering this was your second run since September.

This morning was one of those times.

The Roadrunner in NW Portland was celebrating their one year store-iversary this morning, and held a free 5k group run with goodies and giveaways and all that jazz. When I wrenched myself out of bed and out the door in time to pick up my friend Angie, there was a nice, cold, steady drizzle happening. I was wearing fleece, because I’m a total n00b when it comes to cold/wet weather running. But I sucked it up and used the thought of a scalding hot shower to motivate me. Running through NW when it was early and quiet was delightful even with the rain; this is one of my favorite neighborhoods and we ran some back streets so I found some new bars and coffee shops.

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We got back to Roadrunner, drenched but feeling good. Some friendly chaps saw us taking selfies and offered to take a picture for us “because we HAD to get one under the Roadrunner sign.” Then we went inside for free mimosas and beer and bagels and fruit and infused water and waffles shaped like Nikes with the signature swoosh, because Oregon = Nike. We refrained from the waffles because we had run past Stepping Stone Cafe earlier and decided we earned us a REAL breakfast.

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This is said real breakfast. And DAMN it was good. Angie had huevos rancheros, I had a veggie scramble, and we split a “mancake,” which was probably the best pancake I ever had. I had never been to Stepping Stone but I will for sure be returning soon because I wanted to devour their entire breakfast menu. Plus their motto was “You eat here because we let you,” and I like my breakfast to come with a little side of attitude. The cafe itself was tiny and cozy and I LOVED it because it wasn’t pretentious, like some breakfast places can be around here. It was just delicious food and good coffee on a rainy little corner of NW Portland. I’m excited to eat my leftovers tomorrow morning.

My scalding hot shower was worth the wait, by the way. Plus Husband had already showered so I got to hoard the hot water. Now I’m lounging in my bathrobe, cheering on my Seahawks (it’s a big week for northwest sports, with the college national championship game) and waiting impatiently for the beef curry I made to finish cooking low and slow in the oven. Perfect Saturday? Pretty close anyways. I’m still riding high on endorphins.

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Come At Me, 2015!!

Happy New Year! How is it 2015 already? Where did my 2014 go?

This holiday season was an absolute blur. Getting used to my new job and new commute, balancing Christmas with my parents and hubby’s parents, my birthday, back to work, parties and treats and presents and family fun! It leaves a girl exhausted (probably why I’ve been sleeping in every weekend). But I’m ready to take this new year by the horns!

For starters, we’ve managed to keep our first floor clean since Christmas, which is a feat for us. We came up with a cooking and cleaning schedule that seems to be working, rotating meals and chores and throwing in a weekly date night.

I also have an Erin Condren life planner headed my way, which, based on everything I’ve read, will just rock my world. I fully anticipate this thing to just completely change my life.

After, sadly, failing the second part of the CMA exam, I ordered updated study materials (because obviously right after I fail the test they completely change it up and my $900 study system becomes instantly moot) and intend to pass at the end of May, with flying colors this time. Everything else is finished for my requirements, this is the last thing holding me back from those three oh so professional letters being added to my business cards.

I’m also going to ease myself back into a running routine. My normal schedule has come back to me and sometimes I get home before it gets dark! (Changing jobs makes me feel like I’ve regained my sanity.) So yesterday we took the dog out for a short lap around the neighborhood and it felt good! I’m eyeing more races this year, and really have my heart set on Portland’s Rock & Roll half in May.

I also have ambitious blog goals, but I’ve said that before. Crossing my fingers that I can develop some discipline this year and crank out some content that’s been percolating in my brains!

I’m ready for you, 2015!

What are your goals for the year?

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Serial and The Urban Commute

I still don’t feel ready for Christmas, but I DO have most of my presents purchased, I’ve got one batch of cookies baked and frozen, and our tree still looks gorgeous.

I also officially started my new job on Monday, so I’ve been a little distracted. I went from working at a manufacturing company that deals in renewable energy to a retail company known for their high quality children’s clothing. I underestimated the learning curve that comes with entering a completely different industry, but I’m LOVING my new situation (FYI, I fully intend on blogging some job interview tips…one of the few skills I am really confident in). My second day of work, I was challenged to a Nerf shoutout by the CEO, and I already feel like I’m doing some REAL work.

Along with this new job comes a new commute. To downtown Portland. On public transportation. Everyone talked a big game like this was going to be horrible, but I’m choosing to view it as extra free time every day to read or dink around on my iPad. Or listen to Serial.

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I’ve been reading about the Serial podcast for a while, since I’m an avid NPR fan. Serial is a 12-episode true crime story, basically. And considering I plan my Friday nights around episodes of Dateline (#Iheartkeithmorrison), it is right up my alley. I’ve binge-listened to 6 episodes since Monday, with 6 more to go, and I’m totally hooked. It is 100% living up to the hype for me. Have you listened? What do you think so far?

I need to take pictures of my walk from the train station to my office. To me, there’s nothing better than a city in the early morning before it has really woken up that’s just magical. There are a few food carts serving breakfast. The sun is rising over the bridges and Mt. Hood. I might get tired of the commute eventually, but for now, I’m loving it. Plus we are moving offices to a place with free parking next year so it’s temporary.

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You SNEAKY Christmas!

Why is it that these last few years, Christmas completely sneaks up on me? I feel like the Christmas season lasted so long when I was little, and now it feels rushed, between shopping and work and decorating and trying to crank out some cookies. Womp womp.

I tried to convince my hubby that we needed a tree RIGHT after Thanksgiving this year, to no avail, so we went to get one this last weekend. This is the main event that gets me in the holiday spirit. We have vowed to always cut our own tree for as long as we are physically capable of doing so.

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So we dressed in our Carhartts and boots, hoisted Ramsay into the truck, and drove to our favorite little tree farm, where we spend an hour selecting the best Grand Fir of the bunch. Which is, without fail, probably too large for our house. Every year we say we’ll go smaller, but we just get so excited.

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We literally had to snip off the top IN our living room to make it fit. But it was totally worth it.

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I’m slowly reclaiming my life from 12 hour workdays (I start my new job on Monday) and am trying to get into a regular, healthy routine again. It’s hard to get back on the wagon. I’ve been making sure I get some good protein for breakfast, and today, I got lucky and came home before it was dark, so I took the dog on a longer than normal walk, because we both needed the exercise.

I have lots of post ideas percolating in my brain, so I’m hoping to sneak them into my schedule as I get the chance in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

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Thankful Thursday – Fattening Friday

I think I’ve come to understand Thanksgiving more as I’ve grown. I’ve always loved Thanksgiving for the food (since my two main food groups are bread and potatoes), but the last few years especially, I love thinking about all I have in my life to give thanks for. This year, I feel like my list is especially long. First of all, I’m thankful for the new job I’m about to start (more on that later) but I’m also thankful for my little family and funyons, my health, my happiness, and everything about living in the northwest! Also for stuffing leftovers.

Stay tuned over the next few days for updates of all my latest life happenings, as well as a few tasty recipes (I was in charge of dessert this year).

I’m thankful for YOU, for reading this blog!

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My Five Essentials for Staying Productive

Life is trying its hardest to overwhelm me right now. I’ve been working 10-12 hour days at the office, then coming home and trying to tackle my messy house, some holiday crafts I need to finish, and decor DIYs that need to be done. I may not be the world’s most  productive individual, but since this season of my life seems to be my busiest to date, I’ve been trying more and more to streamline my day and my time both at work and home, and thought I would share some of the things that have worked for me.

Break It Up – For some reason, when I became a real working adult, I all of a sudden had the attention span of a fly. Like adult onset ADHD, if such a thing exists. I’m not good at concentrating on things for long periods of time. So I break them up into small, productive bursts. If my husband and I need to clean and are really unmotivated (or the Seahawks are on TV), we go all out during commercial breaks. Each commercial break, we get up and do something that needs to be done, like putting away the dishes, or folding the laundry. It’s amazing how much you can get done when you’re putting your full attention to it. The Pomodoro Technique is a similar idea: work, short break, work, short break, work, longer break.

Lists Lists Lists – There are a ton of list apps and fancy GTD (“get things done”) tools out there, but for me, nothing beats the good ol’ fashioned, hand-written list. During busy month-ends at work, I used to make really pretty and colorful lists with fun font and tape them to my desk. I love the feeling of checking something off of a to-do list, and I think it helps to keep you going if you can see that you’re making progress with your tasks. I carry around a small Moleskine notebook and am constantly scribbling down things I need to accomplish. But be sure to start new lists every once and a while. Adding projects upon projects will make you feel like your to-do list is never ending. Which it’s probably not, but you don’t need the constant reminders, amIright?!

Evernote – To continue on the theme of “lists lists lists,” Evernote is the ultimate productivity app. I can access it from my phone. I can access it from my iPad. I can access it from my laptop. Everywhere I go, my lists are there. Which means every time my husband says something hilarious, it goes in a note. Every time my husband mentions something he likes which might make a good gift at some point, into a note. The best part is that you can share notes, so if you are working on a big project with someone, you can both keep up to date in real time. Also, you can add to notes with text, photos, video…anything! ALL THE MEDIAS! And you can take pictures that it will convert into searchable text, which was awesome a few weeks ago when I was trying to purge a bunch of cooking recipes that all had ONE recipe I wanted to try. There are so many capabilities that I have yet to take advantage of as well, I feel like I’m always discovering new things to do with this app. Try it out. It will change your life.

Self-Bribery – I’m not afraid to admit that sometimes I treat myself like a child and bribe myself to complete tasks. When I’m really overwhelmed or have a lot of unpleasant things to do (aka housework), I set up a few small rewards in my schedule to keep me from getting burnt out. Say you want to get coffee with a friend. Force yourself to complete X/Y/Z before you’re allowed to leave the house, and you’ll feel more relaxed and present with your friend knowing that you knocked a few things off your to-do list. Treat yourself to an episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians after you get that report done. Clean the kitchen and then sit down with your book for a while. Some people can do the whole “nose to the grindstone” routine for hours, but not me.

Stay Irritated at Your To-Do List – One day, I came home, and my husband had plastered the house with post-it notes scribbled with home projects we need to do in each room. Now I look at that screw in the wall that came with the house and has no purpose, and I think “Yeah, why DO we still have random screws in our wall?” Whatever you choose as your reminder/annoyance, you aren’t allowed to get rid of it until that task is done. DONE done. So unless you LOVE looking at lime green post-its on your wall, you will get those things DONE.

Bonus Tip – The Glee Pandora station. Does this really need an explanation? Don’t stop believing, people.

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Saturday Morning on the Trail

My friend Angie and I took the pups on a six-miler on the Banks-Vernonia Trail last Saturday morning. The Banks-Vernonia is part of the “rails to trails” initiative – it’s an old railroad track that runs 21 miles between two country towns off the highway to the Oregon coast. The fact that it was an old logging rail track means that it’s pretty straight, and pretty flat, and we were a-ok with that.

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We started at the first trailhead in Banks, and walked three miles in and turned around. Next time, I want to start farther in because you get to walk across old train trestles that have been converted to pedestrian bridges and for some reason I’ve ALWAYS wanted to walk across one.

We considered running a little, but my Ramsay has short little leggies and we could tell he was starting to get tired. So we were content to just walk and talk. For the most part, it was peaceful, though we had to hug the shoulder because apparently this is a super popular bike route as well. It would be fun to ride it all the way to the end – you can even rent bikes at the trailhead!

When we got our mileage in, we drove up the street to the Banks Trailhead Cafe for coffee and breakfast burritos.

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Though the lone employee who also happened to be the owner was clearly overwhelmed with a rush of customers, the coffee was much needed and the breakfast burrito was GOOD, especially because we added fresh roasted potatoes that she finished off for us. We topped off brunch with oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. Because yum.

I definitely recommend checking out the Banks-Vernonia Trail if you are local. It’s an easy walk/run/bike and you can go as far as you want! There’s a few little towns sprinkled along the trail, and a slightly bigger little town at the end of the 21 miles in which you can get food and beer and other delights.

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Sunday morning, Shayne and I had an early breakfast at one of our favorite close-by places. His birthday was on Monday, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to wake up earlier and make him pancakes. Not on a Monday. So he had blue corn pancakes and I had a tasty omelette and caffeine was had by all. Then we made our once-every-two-years trip to the outlet mall for clothes. JAM-PACKED WEEKEND OF FUN! I’m hoping for a repeat this weekend…only two more days!

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Bridge of the Goddesses – Race Recap

I’m just now getting around to posting this…sad but true. The race was last week, my training really tanked the last few weeks of the half training calendar I was using, and I was fighting the tail end of a cold, but I did it anyways, and finished. And then promptly picked my next race because I didn’t meet my “under 3” goal.

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The race itself was BEAUTIFUL, mostly on a paved path in the Columbia Gorge, winding in and out of the woods, up and down some stairs, up and down some MASSIVE hills. Like a LOT of effing hills, long, drawn out ones. The other two women I was with and I decided to walk the uphill portions and run the flat and downhill portions, which worked well for us.

My big problem was that horrible nemesis, post-nasal drip. There were some sections where I felt like my options were barf or walk, and I opted for walking so at least I was moving towards the finish line. Though I wasn’t thrilled with my overall time, I had fun AND I think I have the running big now. I don’t hate it like I used to.

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After the race was over, the girls and I drove east to Hood River to grab some lunch and celebratory beers. Oh my word, fish and chips and Mac & Jack’s never tasted so good.

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I did take away a few lessons learned from this race. The first is simple enough – learn how to use a neti pot. The second? Distance training runs make a BIG difference. This should have been obvious, but my first nine miles were on pace with what I was hoping for, and then miles 10-13 were considerably slower. The longest training run I did? Nine miles. Something to focus on for my next half (December). Also, I need to figure out how to fuel myself mid-race. I had a big bowl of oatmeal in the morning but I really could have used a supplement about halfway through and I kept missing the people at the aid stations that handed out gummy bears (fuel of champs).

I’m ready to get out and start running again. Fall weather is finally on the horizon, now that it’s almost October, and it’s the perfect time for outdoor adventures!

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