Welcome to the Real World: Navigating the Awkward Moments

[Life after college is hard. Like really hard. But it’s not so hard that you should curl up in a ball and watch E! marathons all day long. Not only are we covering the experience from a first-hand perspective, but we’re now covering it from a how-to-survive-it perspective. Every week, we’re going to bringing the best advice to getting through your first post-grad year. Because sometimes, your grandmother’s “just go to law school” advice just doesn’t cut it.]
So we’ve covered a lot of Real World bases in this column. From what to wear on an interview, to how to search for a job…even what to expect socially in the workplace. But one thing I’ve noticed in reading through all of your comments is that you guys want a little help navigating the really tough scenarios. A rude interviewer, the “no wrong answer” questions (hint: there is a wrong answer), proper etiquette for group interviews…your basic iffy and unexpected situations.
How Rude!
So you walk into an interview all smiles and positive thoughts, when suddenly you’re confronted with the coldest, most non-feeling person in the world. And they’re the one who’s going to be asking the questions. Lucky you.
You try to act breezy and light, they stare you down and create awkward silences. You straight-talk your accomplishments and strengths, they’re unimpressed. You ask intelligent questions about the company and the position, they cut you off before you can finish.
What’s the smartest approach when confronted with a major grump? Realize it’s most likely their problem, not a personal grudge against you. I would bet money that either a) they have their eye on another candidate and are frustrated that a higher-up is still insisting on continuing the search; b) it wasn’t their job to interview you, but they were forced into the situation; or c) simply put- they’re having a bad day.
Now, none of those reasons justify someone being rude to you, but it does help you handle the situation. Continue answering questions and talking about your accomplishments respectfully and confidently…and don’t forget to send a thank you note!
This…is…not…what I…expected.
I once went on an interview to write at a reputable entertainment website and found myself at a sketchy apartment in the middle of Brooklyn. The “editor” of the site was not quite the guy he painted himself to be- it wasn’t even his apartment, he was…uh…temporarily homeless. After two rigorous and bizarre hours of talking (anyone got tips on how to politely tell your interviewer to shut up!?), he offered me the position to come join his “team”. Uhhh…
When something doesn’t turn out exactly as you envisioned it, take a moment to weigh the pros and cons. It’s easy to get guilted into accepting a position you don’t want, or to say no too quickly to one you might unexpectedly enjoy.
In my case, I decided to politely decline the offer. But trust it wasn’t without some serious consideration. (Okay, fine. So “consideration” translates to making fun of the weirdness with my friends over a venti Starbucks and still thinking WTF days after. Don’t be like me!!)
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
The ultimate open-ended question, you will be heavily judged on your answer. Potential employers don’t want to hear about your dream of owning a house in the ‘burbs, bowing out of your career by age 30 to play housewife and popping out cute kids.
Here’s the almost foolproof phrase I’ve memorized: At this point in my life, I’d love to join a company that offers opportunity for career growth. Hopefully in 10 years I can be part of a team that has watched me develop professionally, one that understands my strengths and can help me position myself and my coworkers for success.
The concepts of “career growth” and “career paths” within the same company are way popular. It’s less work for employers if they think you’re going to be sticking with them for the long haul. Think of yourself as a long-term investment.
Over-qualification, my ass.
Chances are most of you have been there, even as brand spankin’ new grads applying for entry-level positions. Somehow you’re overqualified. Yeah, between working part-time at Ann Taylor and interning for your town paper you’ve acquired too many skills to perform 80% of the jobs you apply for.
When you find yourself trying to convince someone you’re not as qualified as they think (trust me, it’ll happen)- stop. Take a different approach. Talk about how you’re confident the position will provide fresh challenges. Mention how you’ve worked in similar positions before and proven yourself an asset to different companies. Give examples.
Bitch, they didn’t ask you!
Oh, the group interview. How I hate thee. Is there a more awkward situation anywhere in life? Actually, don’t answer that. But the group interview still ranks pretty high up there!
Often times you’re asked a question and someone else’s cutting you off to give their unsolicited answer. Puh-lease! While it’s easy to curse under your breath at the absolute lack of manners in the room, remember it’s an interview and therefore it’s every man for him/herself.
Be patient and you’ll get your chance for classy payback. If you see an opportunity to add on to another candidate’s answer, wait for them to finish, then politely ask if you may speak about one of your own related experiences. Speak clearly and keep your comment concise. You’ll be heard and won’t have people annoyed at your for hijacking the spotlight with longwinded stories.

CollegeCandy Summer Party in NYC
CollegeCandy Summer Party in NYC
  • 10614935101348454