Feed on

Blue in the Interview

I quit posting my career change stuff because it seemed so overwrought and self indulgent once I got the boot.  I haven’t decided if that stuff will see the light of day yet, but one part of an un-posted thread reared its head again two weeks ago.

When I first began career counseling, back in February on my own dime, I was immediately identified by my counselor as a Myers Briggs ENFJ type. That would be E for extroverted (shocking!), N for iNtuitive (more interested in the theoretical and possible than concrete reality); F for feeling (whether I go with my heart or my head when I make decisions; it’s  a close call but I tend to be ruled by the heart); and J for judging (as in I like everything neat and tidy and clear-cut. As in I alphabetize my spices. As in, I think I’ll stop now before I divulge too much.)

At the close of my initial getting-to-know-you session, my counselor told me she was shocked that someone with my type made it to the all but dissertation stage in graduate school. Despite all the books saying ENFJs are supposed to be college professors or members of the clergy, I was swimming upstream against my basic temperament. And heaven knows, by the time I discontinued my studies, I was pondering putting my head in an oven to end it all and had had at least one clinical paranoid episode.

Five months on, at my new counseling center (on the company’s dime), I’ve had a very similar experience. Their system is Brinkmann’s First Look, and there you are typed by color. I, alongside all the artists, poets, visionaries, and philosopher-carpenters out there, am Blue. Blue at home. Blue when I’m happy. Blue when I’m stressed. The only time I’m not blue is when I’m green at work, which basically means I toss in a little select sociability and actionable results—yellow things—to my essential blueness.

How this all can play out is amusing. In June, I took a seminar on interviewing. Two weeks ago, I went to test out my refined skills by sitting for a virtual interview with a computer. The night before, I looked over common questions, prepped my stories, and rehearsed my two-minute replies with Simon’s teeth-brushing timer. (This may be the only time it ever gets used!)

Then, on a hot and muggy Tuesday morning, I sat in front of a web-camera and tried to charm a hypothetical and badly dressed interviewer. And then, in an act that abdicated all pride, I sent my interview to one of the center’s coaches to be critiqued.

“You’re blue, right?” Ralph said to me by way of introduction.

“Sure am! Green at work, but otherwise blue as the sea.”

“Mmm Hmm. Watch.”

And that’s when he very nicely explained to me that 2/3 of each of my responses were right on the mark. I chose good stories, I set them up well, and I went through my sequence of actions very well. In fact, he told me that the first 2/3 of my responses were exemplary and would serve me well.

But then, when it was time for the big finish, I ended every story with some version of “and we worked it out” or “we came to agreement” or “we went on to publish a great book together”.  This, in the career coaching world, is the equivalent of “and they lived happily ever after.”

Every one of my business stories, even the most technical among them, read like a children’s book or folk song. And if the person interviewing me is similarly blue, this might just work out. But if they are not, and especially if they are trained at scoring behavioral interviews, I need to start quantifying stuff and put a little more yellow into my life.

The rule is 3 to 5 numbers per story/response. In any interview, I can give non-quantifiable answers to 20% of my questions, but those had better end up being Aesop’s Fables, examples of how I learned a Very Valuable Lesson on someone else’s dime. For practice, I’ve decided to start quantifying every part of my life.

The next time someone asks me how life as a stay-at-home mom is going, I’m going to respond thusly:

“It’s been great! Let me tell you about the three or four best things about it:  My house is so much cleaner that it would appraise for 10% more and sell on average 3 months faster than it would have 6 months ago. All the home-cooking has reduced our food budget by 40% and helped Matt lose 15 pounds in three months. The website I built for my son’s preschool has brought in 10% of the new students for next year. And despite losing 20% of our income, we are staying in budget month-to-month and have kept our retirement savings unchanged.”

I can do this, of course. It’s just a silly game. I can even admit that my stories sound better this way. But in my heart of hearts, I’m still blue. And all my happy stories will still end with “And they lived happily ever after.”

One Response to “Blue in the Interview”

  1. Amanda says:

    I’m green. Green, green, green. So very, very green. I can’t at all remember what I scored on the Myers/Briggs anymore.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.