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Opinion Editorials

The interview tool for shorter attention spans: Sound bites!

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Let’s talk about an unexpected tool you should definitely be using during interviews – sound bites. It may sound intrusive, but there’s ways to do it right.

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Business woman holding her hand to a headphone as she listens to important sound bites.

There’s a brilliant Calvin and Hobbes comic where Calvin tells his dad he only wants ten second sound bites for all future communication as “a new policy in this house.” “I don’t want to hear any reasons, explanations, subtlety, or context.” Predictably, this is met with angry backlash from his dad, with Calvin concluding so much for that policy.

But let’s not dismiss sound bites – they are an incredibly effective tool when it comes to making a direct point, and there’s no shortage of instances where they can be leveraged with great results. Sound bites are takeaways – little bits of boiled and stripped down data that reveal powerful, memorable cores. They are succinct yet captivating, intentionally driving home a clear message.

See also: Elevator pitch, media training, literally everything on Twitter, quotations (I like to think of movie critics here), abstracts of abstracts, and dating profiles (ugh). They are built to grab attention, deliver a specific idea, and leave themselves etched in someone’s mind. And they are wildly useful for job interviews.

Attention spans keep falling, and you’re already in a high pressure situation when you’re doing a job interview because you have to sell yourself as the best candidate for a contested position. Politicians and other persons of influence and power have relied on this tactic for ages, generating a rallying cry that unites through simple and straightforward rhetoric. Even the great speeches of Shakespeare are frequently distilled down to singular lines and phrases against their majestic choirs of thoughtful composition.

Let’s take a look at some ways you can craft a worthy soundbite to give you an edge during your next job interview:

Vivid figures of speech and other literary devices: Similes, metaphors, and analogies all function as fancy comparisons between different elements. If possible, avoid overly used examples – “busy as a bee” – and instead substitute something a bit more organically derived. There’s no harm in using tried and true idioms, but putting your own personal spin – perhaps using another area of interest – can help here. Anyone can increase profits, but cleverly saying your impact causing meteoric rises paints a nice picture.

Triples: There’s an old law in comedy that you should do things in threes. Listen to any sitcom and you’ll hear this – characters will frequently list off several throwaway jokes rapidly to focus the audience. Talk about how your work did positives x, y, and z, as this helps provide background and illustrate how you succeed in multiple areas simultaneously.

Superlatives: This might be a bit more obvious, or perhaps seen as disingenuous, but it never hurts to put a stamp on your contributions as the peak of performance. Using -est words (strongest, best, etc.) or directly making comparisons where your work excelled may seem potentially hackneyed, but people will listen to these and remember that hey, this person was at the top of their game in a competitive environment.

Repetition: A powerful phrase that can link together your objectives, goals, and accomplishments can build a strong association. If you know you’re going to be the best in a particular area, try to emphasize that aspect of yourself frequently. It helps if you can link this to related duties for the position, as it shows consistency and dependability.

Clear Goals: Don’t walk into an interview unless you have practiced distinct and specific messaging that is built around goals you know will relate to the job at hand. You should always be building your case in a way that is relevant to the company, position, and – if you’re quick enough – to the interviewers. Knowing what you can bring and how this will help the company will always give you an edge.

Practice, practice, practice: I wrote it out three times, so you know it’s important. Once you’ve got your angle and how to present it in a catchy way, continue to practice it. It’s an extension of you, and it should never appear otherwise. You’ve got a powerful phrase to pepper in – don’t trip up on it!

While not directly related, know that no matter how intimidating an interview is, you are in control – the interviewer is there to listen to you and learn all about you.

I frequently tell people that this is the same as giving a speech – yes, it’s an incredibly scary thing, but the first step toward getting comfortable is to know that you are unquestionably able to control and maintain the situation. This isn’t meant to make someone anxious or nervous – it’s meant to instill a sense of hey, they have to listen to me and I’m going to exercise the freedom that comes with knowing I’m in charge.

Of course, if you think you need more help than just juicy bits, always know that there’s a lot of resources out there that can help you with your interviews. I don’t want to tell you to pin everything on a morsel of yourself – I’m just saying that sound bites are effective when used in tandem against a greater backdrop of tips, tricks, methods, and proven strategies.

Sound bites help you maximize the amount of time you have and elevate you above others. You want to walk into an interview with your prepared remarks and materials, and you want to leave the interview with the confidence that when your name comes back up in consideration, there’s a strong and immediate correlation in the interviewer’s head (and hopefully isn’t centered around “had a mustard stain on their shirt”).

Maybe a cynical take is that you’re reducing yourself down to a few words or a single sentence that can’t capture every facet of your abilities, personality, and experience. But that’s the beauty of the sound bite – you’re not so much minimizing yourself as you are revealing your absolute best traits, all polished up and shiny.

It’s like getting a song stuck in someone’s head, only it’s a song they really like and the lyrics are all about how great you are. Who wouldn’t want that kind of branding?

Robert Snodgrass has an English degree from Texas A&M University, and wants you to know that yes, that is actually a thing. And now he's doing something with it! Let us all join in on the experiment together. When he's not web developing at Docusign, he runs distances that routinely harm people and is the kind of giant nerd that says "you know, there's a King of the Hill episode that addresses this exact topic".

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Opinion Editorials

Online dating is evolving and maybe networking will too

(OPINION EDITORIALS) How has the online dating industry been disrupted during the pandemic? And can we apply a few pointers from this evolved model to networking?

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Woman networking through Zoom video call with two other women.

We are often reminded that hindsight is 20/20 – a proverb that means “it is easy to understand something after it has already happened”, and how ironic that is since we are in the year 2020 and not sure we can fully comprehend all we are learning and what hindsight this will bring.

Reflecting back to six months ago, there were many of us that didn’t have much of a clue about what the rest of 2020 would look like and how we would have to adjust to a more virtual world. We’ve updated our ways of working, connecting with colleagues, socializing with friends, networking with those in our industry, or looking for a new job.

Microsoft suggested that we have seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in about five months. For example: MS Teams, Zoom, and Google Meet have become the new way to host networking sessions, work meetings, and “chats” with colleagues; Tele-med appointments became the norm for routine or non-911 emergency doctor appointments; curbside pickup at grocery stores and food to-go orders via online ordering became the new normal (they existed before but saw tremendous growth in number of users).

We also had to learn how to create engaging and interactive ways to connect solely through a screen. We are already Zoom fatigued and wondering how online meetings have zapped our energy so differently than in person. It turns out, looking at ourselves and trying to talk to a group is a lot for our brains to process.

The Atlantic shares a great article about why the Zoom social life might feel so draining, saying that “Attempting to translate your old social habits to Zoom or FaceTime is like going vegetarian and proceeding to glumly eat a diet of just tofurkey”. No offense to vegetarians, of course.

You could argue though, that we’ve all been interacting via screens for years with the dominance of social media channels – whether it was posting our thoughts in 140 characters on Twitter, or sharing photos and videos of our artisanal sandwiches/cute kid/pet pictures on Facebook. But this seems different. Times are different and we will not be going back soon.

In this interim, many people are trying to make the best of the situation and are figuring out ways to connect. We will always need human connection (and without the germs, even better).

What about our single friends? If they don’t have anyone in the house to already drive them crazy, then where can they go to meet new people and/or possibly love interests?

While many experts are trying to predict the outcomes of this global shift, it may be hard to know what will change permanently. We know many industries are experiencing major disruptions – online dating apps being one of them.

According to Digital Trends, Tinder still ranks as one of the top dating apps. However, now that people are sheltering in place and/or social distancing, there’s a new app taking over as a way to “meet” someone a little faster, while also allowing you to stay behind the screen, sans mask.

Slide is a video dating app that changes your first-date frustrations into real connections and instant chemistry. Explore video profiles, go on first dates via Video Calls at your fingertips, and find that chemistry before dating IRL.”

So, while Tinder, Bumble, and Hinge play quarantine catch-up, Slide is stealing their market share.

How? With video.

Slide recognized the massive success of short-form video platforms like TikTok, and have translated it to dating. They focus on features like:

  • “Vibe Check”, which gives you the option to video chat immediately after matching with someone to see if there’s chemistry. This will save you from long or misinterpreted text conversations and money you may have spent on that first date.
  • A video-first approach that lets you see the real people behind the profiles so you can pass if they aren’t really who they say they are.
  • AI-assisted creation of “future bae” profiles that help suggest your best matches and spare you extra swipes. If Netflix can find similar suggestions…

As of August 2020, the Department of Labor and Statistics estimates about 13.6 million people are currently unemployed and searching for a new j-o-b. Is it possible that some of these newer ways of connecting online could be included in how we network for a new job/career opportunity?

For example, instead of sending a connection or networking request on LinkedIn, what if we could send a quick video about our story, or what we’d love to learn from that person, or how we’d like to connect?

Would that create a faster, better, possibly more genuine connection?

This would seem worth exploring as many job connections are created by in-person networking or reaching real people vs. solely online applications, behind a screen. Some other formats that have seen increased use are Marco Polo for video chats (you don’t have to both be available at the same time) and FaceTime group calls.

It might be worth exploring how short-form video platforms could assist job seekers in networking, outreach, and connecting with others. These are just some ideas as we continue to watch this digital transformation unfold.

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Opinion Editorials

Minimalism doesn’t have to happen overnight

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Minimalism doesn’t have to mean throwing out everything this instant – you can get similar benefits from starting on smaller spaces.

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Minimal desk with laptop, cup, books, and plant.

Minimalism. This trend has reared its head in many forms, from Instagram-worthy shots of near empty homes to Marie Kondo making a splash on Netflix with Tidying Up with Marie Kondo in 2019. If you’re anything like me, the concept of minimalism is tempting, but the execution seems out of reach. Paring down a closet to fit into a single basket or getting rid of beloved objects can sometimes seem too difficult, and I get it! Luckily, minimalism doesn’t have to be quite so extreme.

#1. Digitally

Not ready to purge your home yet? That’s fine! Start on your digital devices. Chances are, there are plenty of easy ways to clean up the storage space on your computer or phone. When it comes to low stakes minimalism, try clearing out your email inbox or deleting apps you no longer use. It’ll increase your storage space and make upkeep much more manageable on a daily basis.

It’s also worth taking a look through your photos. With our phones so readily available, plenty of us have pictures that we don’t really need. Clearing out the excess and subpar pictures will also have the added bonus of making your good pictures easily accessible!

Now, if this task seems more daunting, consider starting by simply deleting duplicate photos. You know the ones, where someone snaps a dozen pics of the same group pose? Pick your favorite (whittle it down if you have to) and delete the rest! It’s an easy way to get started with minimizing your digital photo collection.

#2. Slowly

Minimalism doesn’t have to happen all at once. If you’re hesitant about taking the plunge, try dipping your toe in the water first. There’s no shame in taking your time with this process. For instance, rather than immediately emptying your wardrobe, start small by just removing articles of clothing that are not wearable anymore. Things that are damaged, for instance, or just don’t fit.

Another way to start slow is to set a number. Take a look at your bookshelf and resolve to get rid of just two books. This way, you can hold yourself accountable for minimizing while not pushing too far. Besides, chances are, you do have two books on your shelf that are just collecting dust.

Finally, it’s also possible to take things slow by doing them over time. Observe your closet over the course of six months, for instance, to see if there are articles of clothing that remain unworn. Keep an eye on your kitchen supplies to get a feel for what you’re using and what you’re not. Sure, that egg separator you got for your wedding looks useful, but if you haven’t picked it up, it probably has to go.

#3. Somewhat

Sometimes, minimalism is pitched as all or nothing (pun intended), but it doesn’t have to be that way. Just because I want to purge my closet doesn’t mean I’m beholden to purging my kitchen too. And that’s okay!

Instead of getting overwhelmed by everything that needs to be reduced, just pick one aspect of your life to declutter. Clear out your wardrobe and hang onto your books. Cut down on decorations but keep your clothes. Maybe even minimize a few aspects of your life while holding onto one or two.

Or, don’t go too extreme in any direction and work to cut down on the stuff in your life in general. Minimizing doesn’t have to mean getting rid of everything – it can mean simply stepping back. For instance, you can minimize just by avoiding buying more things. Or maybe you set a maximum number of clothes you want, which means purchasing a new shirt might mean getting rid of an old one.

The point is, there are plenty of ways to start on the minimalist lifestyle without pushing yourself too far outside your comfort zone. So, what are you waiting for? Try decluttering your life soon!

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Opinion Editorials

Your goals are more complicated than generalized platitudes, and that’s okay

(OPINION / EDITORIALS) When the tough times get going, “one size fits all” advice just won’t cut it. Your goals are more specific than the cookie cutter platitudes.

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Split paths in the forest like goals - general advice just doesn't fit.

‘Saw.’ – “Vulgar, uneducated wisdom based in superstition”, according to the good volunteer compilers at Wikipedia. See also: ‘aphorism’, ‘platitude’, and ‘entrepreneurial advice’. I’m not saying there’s no good advice for anyone anymore, that’s plain not true. SMART Goals are still relevant, there’s a plethora of cheaper, freeer, more easily accessible tutorials online, and consensus in April-ville is that Made to Stick is STILL a very helpful book.

But when I hear the same ‘pat on the head’ kind of counsel that I got as a kid presented by a serious institution and/or someone intending on being taken seriously by someone who isn’t their grade school-aged nephew, I roll my eyes. A lot.

“Each failure is an opportunity!” “Never give up!” “It’s not how many times you fall!”, yeah, okay, that’s all lovely. And it IS all very true. My issue is… These sunshiney saws? They’re not very specific. And just like a newspaper horoscope, they’re not meant to be (not that I’ll stop reading them).

Example: You’ve been jiggling the rabbit ears of your SEO for months, to no avail. No one’s visiting your site, there’ve been no calls, and the angel investor cash is starting to dip closer to falling from heaven with each passing day.

Does ‘don’t give up’ mean that you use your last bit of cash to take on an expert?

Or does ‘don’t give up’ mean that you go back to R&D and find out that no one actually WANTED your corncob scented perfume to begin with; algorithm tweaking and Demeter Fragrances be damned?

This is the thing about both your goals you make and the guidance you take—they have to be specific. I’m not saying your parents can put a sock in it or anything. I’m thrilled that I’m part of a family that’ll tell me to keep on keeping on. But as far as serious, practical input goes… One size fits all just leaves too much room for interpretation.

When you’re stuck, behind, or otherwise at odds with your growth, are you asking the right questions? Are you sure of what the problem actually is? Do you know whether it’s time to give up a failure of a business and ‘keep pushing’ in the sense of starting another one, or whether you’ve got a good thing on hand that needs you to ‘never say die’ in the sense of giving it more tweaking and time?

No one should have stagnant goals. A pool of gross sitting water is only attractive to mosquitoes and mold. ‘I wanna be rich’ as your business’s raison d’être is a setup for a story about the horrors of literal-minded genies, not an intention you can actually move upon. But that doesn’t mean you need to go hard the other way and get lost in a nebulous fog of easily-published aphorisms.

To be fair, it’s not as if saying ‘Ask the right questions’ is exponentially more helpful than your average feel-good refreshment article, since… This editorial column doesn’t know you or what pies you have your fingers in. But if I can at least steer you away from always running towards the overly general and into an attempt at narrowing down what your real problems are, I’ll consider this a job well done.

Save saws for building community tables.

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