I’ve been a competitor my entire life. I thrive on the thought of a goal to work toward and the possibility of advancement. Because of this, any type of competition fuels my soul and motivates me to #crush it on a daily basis as I work toward achieving it.
However, in my early days (and by that I mean from age 5 til 22), no amount of prep work, tireless rehearsals or mock run thrus were enough to help me overcome the mental blocks that would set in right around performance time. It was bizarre and was something that caused a lot of regrets and disappointments over time from performances that just didn’t measure up to potential. As a competitive athlete growing up, my parents and coaches saw this as an area that needed improvement and sought out “mental coaches” and sports psychologists to help me overcome my own limitations when it came time to actually perform for the judges. I made significant progress but it was still something I struggled with well into my early twenties.
Fast forward to the age of 22, and I found myself in another competitive arena; the beautiful and sparkly world of pageantry. I had grown up admiring the amazing women that graced the stage each year at Miss America and longed for the opportunity to do so as well. The first three years I competed I was honored to be a semi-finalist but found that some of the same thoughts of self doubt and moments of performance anxiety kept creeping back in during prelims and as soon as I was called into the top 10 on finals night.
In 2006, I returned to the Miss Florida pageant for one last try. This time around I prepped even more so, eliminating areas of concern so that my mental mindset could be as strong as possible. Going into it I felt confident that I was prepared but anxious at the same time. As much as I tried to “keep my blinders on,” I was still worried about what everyone else was doing and how they prepared versus my own game plan.
Three days into pageant week, during a beautiful appearance luncheon, 9 contestants and 2 volunteers got food poisoning so bad that we were taken to the hospital. It was definitely not something I would wish on anyone but I am grateful that it happened to me because for the very first time the only thing I could focus on was how I was going to be able to compete and how badly I truly wanted to win. I didn’t have enough energy to worry about what anyone else was doing, how awesome their talent was, how killer they looked onstage, how great they said their interview went, or how many prelims they had won. IT DIDN’T MATTER. All I could handle and care about was making it through my areas of competition. It was honestly the first time that I didn’t pay attention to, or give any energy to, worrying about what anyone else was doing and it paid off tremendously. Every moment was dedicated to making sure 1) I didn’t pass out since I was still recuperating, and 2) that I was giving it my all and having fun onstage as opposed to the past where all I did was knit pick my performance and compare myself to others.
It. Was. Liberating.
While everything ended up working out beautifully and I accomplished a major life goal in the process, the overarching lessons were much more beneficial. Comparison truly is the thief of joy. If you are constantly sizing everyone up and tearing yourself down, you will not be able to ultimately reach your goals because by doing so, you will have empowered your competitor simply by allowing their influence to affect you.
Plain and simple - Don’t worry about what anyone else is doing. If you have “checked out” mentally before you have even “checked in” to the competition, it’s not going to end well. Focus on what you are doing and don’t psych yourself out of accomplishing your goals. Your mind is a powerful tool and one that can be super beneficial if you channel your energy in the right direction. It can also be incredibly detrimental if you allow self doubt to creep in. Surround yourself with positivity. Avoid negative chit chat at all costs. Keep those blinders on, your positive mantras going and envision yourself accomplishing everything you set out to do. While physical practice is necessary, the mental conditioning you do is critical. After all, if you don’t truly believe you are capable of accomplishing it, how will anyone else believe it?
You can do it!
Whether you are just beginning your job hunt, or need a refresher before your next big leap, here are 9 helpful tips to make sure you get the offers you've worked hard for and land the job of your dreams. From crafting your resume, to delivering the appropriate follow up...the beauty is in the details.
#1 LEAD WITH THE GOOD STUFF. Very rarely is someone’s interest peaked at the bottom of a resume page. Why? Because just as you would tune someone out who bores you, employers can easily glaze over lackluster resumes if they don’t grab their attention. Lead with what matters to them. And yes, this might mean that you have several variations of your resume based on the jobs you are applying for. Trust me, it’s worth the extra few minutes to cut/paste/rearrange in order of relevance to make it to the next phase.
#2 SPELL CHECK needs to be your best friend. The majority of resumes and cover letters are being distributed digitally these days. If the interviewer can open it a word doc and see the jagged red lines under typos, so can you! Take the time to edit and proof read your resume. Having a friend (preferably one who pays attention to detail) also read through it can be extremely beneficial.
#3 DON’T OVERSELL YOURSELF. While it’s understandable that you want to paint an amazing picture through a well-crafted resume so that it stands out from the rest, if you are dishonest about your accolades or abilities and it is discovered before, during or after the interview, say "bye bye" to the opportunity. Lying your way into a position is going to hurt you and eventually the company you are interviewing with. Plus, your professional reputation will follow you forever. Be honest about your abilities and accurately highlight your strengths.
#4 RESEARCH who you will be speaking with. I can’t begin to tell you how often I interview people who have done very little research about the company or about the people they will be interviewing with. It sounds like such common sense but at least 50% of first round interviews lead to me finding out that they have no clue. With nearly anything only a Google search away, this is inexcusable. When the interview is scheduled, always ask who you will be meeting with. From there, do your research. Many companies post their employees bios online or they can be found on LinkedIn. If you see you have a connection through a common contact on LinkedIn, reach out to that contact to learn more about the interviewer. Not only are you trying to make a great impression by being prepared, but this can help you learn if this company is even a good fit in the first place or if your potential new boss is a total nightmare to work for.
#5 PRACTICE your responses. There are only so many variations of “tell me about yourself” or “why are you a good fit for this company” that can be asked. Write down, or Google, common interview questions and make a bulleted list of the points you want to hit in your answers. Don’t try to memorize responses word for word, but rather focus on the points that you want to get across. If you try to repeat something “perfectly,” chances are your words will get mixed up and cause you to stumble through something that should come across as effortless. Record yourself on your phone and listen to it. While it’s hard to hear ourselves speak, it can be extremely beneficial to be able to listen and filter out the abundance of “ums” that sneak into our dialog. Please note that this says practice – not become a robot.
#6 GOOGLE YOURSELF. The first thing most employers do these days is turn to the Internet, and to be honest, we go right to the juicy stuff. While LinkedIn is lovely and serves a great purpose, it is geared toward professionals and your profile has likely been meticulously edited to showcase only what you want people to see. I look at Facebook, Twitter, Vine, YouTube, and anything else that might shine a true light on your character. If you make a habit of talking about your crazy happy hours and how hard it is to get through your work day because of it, or have bad mouthed the companies online that you have worked for in the past, chances are you won’t make it into the interview room. While it might feel good to vent or a good idea to share in the moment, it's probably not worth missing out on what may be a professional opportunity of a lifetime.
#7 EARLY IS ON TIME (and on time is late). Nothing will irritate someone who lives and dies by their calendar more than someone who doesn’t respect their time. It speaks volumes to the interviewer when someone is running behind. If there is a legitimate reason, please call ahead. Your rule of thumb should always be to arrive 15 minutes ahead of time. If you are interviewing over the Internet, test your connection and the system you are using prior to your actual interview time.
#8 LOOK YOUR BEST. Most importantly, get some rest. You should be fresh and sharp during your interview. Make sure you are in appropriate, comfortable attire that is well tailored. While running out to get a new power suit or outfit might sound great, make sure you actually try it on and practice sitting in it in front of a mirror to see how it looks from the interviewer’s point of view. Comfort is important because it will put you at ease. Also, breaking in your new shoes is critical as well. The last thing you want to do is slip because the soles aren’t worn in or stumble because your heels are too high. If one of your interviews is via Skype or FaceTime, present yourself as though you are in person, and for goodness sakes, clean up the area around you. If your environment appears messy, it will be a distraction and paint an unfavorable picture.
#9 PLEASE SAY THANK YOU. Craft the appropriate “thank you” correspondence in a timely manner. Reference a specific fact or occurrence from your interview to help refresh their memory and keep you fresh in their mind. Do this immediately, especially if they are trying to fill the position quickly. Just like it is important to proof read your resume, proof read your thank you notes and emails as well.
Best of luck in your next interview! With hard work, a good attitude and a few Google searches, anything is possible!
P.S. If you would like more information on how to land your next dream job, join my mailing list!
For the better part of a decade I had the honor and privilege of running successful coaching businesses, both independently and as a partnership with one of my best friends (and yes, we are still best friends!) When people think of “pageant coaching,” most envision Toddlers and Tiaras, Honey Boo Boo, or the girls on TV that bomb their final questions regardless of the fact they knew ahead of time they would be drilled on controversial topics.
While drama and kiddie pageants attract the attention of mainstream media, I assure you that we never crossed over to what I consider the sensationalized side of pageantry. The main focus of both businesses was 13-27 year old women that were primarily competing in the Miss America or Miss USA organizations. These were extremely dedicated, intelligent and driven young women who were motivated (or highly encouraged) at a young age to strive for success. A standard client profile was a young woman in her late teens or early twenties who nailed high school and was super involved on campus and in her community. Our focus was to take each of our clients from good to exceptional. No carbon copies or “cutting and pasting” allowed since most of them ended up competing against each other at some point.
My business partner and I dug down deep with each of them through discovery and one-on-one sessions to figure out who they truly were and what they dreamed of accomplishing, far beyond any pageant competition. We focused on confidence and what they needed to do to get out of their own way in order to mentally prepare for success. Simply stated, if you don’t believe it can happen or that you are worthy of it happening-- it won't. We always said “life is bigger than a pageant” and those who knew who they were, what their strengths were and had a vision for their life would be the winner every single time.
And we were right. For those that never went on to win the big, grand overall title they had once hoped for (because let’s face it, there can only be one winner and their age eligibility is limited) they still went on to accomplish amazing things by channeling and tailoring the lessons they learned throughout the process. We grilled them on interview questions ranging from politics and current events to pop culture and issues related to their community service platform of choice. Everything was fair game and it was our job to work through the challenges during our sessions, rather than letting them get stumped onstage or in an interview room with the judges. Additionally, both the platform and overall personal development exercises helped to identify a plan of action for them for their future. More than 90% of the time was spent on who they were as a person and how they could articulate it, not how they looked. We focused on substance – not superficial – which set us apart significantly. We helped them identify, create and develop their own personal brand which led to confidence and clarity for each of our clients. They learned how to “sell themselves” and make the judges believe they were the winner the moment they stepped into the interview room. Because of the intensity of the coaching they had been through, job interviews or public speaking presentations at work or school were now something they enjoyed, rather than feared.
Taking time to decompress from pageant coaching allowed me the opportunity to appreciate everything I had gained through my training and through what I had coached literally hundreds of clients to do over the years even further. I was fortunate to land a position in a company that is growing exponentially. I was the second person hired in an organization that, only two years later, has more than 500 employees. To say it has been a whirlwind is an understatement. I have been blessed beyond measure to continue my own professional development as promotions have pushed me to expand my knowledge base, increase my capacity, learn about things I never knew existed, and oversee and train a talented team of individuals who never allow a dull moment during my day.
Overseeing all aspects of our corporate branding and the business development team for a national healthcare organization is an honor, privilege and huge undertaking. Not only is it my responsibility to ensure that the organization’s brand is well developed, authentic and always represented accurately, it is my job to make sure that everything people hear and see about the company is first class. My team of ten superstars are the faces and voices that represent our company across the country. They are on the front lines, not only promoting the company, but also working with families and loved ones who need treatment. They have to be prepared for anything and they have to lead with compassion and empathy for the various situations that they will find themselves working in. They truly save lives every day and look amazing doing it.
So much of the training that they have experienced has been adapted from what I used to do with my former clients. Goal setting, strategic planning, presentation skills, professional development, and sales training make up a huge portion of what my team experiences. I give so much credit and appreciation to those that spent time working with me over the years because there is no way that I would be able to do what I do today had I not had these experiences. For me, constructive criticism is a game changer. Those that resist it or have a hard time hearing it never grow. Staying in your comfort zone prevents you from experiencing life-changing moments. Why would anyone want that?!?
One of my favorite things to tell my coaching clients was “don’t be afraid to be amazing” and that still holds true today. Think about it: fear alone can prevent you from trying new things. Worrying how others may perceive you is crippling. Are we always going to be successful when stepping outside of the box and trying something new? No, but isn’t it a heck of a lot better to know that you tried than to wonder “what could have been?”
These lessons are transferrable to every day life. Whether it’s winning a title, a dream job, getting a killer opportunity or simply working on personal development, change and success require you to get away from comfort. My challenge to you is to be amazing every day. Win at each task that you set out to accomplish and for goodness sakes, shake things up a bit! Leave your mark – be a game changer – and never regret putting yourself out there. As Wayne Gretzky said, "you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take."
Go for it! I believe in you!
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At the ripe ole age of 12 years old, my coach sat me down at the end of a practice session and explained the importance of staying focused on what I was working toward. As a competitive athlete quickly approaching my teenage years, it was critical that she help me keep my eye on the prize.
She explained the importance of goals not only for competition, but for life. That New Year’s Eve I was instructed to reflect back on the success of the year and to identify what I wanted to accomplish during the next 365 days. She asked that I create a business card size list with short-term goals on one side and long-term goals on the other. I was then to laminate the card and keep it in my wallet. I of course abided by her request not realizing that this would become something I would continue for the rest of my life. It helped to provide incredible focus and clarity. Every time I would open my wallet and see the card I would be reminded of what I was working on. Studies show that you are 42% more likely to achieve goals that you write down than those you do not. Articulating your desires is powerful and putting your goals in writing is solidifying your hopes and aspirations in writing.
That laminated card was not only a good reminder whenever I would happen to see it, it also was a source of inspiration and strength when I was having a harder time remaining focused or when I would hit a roadblock. Back then, my goals were dedicated to excelling in the competition arena and at school. They evolved throughout college and have become critical with each new venture and opportunity I have taken on. My husband and I even create “Team Goals” of things we want to accomplish together during the year. Whether it’s increasing savings, paying off a student loan or being able to go on a dream vacation together, we put it in writing and work toward it together.
Goal setting has always been an integral part of the coaching process in my own coaching businesses and in my daily role with my team as a VP of Business Development. As a coach, every time I would meet with a new client, I would go through a goal-setting exercise so that everyone was on the same page. With my team, we establish weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual goals along with the necessary objectives so they can become a reality. I firmly believe that when you put it out in the universe, establish the action steps needed to complete them and execute the plan, you will be successful. It’s my responsibility to help them remain diligent and driven regardless of the challenges faced along the way. Tweaking their action steps and celebrating each victory helps their motivation remain positive throughout the year.
I encourage you to carve out time this Holiday season to reflect and be grateful for the things you have succeeded at and crossed off your goal list during 2015, and give sincere thought to the dreams, aspirations and ambitions that you want to accomplish or put in motion for 2016. I hope that you give the goal card a shot this year! I promise that if you remain determined and focused on executing your goals they will happen! Save your cards from year-to-year as a memento of your hard work and perseverance. My wish for each of you is that you achieve more than you ever thought possible in 2016 and that you can’t wait to repeat this exercise again next year!
I believe in you! Happy New Year!!!
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