There is nothing more crucial to landing your first job or advancing in your career than keeping, and consistently projecting, a positive attitude.
And not only during the interview process, where- of course- it is important to make a positive impression. It is critical from start to finish in your job campaign. Having a great resume, networking, and preparing good answers to potential interview questions are important as well, but what gets you that next opportunity is convincing others that you represent a great catch! And, ultimately, convincing potential employers that you will make a positive contribution to their organization. Unless you have a birthright to move into the family business, you will need to persuade others, based on only a interactions with you and perhaps some level of reference checking, of the real value you offer.
So why is being positive even more important than having the right skills to do the job? You should consider having the right skillset as the price of entry for consideration as a potential candidate, but know that it alone will not get you the job. More often than not, during a job search, there is more than one candidate who fits the bill as it relates to skills. Typically, the person who gets the job is the one who brings an intangible extra to what they do. When you ask employers which intangibles rise to the top of their list, a positive, can-do attitude is almost always mentioned first. The main reason is that positivity often goes beyond one’s own work and extends to those around them. Positive people bring out the best in others, and a critical mass of positive people can lift the performance of an entire organization.
The best way to demonstrate your positivity is to create a vivid picture in others’ minds of what it would look like were you to become a member of their team. You should look to create this vivid picture through every interaction you have throughout the recruiting process. Starting with the inquiry by their recruiting team to set up the first phone interview, you should exhibit sincere enthusiasm for the role: “I truly appreciate hearing from you, and am excited over the prospect of being considered for this role…” Then, before you actually take the phone interview, prep yourself by thinking positively about the potential new role. When the call comes, sit up straight and lean slight forward as you would do if you were engaged an in-person interview. Also, smile at appropriate times when answering – believe it or not, it comes through the phone in your tone!
In addition, all your answers to interview questions should have a positive flavor. Even for questions probing at negative aspects, like “tell me about time when your results were disappointing.” You should answer such questions highlighting your learnings from these less-than-optimal situations and how you ended up applying those learnings in a future setting. Making something good out of something bad is the ultimate demonstration of a person who behaves with a positive attitude.
Now, before closing this topic, let’s be sure to consider a couple of nuances. You should not equate being positive with being a “Pollyanna,” or someone who is always, excessively cheerful. Appropriately positive people bring serious thinking to serious issues. They are forward thinking, and they energize their team to achieve meaningful results.
Additionally, acting positive is not enough. Being positive is a mindset – not an act. If you act positively, but do not truly feel positive, it will become evident. And more importantly, pretending to be positive when you are not will drain your energy, whereas truly being positive energizes yourself and those around you.
Finally, a few words of wisdom on becoming a more positive force:
Look forward, not backward
Think solution, not problem
Engage others in forming the solution to spread the sense of accomplishment