Connect to Your Own Wisdom

by Joseph Kwon in


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I love it when a junior person asks me for career advice. It’s not because it makes me feel special or because I enjoy mentoring (though both are true). It’s because it helps remind me of fundamental lessons that I might otherwise forget.

As we gain more experience and experience more success, there is an nefarious trap. We run the risk of becoming arrogant and in the process forgetting the fundamental lessons we learned along the way. We have the scars so best to keep the hard-earned wisdom.

Recently, a connection asked me for advice on interviewing:

Hi Joe,

What values and traits do you find management and hiring professionals within your firm look for most in new associate candidates?

Regards,

J

It would have been a lot easier to just shoot back a glib, stock answer (drive, ethics, people skills, etc.). Instead, I stopped for a moment and really thought about it. I was surprised by my answer and thankful that the question had given me the opportunity to reflect on and reaffirm the fundamental lesson.

Great question. I've interviewed a ton over the years and failed to get the job many times so I'm sharing from my experience. In hindsight I look at this question very differently. One can't actually answer it in a helpful way because the lever you are looking for is something else entirely. Instead, I'd ask what skills do you need and what preparation should you do to strongly connect with each interviewer in front of you? And once you are connected, how can you lead them to believe (honestly) that hiring you will be the best outcome for them, their group, and the organization? They are the protagonist, not you. That's what gives you the best chance.

When interviewing, if you treat the interviewer as the protaganist and communicate how you will help them succeed, you greatly increase your chances. Think negotiation, not performance.

If you have any stories about when teaching someone else benefited you, I’d love to hear about it!

Next post next Saturday, 6:30 a.m.