photo-for-blogA few weeks ago I found myself sitting between two supervisors for a Fortune 100 company on a rather long plane ride. Our conversation drifted to what they looked for in top candidates after I shared my passion for helping college students, new graduates, and those seeking their first professional position prepare for job interviews. After a few minutes, one of them said he hired desire. We all understood what he meant; he hired candidates who could demonstrate the drive to be successful.

After landing, and returning to the real world, some of my first client contacts were with people who found their jobs discouraging and themselves far from driven to be successful. Their drive was to survive. Their goal is to find a job where they would be inspired to be successful.

As an interview coach, I know on many of the questions during an interview focus on past performance. So how does the candidate, who dreads their current job, honestly answer questions about job success, adaptability, teamwork, and dealing with challenges in their current job in a positive way? How do they demonstrate the desire to be a top performer? My answer, as you seek a new job, practice soft skills (interpersonal communication, organization, adaptability, and teamwork), so you have real answers to questions designed to showcase your “desire.”

Set and achieve your own work goals: Become your own supervisor. Set your weekly goals. Record your successes, what went well, and what you would change in the future. You should quickly have a positive example of your organizational skills to share enthusiastically.

Improve/build working relationship: Having problems relating to your supervisor? A coworker? A few simple changes in your interaction with this person could provide an opportunity to practice your teamwork skills and have an accomplishment based response to questions about working with others or dealing with a difficult person. What changes can you make? Start with a positive “Hello,” each morning. Say “Thank you” when that person does something helpful. Avoid making negative comments to or about them. Find at least one thing you can complement them on each day. Even if they don’t change the way they treat you, you have practiced effective methods of being a contributing member of a team and interpersonal communication skills.

Change your environment: Small changes in your environment can help make a dreaded job more bearable, and it is a great way to demonstrate your adaptability. It can be as simple as changing to a coffee mug that makes you laugh or putting pictures of family or role models on your desk. Making your workspace more “fun” demonstrates an ability to initiate change to improve performance and morale.

As you look for your next position, use your current job as an opportunity to develop and practice the soft skills your next employer will see as examples of the desire to be a top performer.

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