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Thursday, January 22, 2015

"Stay calm, relax, take a deep breath." - Presence

When an interviewer sits down across from a recent college graduate (your son or daughter) and prepares to evaluate their capabilities for the job and their fit with her company, chances are she has already made 70% of the decision. They will have taken in the way your son is sitting, how he is dressed, the expression on his face, maybe even the way he walked in or how he stood up when the interviewer came into the room. We can lump all of these observations (conscious or unconscious) under the purview of presence.

Looking up presence in Webster I was surprised at how many different meanings there are.  The one I was looking for though is: the bearing, carriage, or air of a person; especially: stately or distinguished bearinga noteworthy quality of poise and effectiveness.

Considering the impact presence has on our children's chances for getting a job offer, we should spend at least a little time helping them to improve. One of the challenges with presence though is that it is not just one thing. Presence covers a whole range of physical, verbal, and mental attributes.

With younger kids, working on the physical is a good start. It is also something that most parents are already suffering through. Raise your hand if you ever told your 5 year old to "sit still" or ""look at me when I am talking to you" or "stand up straight!" Now raise your hand if you have said these same things to your 15 year old? OK, everyone can put their hands down it was a rhetorical question, I know you have all done it. Now keep doing it and add the occasional explanation as your kids get old enough to understand. For example, crossing your arms when speaking with someone makes the other person feel that you are not accepting or listening openly to the conversation.  It is a negative posture.  If you want to be accepted, then open your arms.

"Stay calm, relax, take a deep breath." These words are ones I have used with my kids but also with candidates when helping them to prepare for their upcoming interviews. No matter how prepared you are, if you are sweating buckets and stumbling over your sentences the interviewer is going to walk away with the impression that you are lacking confidence and cannot handle stress.  There are too many stress management techniques around for me to go into each of them now so take some time to research and help your kids develop methods that work for them.

Pay attention, make eye contact, respond to the interviewers non-verbal clues - ("read the air" in Japanese). These are all examples of mindfulness. It shows that our kids are in the moment and focused on the task at hand which at this particular moment means concentrating on the interviewer. I wish I had a secret formula to share with other parents on how to teach this to our kids but it seems that like so many other things our kids learn from us it has to come from countless repetition and being the role model for proper behavior.

Manners are an indication that your son will be respectful of other people and your daughter will not cause problems in the office. Important issues for an interviewer to consider. Combine this with basic hygiene like brushing teeth before going into the meeting or using deodorant and your son's image will go up.

Finally, smile. Unlike wolves, where smiling is another way of showing how sharp your teeth are just before going for the jugular, we humans tend to find smiles friendly and welcoming.

In case you were worried that all this effort would be a waste since it only matters in the job interview, think again. A positive personal presence will contribute time and again to your son's or daughter's advancement in the workplace.  It is worth the time spent understanding it and teaching our children about presence.

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