This could be a long blog entry. Perhaps it will
apply to you and your situations right away. Or,
it might be something that does not happen often.
When it does happen, it can be paralyzing,
embarrassing and even leave a mental scar that
lasts for a long time.
Met this fine person, VT, at the career services
program of the ACS San Diego meeting this week.
In fact, she sent a nice note about her experience
today. In the interview, VT seemed to lose her
self control in the interview situation. She
admitted she was very nervous and did not
know what to do.
I encountered this with at least four professionals.
Each person presented different behaviors
that originated from different personal causes.
It is definitely one of the BIG things the ACS
does in the mock Interviewing sessions by
exposing every member who wishes an experience
of what an interview situation is like. Then, good
career consultants recognize the behaviors and
coach how each individual’s nervousness case
presents itself, explore possible root causes, and
coaches behaviors to manage the nervousness.
In fact, we never lose the anticipation, the pressure
of the situation, we only learn its manifestations
for us and how we can best ‘keep a lid on it.‘
Having a little pressure can, in fact, be helpful.
It keeps us from being too laid back or not
showing enough concern or interest.
CAUSES OF NERVOUSNESS
The feeling of anxiety and unpreparedness can be
a normal response to intimidating, stressful or
unexpected circumstances. Our bodies are
reflecting increases in hormones that are released
into our blood stream in anxiety presenting
SITUATIONS THAT TRIGGER NERVOUSNESS
Typical situations can be
when there is one or more people scrutinizing
or judging us, especially when a lot is riding on
our performance or our understanding of what
someone’s expectations of us are.
when we feel inadequate to respond well to
when we observe someone else being exposed
just before our turn, or we have been exposed in
a previous or similar situation
when it seems there is only one shot and high
People react physically in different ways
are feeling nervous. The following
are some of the physical changes that may
when you are nervous.
blushing and hot or cold flushes
perspiring and sweaty hands
breath odors and shallow breathing
rapid heart beat and cold hands
loss of focus or concentration
lightheaded and dizziness
It seems our bodies reveal more of what is going
on inside our heads than what we verbalize.
We can also speak more rapidly, and many times
too softly. We speak too quickly without giving
deliberate thought. We can be prone to quickly
forgetting what was asked or said. We do not
have “our head in the game.”
TIPS FOR HELPING TO MANAGE NERVOUS
FEELING AND GAIN CONTROL
Consider implementing some of the following in
combination to improve your interviewing (and
A. Mental preparation and control
Know what you are up against. Have some idea
what you will face and how you will face it.
Visualize your success. Anticipate both your
strong points and your weaknesses.
A. 1. Be aware of the ‘true stakes’. Some
nervousness can be attributed to “must ” do well,
caring too much and not being at your best in a
“one time only circumstance.”
If I do not do well now, it is all over and I am a
failure or let others down.
A suggestion is to perform an “attention switch”
where the emphasis is less on a rejection and more
on doing my “level best.” Other opportunities will
come up in the meantime.
A. 2. Many often underestimate themselves versus
the competition or the “representative person.”
Avoid your perceptions of factors and extrapolations
to yourself and your competition.
A. 3. Most people are unaccustomed to being judged
and evaluated on the spot by their thoughts, words,
actions and behaviors. It is an intimidating situation.
Being smart and being aware and alert to nonverbal
signals can be quite different. In situations like
interviews and presentations there is no replacement
for preparation and practice.
If you start early and have time on your side, find
many opportunities to develop interpersonal skills
to improve listening, audience analysis, observing
and building trust in others and having them trust
Mentally orient your thinking so that you behave
the way you desire and you visualize your success
then perform successfully.
Preparation reduces nervousness by increasing your
comfort level and building confidence that you
understand how you might respond to questions by
knowing typical questions, writing out answers after
researching the company and delivering your lines.
Think before you speak. Clarify questions so you
understand what is expected, rather than having
to back track and correct or expand after an
Consider pausing before speaking, thinking and
taking notes while others are speaking to gather
Know your material well.
B. Tips on physical elements to reduce
nervousness Watch yourself. Know that what
you do, you control, although that seems obvious.
The nontrivial thing is self observation.
Often, we do things instinctively. It is noteworthy
that a trusted mentor is a person who can observe
and point out foibles that we can monitor and
Things that we do that present nervous behavior
patterns are physically based, including talking
quickly, abrupt speech patterns, starting one new
sentence before the last one is finished, a higher
than normal pitch. Nervous twitches or mannerisms
clicking of pens, helicoptering of pens on finger,
It is possible to manage these outward signs, even
if the internal feeling is on high alert. In this,
forget trying to be relaxed and focus on not
B. 1. Expand your abdomen and breathe more
deeply. Erect body posture alone is good. The
added benefit of providing more oxygen for your
brain helps when you are on ‘high alert.’
Be in good physical shape. Get a good cardio
workout to train your body to deal with the higher
demand when under pressure.
Wear comfortable outfits that do not put pressure
on posture, breathing or diaphragm.
Another benefit of taking deeper breaths is
moderation in your speaking speed and pitch.
ACS mock interviews allow you to record yourself
in interview scenarios. In combination with a
career consultant’s comments mock interviews
simulates your actual performance.
B. 2. Plan to arrive in advance of the scheduled
time. Run a trial run the day before, have cell phone
on and call if you feel you will be delayed.
B. 3. If the interviewer pointedly asks
questions, don’t take things personally. She or
he may be assessing you on just that ability.
That may be one of the qualities being evaluated.
Chin up and ask for more. Have the physical
aspect under control, again.
B. .4. Be in a relaxed yet alert state. Do a
body and mind tuning workout and raise your
B. 5. Related to this is ensure you get enough rest
and eat well, since you want to have a store of
neurotransmitters read to release. Avoid caffeine
just before the interview. Keep your throat
Carbohydrates and proteins provide in turn
serotonin and eliminate B vitamins. Chocolate and
sunflower seeds are often favored.
Case studies 1.L-CH
He began his interview speaking fast in stachatto rhythm
knowing his stuff but breathing rapidly and shallow.
He gradually showed improvement throughout the
She began the interview after displaying nervous
behaviors arriving a couple of minutes late and
seemingly in a distracted way running for water.
She quickly lost control in the mock interview
and appeared not focused nor ready for an interview.
We carefully articulated the nonverbal signals
she displayed and asked her to find ways for
her to gain self control in the interview situation.
Interact with the admin, comment on situations
reduce the tension she feels at the beginning with
her initiating appropriate small talk.
He was an in control guy who had strong feeling
of self awareness and confidence. He observed
a challenging previous mock interview and more
than anything else had this influence his behavior.
We pointed out his unconscious rubbing of leg
and less confident demeanor. It was suggested
that he put blinders on for other situations and
focus on what he needed to do .
Recently, I listened to a couple of timely podcasts
about things we should not do in an interview and
things that are “red flags” in emails.
- Don’t ask what the company does. You need to
know by doing research on the company before the
- It is not a good sign to
say you ‘got fired‘ (especially without reason),
respond that you don’t know to a brain teaser
kind of question. (Often times asking clarification
questions and demonstrating how you solve
problems are what is sought.
- While our emotions are strong in an interview, it
is good to control the urges we might have to appear
desperate for the job.
Internet Presence (Emails, social networks, and posts)
- Avoid saying your employer’s name in any way
(it is easy to take out of context)
- Use care to “Reply All” in an email, should everyone
receive that email? Make sure.
- Avoid revealing any thing confidential in an email.
If so, send to authorized people. Then, understand it
is easy to go “viral.”
- Words to avoid (thank you A. Sklover)
human body parts
any inference to workplace violence
Words: anger, crippled, national origin, over-
weight, and sarcasm. So easy to take out of context.
We live and work in a litigious society.
In this week’s class, one card asked:
Do you have any books that you recommend
that have helped you?
Books I like are
Pier Forni, The Thinking Life, How to thrive
in the age of distraction, St. Martins’ Press, NY, 2011
T. Harford, Adapt: Why success always starts
with failure, Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, New
Roy F. Burmeister and John Tierney Willpower:
rediscovering the greatest human strength,
Penguin Press NY 2011
Steven Greenblatt, The Swerve- how the world
became modern, Norton and company ny, 2011
Michio Kaku, Physics of the Future: How
science will shape human destiny and our daily
lives by the year 2100, Doubleday, 2011
P. Forni, Choosing Civility 2010
Mary C. Gentile, Giving Voice to Values: How
to speak your mind when you know what’s right,
Yale University Press, New Haven, 2010
Sheena Iyengar, The Art of Choosing, Twelve,
New York, 2010
John C Maxwell, Everyone communicates,
few connect: what the most effective people
do differently, Thomas Nelson, Nashville 2010.
Douglas Merrill and James Martin, Getting
organized in the google Era, How to get stuff
out of your head, find it when you need it, and
get it done right, Broadway Books, NY, 2010
Barabasi Albert-Laszlo , Bursts: The hidden
pattern behind everything we do, Dutton 2010
Steven Johnson, Where good ideas come
from: The natural history of innovation,
Riverhead Books, NY 2010
John C. Maxwell, How successful people
think, center street NY 2009
John Freeman, The Tyranny of Email,
Scribner, New York 2009
Jeff Jarvis, What would Google do? WWGD
HarperCollins 2009, New York
Jonah Lehrer, How we decide, Houghton
Mifflin, Harcourt, Boston, 2009.
Pier Forni, The civility Solution: What to
do when people are rude
Malcolm Galdwell, Blink
G Smart and R Street, Who: The A method for hiring ,
Ballantine Books New York, 2008 ghSMART
Ori Bromfman and Rom Bramfman, Sway :
The irresistible pull of irrational behavior,
Doubleday NY, 2008
Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers Little Brown
and Co., NY, 2008
Margaret Visser, The gift of thanks: the
roots and rituals of gratitude; Houghton
Mifflin, Boston, 2008
Peggy Klaus, The hard truth about soft skills:
workplace lessons smart people wish they’d
learned sooner, Collins, 2007
Chip Heath and Dan Heath, Made to Stick,
Random House New York, 2007
H Gardiner, Five Minds for the Future,
Harvard Business School , Boston, 2007
Gary Hamel and Bill Breen, The Future of
Management Harvard Business School
Press, Boston 2007
Chris Anderson, The Long Tail: Why is the
future of business the selling more of less,
Hyperion New York, 2006
Peter Senge, The Fifth discipline: The art and
practice of the learning organization,
Currency Doubleday, New York, 2006
Jacqueline Whitmore, Business Class
etiquette essentials for success at work,
St. Martin’s press, New York, 2005
T H Davenport, Thinking for a Living:
How to get better performance and results
from knowledge worker, Harvard Business
School, Boston, 2005.
Howard Gardner, Changing Minds: the
art and science of changing our own and
other people’s minds, Harvard
business school press, Boston, MA, 2004
Leil Lowndes, How to Talk to Anyone
92 tips, McGraw Hill New York, 2003
Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Confidence How winning
streaks and losing streaks begin and end, Crown
Business NY, 2004,
Albert-Laszlo Barabasi, Linked: The new
science of networks Perseus Publishing
Cambridge, MA 2002
Stephen R. Covey, The 8th Habit,: From Effectiveness
Malcolm Gladwell, Tipping Point
Robert Leamnson, Thinking about teaching
and learning, Stylus, Sterling VA, 1999
John C. Maxwell, Talent is not enough
B. Joseph Pine and James E. Gilmore, The
Experience Economy: Work is Theatre &
Every Business a Stage by Harvard
Business School Press, Boston MA, 1999
Ken Blanchard and Terry Waghorn, Mission
Possible: Becoming a world-class organization
while there’s still time, McGraw-Hill New
Hal Urban, Life’s greatest lessons—20 things that
really matter, Hal Urban, Fireside Books 1993.
My mind was tickled by a piece in the
Economist about the significant shift in
LinkedIn.com individual job titles. The
article revealed that the website can
track which industries and job titles are
gaining and losing.
Interestingly, “adjunct professor” is the leading
title. Far more worthy tracking seems to be
evolving as the site has a long term view of
the people it serves and services it can provide.
Recently, I have met people who have joined
or been “coerced” into joining LinkedIn.com
and don’t have a use for belonging. Here is a
site offering suggestions.
Hannah Morgan has some terrific suggestions
for what to provide in your profile. We have
mentioned some before, but several seem
- you can turn off your broadcasts if you are
working and still looking
- avoid using the default public url; look
at the customize your public url
While not an advocate of all of the ideas, most
are right on target.
Most people who attend large technical meetings,
conventions or exhibitions are blown away by so
many things…technical sessions, early morning
breakfasts, long lines at lunch counters, buses to
different hotels and venues, meeting many new people,
being exposed to so many ideas, and on and on.
Interestingly, I was invited recently to provide some
help by giving a presentation at a conference– how to
get the most out of a technical meeting.
This is formally not something most students and post-
docs are given any help with. They often end up trying
to figure things out when they get there, attend as many
talks as they can, and are bushed when it is all over.
As the presentation offered, there are three parts to
attending a meeting
preparation and organization
Savvy conference and convention attendees, speakers too,
accomplish most of their “work” before they leave home.
A. What are your goals for the meeting
B. Study up on the conference
1. Establish a plan for the meeting
prioritize and schedule your time
[leave time for travel, discovery and “unexpecteds”]
review the presentation schedule
2. Who is going? Share your plan with others.
[Plan can include: presentations, new products and
demonstrations, meet people in field, conduct society
business, interviews, seek help, offer help, new contacts
new information and more.]
3. Lay-out and look. Where will sessions be held?
What is normal “look” for attendees and speakers? Be
ready for “planned” events.
Update your LinkedIn profile.
Think about and prepare your elevator speech. You will
be meeting many people.
Have your professional business cards ready to share.
Appointments: Think about “Lombardi time”
[on time = 15 minutes early]
C. Nonverbal and small talk planning and practice
E. “Committed” networking
[Please do not eat alone, attend the exhibition, be careful
about security and know where your valuables and badges
are. Attend “schmoozing” events.]
G. Ideas in your “idea notebook”
H. Thank you notes
I. Comply with commitments, emails, LinkedIn invitations
J. Understand the role of informal connections in your
professional life and career.
This article brings up the use of digital tools in
Ready to go to San Diego? Stop by and see me if
you have the chance in the career area.
Jonah Lehrer wrote a front page article in
the WSJ about how to be (creative)
innovative, inventive, solve a problem,
think of something (based on the fair-minded
comments to the article). It is
true he wrote and videocast that nearly
everyone can be creative by one measure
or another. It is a skill we learn, can
develop and find ways to improve and
very importantly work in teams to produce
something more moving, powerful and
The article offers some creativity ‘hacks’ as
he terms it. Blue or red walls spurring creative
thinking, using general descriptions, move
to a metropolis, Hmm…
The notion that one commenter provided that
one should find out what you do best and work
hard to refine it makes sense to me.
I also see the WSJ incorporating interview
videos in their articles, like one of Lehrer
in this piece.
Is this coming in C&EN and journals?
This is part of the series of thinking about
thinking, previous contributions.
Most people who have lost positions due to company
bankruptcy in this challenging economic period know
through PBGC that health care insurance costs can be
“PBGC payees who are 55 or older and enrolled in
a qualified health plan may be able to receive the
Health Coverage Tax Credit (HCTC) to help cover
a portion of the cost of their family’s monthly health
care premiums.” Source
Did you also know that “Fresh Start Penalty Relief”
provides a 6 month extension for 2011 taxes. My
colleague, S. Condra, forwarded the IRS note link
that will be of interest to readers. (Thanks, Shirley!)
The Economist luncheon podcast offered an
interesting projection on where jobs will
emerge in the future.
Three innovation areas and unexpected
developments I picked up from the discussion
1. America is emerging as a natural resource
rich area for “shale gas”. The huge quantity
of accessible reserves will mean it will be the
“Saudi Arabia of the 2030s.“
Many of the polymer and petrochemical based
industries that were off-shored over the last couple
of decades will re-emerge in continental America.
2. Fields of endeavors, industries that combine
with and manage artificial intelligence will grow
and fields that try to compete will face dire
straits. Creative ways of using AI, augmenting
science and engineering with AI and tactically
using AI is essential. 1
3. An evolution of management hidden in
plain sight that incorporates complex human
relationships and advocacy combined with
meritocracy is emerging. This calls for a
new breed of networking called committed
Met an interesting fellow at a meeting who
introduced me to ….
Take a break, smile for a moment with:
This informed me about several questions that have bugged
me through the years–
- use of humor in business presentations
- presentation use of analogies
In this week’s great questions our class submitted,
one class member’s “MUD CARD” asked:
“I would like to know more about asking effective
questions during public lectures and high profile
presentations.” How should a student present a
question during such lectures?
What thoughts do you have to help?
I asked this question of a mentor of mine, Joel
Shulman, who responded:
“My two cents on your question? It’s tough for a
student to ask a question after a high profile
presentation. The student doesn’t want to ask a
“dumb” questions that everyone in the room knows
the answer to. Unless the student is fairly sure
(s)he isn’t asking a trivial question, (s)he probably
should not ask one at all. If (s)he is confident that
the question is reasonable, the (s)he should refer
back to the part of the talk where the question arose
and just ask “what if” or “how did you”, etc.
An alternative would be for the student to try to
catch the speaker after the talk or during a break,
introduce her(him)self, compliment the speaker
for the talk, then ask the question.”
Joel and I are in agreement. A majority of
experienced presenters will recognize the situation,
thank the questioner and use the question to expand
or segue into an interesting sidelight or area.
The little that I add is:
- Sit in a visible location in the auditorium.
- Understand not only will people be listening to
your question, but also how you present yourself
and show respect to the speaker.
Consider not posing anything embarrassing. If
you disagree, pose it as a question for comment,
rather than challenging the person or the idea, like-
- “Could you please comment on…..”
- ”Could you provide an example of …..”
Offer a Compliment, then pose a question…