Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Where will you be in 5 years? Don’t know? Me either

What do you see yourself doing five years from now?

It's an innocent enough question. It's also the kind of query that is common fare for most job interviews these days. In fact, if you do Google search for the five most asked job interview questions it lands right near the top of most of the lists.

There was a time in the not-so-distant past that this was a valid job interview question.

Back in the pre-recession days, you set your career compass on the road ahead and the milestones practically fell into your lap. It usually started with: 1) Land first job; 2) Get job that pays more money; 3) Move up the ladder to a job with more responsibility; 4) Become the boss; 5) Retire.

But these are the days of reinvention. They are also the days when the marketplace has folks on steps three and four competing with those on the first step for jobs.

But as sure as anything, people doing interviews are still working from the same playbook. I've been asked more times than I care to recall what my goal is, or where do I see myself in five years?

In all honesty, if the past five years are any indication of the next five, I have little doubt there is no way to predict where any of us will be. My pat answer is that I want to be relevant. Throughout my career, I've been able to change roles and jobs to meet a variety of situations.

I'd love to still be doing website content work. Beyond being relevant in my field of interest, I have few other goals.

From here the interview playbook is pretty much predictable. For those of you who haven't been down this path before I spell them out for you.

Tell me about yourself. For this one you want to have the elevator resume ready to go. They just want the highlights, so think of it as an interview that only lasts as long as the average elevator trip.

Next is the old, "Why should we hire you?" It also comes in many forms including, "Why are you right for this job?" or "What distinguishes you from other candidates?"

This is a tricky one when you think about it. If you've made it into the room for an interview, obviously you've got a skill set they are looking for. And everybody always says they're willing to give 110 percent. Some folks even go the intangibles route as in "I've got skills that are tough to put on a resume but will add value to the company."

From here the list usually goes to "What do you know about the company?" "Tell me about a time you failed, or how did you recover from XYZ?" And then there is the "Why did you leave your last job?"

These are all pretty good questions, and you won't go to a formal interview without hearing most of them.

The other day, however, I had a conversation with a person who was looking to make a hire. It was part of the interview process, but instead of going off the script, we just talked. We threw topics out there and sounded our way through them.

Back in the day when I was involved in hiring, I did the same thing. I found people will tell you more about themselves in a conversation then you'll ever get from a list of standard questions.

When Worlds Collide

I knew it would happen one day, but I thought the collision of new technologies would be more of a figurative gesture than the literal collision of three technologies in my own home.

But like many things in life, things happen whether we’re ready for them or not.

It was a typical summer morning with my three fellow home dwellers doing their usual stuff. My wife was walking around with ear plugs in and messing with the tiny screen of her MP3 player.

Our oldest son was plugged into his smart phone watching reruns of something I’m sure was truly important.
And our youngest had his face buried in his tablet and headphones snugly attached to his head.

All three had their eyes firmly affixed to their respective devices when it happened. The three of them charged right into each other in the confluence of three hallways. Boom — well, almost boom.

And that’s pretty much how the technological boom of this era is going. Everyone has his or her own preferred techy gadget to fill their needs, whether it’s music, Web browsing or the latest reruns.

Recently I heard someone on local NPR reflect on the usage habits of his own children as a core sampling of user habits. It brought to mind how many times I had done that myself over the course of the last two years.

My logic has always been, if you want to stay ahead of the curve, just watch the way teens are doing the new technology. You can learn a lot from these native users as they charge bravely ahead with few fears.

For all the countless blog posts I get about the use of Facebook, Twitter and other social media, these primary source users — living right under our own roofs — are the key to solving the mystery of cultivating tomorrow’s Web consumers.

I had to agree with the person on NPR, these native users of smart phones and tablets are completely, or at least partially, bypassing televisions and computer screens to get their information and interact with friends.

They seem perfectly happy to work in the 2-inch square medium of the smart phone and on-screen keyboard. Their fingers don’t hunger for the tactile response of a real keyboard.

In the end, however, for as many episodes of “The Office” and “Top Gear” I’ve watched my group watch on their tiny mobile screens, I’ve yet to see them pull up a television newscast or a newspaper. Which leads me to think this target has yet to meet this market.