By Sharon Fleshman
Mindfulness programs seem to be increasingly prevalent on university campuses and in the workplace. In fact, Penn has offered a number of these programs for students and staff. It might be tempting to reduce mindfulness to sitting in a quiet space and breathing deeply, yet it can be much more.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, defines mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”
How can mindfulness be applied to the job search? Let’s consider the potential of being mindful as a practice that can enhance the interviewing process.
Prepare positive impact stories
One of the challenges that mindfulness confronts is our tendency to ruminate over past occurrences (usually negative ones) and to worry about the future. What if you could intentionally focus on times when you have made a positive impact on a person or situation? Form a mental picture of someone you helped and tell yourself the narrative of the person’s situation, your actions, and the results. Imagine that person’s response if someone else was asking them about you. Journaling your stories and reading them over would likely solidify your positive memories even more and pave the way for increased gratitude. These exercises can not only boost your confidence, but help prepare you to answer behavioral questions in an interview and show how your positive impact can continue in the future. Even “negative” events such as mistakes or conflicts can be reframed for focus on positive impact if you learned vital lessons and experienced growth as a result.
Press the pause button
Often the job search feels like a job in of itself, and for that reason, it is crucial to give yourself space to replenish. For more on this, check out my previous article. Though mindfulness is not limited to sitting quietly in a contemplative stance, regularly taking time to just breathe and embrace the silence can reap future benefits, even in interviewing. Briefly pressing the pause button during an interview can help you navigate thoughtful or challenging questions and decrease use of filler words (e.g., um, uh, you know, etc.)
Practice paying attention
Imagine a moment when you are talking with a friend on your phone, then you hear the chime from a text message, and then a notification for an Instagram post, and then…. Paying attention to one thing at a time has never been so challenging. Mindfulness exercises can help you focus your attention on activities as simple as breathing, munching on an apple, or watching a squirrel scurry up a tree. This practice allows you to be present in the moment, which will serve you well for interviewing. For example, it is wise to prepare for interviews by considering how you would answer anticipated questions, but you don’t want to be preoccupied with recalling scripted responses. With mindfulness, you can be prepared and interact with your interviewers in a genuine and engaging way.
Please note that a mindfulness program will be offered on-campus for Penn students in the fall. To further discuss how you can use mindfulness in a practical way to enhance your job search, feel free to set up a time to speak with a career advisor.