Real Answers to Interview Questions

Interviews are the grunt of necessity for many twenty-somethings, and even once we successfully get a job, most of us will one day have to do it again. I have met a few strange individuals who love the challenge an interview presents, but beneath the surface I’m sure they also feel frustrated if they don’t get the job and wonder about how they should have answered that one terrible question.

I stressed my way through a lot of interviews in the last year. Some of them went well, others were a free-fall where the parachute of my brain just never opened. Most of them ended with my head swirling because I couldn’t remember what I said versus what I was thinking or what the interviewer said to me versus what the subtext I was trying to read from what they said. Sounds fun right?

For your amusement today, and in honor of a recent successful interview that has landed me a new job, I thought I would share with you the real thoughts happening when I’m asked common interview questions. Thanks to multiple career seminars that brainwashed me into analyzing every moment of this process, I have a feeling I’m not the only person who gets jumbled thinking all of these things before I come up with my “presentable” answer.

Q: Describe yourself in three words

A: What three words are you looking for?

Q: What are your goals for your career? / Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

A: Perhaps by then I will understand how health insurance works. Besides that, I have no clue. And seriously, when you were my age, were you right about where you would be five years later? THEN LEAVE ME ALONE.

Q: Tell me about a time when you had to juggle multiple tasks at once.

A: This interview comes to mind. I’m trying to juggle a professional appearance (sit up straight!), read your mind to anticipate how I should answer, and not look like a deer in the headlights. How am I doing?

Q: What are some of your strengths and weaknesses?

A: Do you want the real answer or the “these are my weaknesses phrased in a way that makes them look like strengths” answer?

Q: What past experience do you have that qualifies you for this position?

A: Didn’t I already write that in my cover letter? What are those things for anyways?!

Q: Why do you want this job?

A: I know I had some really good reasons in my head… but now I am somehow surprised by this question and my tongue can’t move… does income count as a reason?


As you can see most of my responses are simply more questions. After all, there is nothing like job searching to make you cross-examine your entire identity and worth!

What were some of your best or worst interview experiences?
If you were totally honest, how would you respond to these questions?

Post-Grad Life: 5 Things I’m Learning

It has been almost 9 months since I graduated from college. My mind staggers at that number, wondering how time evaporated and the pool of my uncertainty remains. Wasn’t I supposed to have life figured out by now?
We were all secretly scared to death about what came next. But so far we have survived. To The Flood: I miss you all.

We were all secretly scared to death about what came next. But so far we have survived. To The Flood: I miss you all.

A friend once described post-grad life to me as being similar to allergies. It’s not a full-fledged sickness, it just irritates and sniffles its way until you feel fuzzy. Some days you almost don’t know it’s there. Then the wind picks up. And there is no Claritin clear answer to solve it.

Of course there are still valuable lessons in a season such as this. Here are a few I’ve picked up on:

1. 40 hours at one job is a lot
After sixteen years of schooling, most college seniors think 40 hours a week will be a piece of cake. However, college kept us busy with a varied schedule full of multiple classes or tasks each day, so sitting at a desk for more than two hours is not an easy adjustment.

At the very least, we were also thrilled by the concept of going to work, then coming home and leaving it all behind with no more homework to tie us down. But that brings me to my next point…

2. Insurance, repairs, and groceries are the new homework
If you are lucky, you job doesn’t suck all your energy out of you. For many of us though, we haven’t found the dream job yet and by the end of the day it is a chore just to cook dinner. These days if I get one of my to-dos done per day and eat at least one fruit or vegetable I’m satisfied.

Sure I don’t have to write a paper or read several chapters, instead I’m trying to figure out renters insurance and calling the landlord about my freezer that won’t freeze or the mold developing on all the windows. After that comes laundry, and groceries, and maybe an hour to decompress through mindless screen staring. Sure, most of us had to do those things in college too, but free time is not necessarily more frequent in the working world.

3. The guidelines of friendship morph into something new.
For 16 years my friends were people I saw every day in classes or at least on campus. Now my friends are scattered across the country and we have to learn what it looks like to communicate across distances.

Even for those people who keep living with friends or live in relative proximity, your community is now intersected by work and varied responsibilities. There is no guarantee on how long you will be in the same place with those people. Despite the way friendship worked in school, you can still have a best friend that you are lucky to see once a year. Phone calls, skypes, and texting become the norm, reminding you that technology does have wonderful benefits beyond sharing cat pictures across the internet.
4. The future only becomes larger
In the months leading up to graduation, the future in my mind was this bulbous, burgeoning question mark that seemed endless. I dreaded it, lost slept over it, and eventually pretended to be at peace with it. I made a plan for the foreseeable aspects because thankfully I had some milestones to get me through the first six months.

Now that those markers are long behind me, the future looks like Rainbow Road – both beautiful and terrifying and full of curves I am bound to fall off of. There isn’t a winter or summer break at the end of the tunnel. Time becomes more abstract and the calendar devolves into something unrecognizable. Because seriously – when does spring actually start if there is no spring break?

5. Life and work don’t look perfect right away – THIS IS OK.
Despite my confident declarations that I would do any job to pay the bills for now, the reality of that life has left me deflated and disillusioned. I succeeded at getting myself a full-time, salary job but quickly lost myself in a toilet bowl of doubt about whether I could actually do it. On the surface we question our abilities, but at the core the real dilemma is about our purpose—what meaning does my life have in this job? How long will it be until I find some semblance of meaning? How do I get there at all?

For some reason we feel rushed and pressured to have our lives figured out with a neatly planned career path, if not by graduation than at least relatively soon afterwards. In reality, this only happens for .01% of people.

The other day my roommate came home from her nannying job and told me that one of the twins she takes care of had a meltdown after his sister finished her homework before him. He spiraled to a place of “I’m never going to finish” and “I can’t do it.” She comforted him and said “You’ve done this before, it is just addition and subtraction problems. Your sister had different homework, that’s why she finished earlier.” This is what all post-grads need to remember: WE ALL HAVE DIFFERENT HOMEWORK. Don’t compare yourself to other people, thinking they got better jobs or have more friends or seem to shower more often. Your homework for this stage is not the same as theirs, and all you need is to return to the basics to do your best. It is just addition and subtraction, figuring things out one step at a time.

Also, here’s a secret I learned from multiple people who are 20 years or more ahead of us: it took them anywhere from 2-15 years to get to a job they actually like, and some are still trying new things! That’s the kind of motivational poster they need in career development offices.

Long story short: post-grad life can be messy and confusing, with a high level of change and a low amount of concrete answers. I’ve stopped aiming for the mirage of perfect and have accepted that my new goal is to collect experiences, good or bad. The hardest part is simply being nice to yourself along the way.

What have you learned about post-grad life?
To the adults: when does it get better?

A Subacute Future / Coming Soon on the Blog

According to my brilliant doctor sister-in-law, my anxiety over the future is what the medical community might call “subacute.” Besides the fact that I love having a new term to label it by, I also thought it was an apt description.

From what I understand (in my limited capacity for medical terminology) an “acute” problem is immediate and at the initial stages of an infection or disease. That problem becomes “subacute” when it lingers longer than expected and is no longer an immediate threat, but it still looms in the background.

So although I’ve been increasingly anxious about finding a job and my lack of a concrete plan for the future, it is subacute because I actually do have a plan for the next month and half. Acutely, I will be leaving Albuquerque in five days, driving home to San Diego, spending a few days packing, flying to Chicago, catching a ride to Ohio for my friend’s wedding, then flying out the next day to spend a full month in Norway and Sweden (which has it’s own crazy itinerary).

These do count as concrete plans, but I think their haphazard nature reduces my feeling of security, which then makes the unplanned stretch afterwards feel urgent with anxiety. On top of that, the news never ceases to distress me further with depressing stories about the injustice and racism in Ferguson, our never-ending interference in the Middle East, and the death of Robin Williams (oh captain my captain!).

I am working on accepting that this is simply a condition of a broken world and the trials of post-grad life. Packaged together they make one disturbing couple. I wrote about this at the beginning of the summer (here), but now that my time off is coming to an end it is hard to maintain a posture of hope and relaxation. I like having plans, but my future is out of my control for the time being (unless you can find someone willing to hire a person who can’t start till October).

Post-grad is teaching me how to focus on the acute part of life, enjoying whatever is right in front of me and letting the future unfold on its own. Unfortunately, I’m a rather obstinate student who doesn’t approve of the current teaching methods. Eventually, hopefully, I will get over it.

Until then, I have a couple of funsie items (the word “funsie” is courtesy of a favorite professor of mine) planned for the blog to close out the summer before I take my hiatus to Scandinavia. First, since this week is my last in Albuquerque, I will be doing a New Mexico recap. Tune in for   the variety of oddities I’ve found in this strange, strange place. This is the (tentative) plan:

  •      Monday 8/18 – The City of Albuquerque: Restaurants, Activities, and the Unexplained
  •      Tuesday 8/19 – Albuquerque’s Landscape: The Sandias, the desert, and monsoons
  •      Thursday 8/21 – National Parks and Monuments: Carlsbad Caverns, White Sands, The Petroglyphs
  •      Friday 8/22 – Concluding Thanks and Goodbyes
Check back this week to see posts about my Albuquerque adventures, including a trip to this dark place that resembles my fears about my future... just kidding, kind of :)

Check back this week to see posts about my Albuquerque adventures, including a trip to this dark place that resembles my fears about my future (sharp, ominous, with large scary impediments that almost look like Chewbaca on the far right)… just kidding, kind of :)

After that, probably not the next week but maybe the week after, I am planning a Book Week to report on and discuss all the books I’ve read this year (see the page 2014 Reading List for a preview). More details on that coming soon.

Lacking confidence, like many other writers and post-graduate students, I never cease to question what the point of this blog is or why I should bother to continue writing on it. Nonetheless, I continue. Perhaps the reason is related to the lack of consistency in my life right now, and this blog is one of the few things I can control. Another reason is that I can’t deny my desire to write, even if no one is reading it. We all have our own methods of adjusting to change and the outlet that helps us to re-center. Mine is writing. It is an acute part of my life, regardless of the other subacute things going on. We all deserve such an outlet, I’d love to hear about what yours is. In the meantime, if you do bother to read these things I write, I hope you know I appreciate your presence.

Sometimes you just need to take life one day at a time. I’m not always good at it, but maybe one day that won’t be the case.

When You Don’t Leave the House All Day

The car, the front door, and even shoes, are being neglected by me.
This summer has provided me with many days where I don’t need to leave the confines of my brother’s house (where he and my sister-in-law have been kind enough to let me crash for the summer) and instead cocoon myself into its barriers. The house itself is not overly large, so a day spent inside is mostly spent between one or two rooms. I wake up at the early, but not too early, hour of 7:00 am. A shower is sometimes in order, or maybe not, and a bowl of frosted shredded wheat gives me enough fiber to support an activity level I will barely reach. I also maintain some social contact when my boyfriend, my brother, and my sister-in-law return from working hard all day. It helps to not live alone in these situations.
Though there may be downsides to not leaving the house as often, I have gained many glimpses into the interior world, this place where full-time writers, stay-at-home parents, and my fellow unemployed spend so much time.
It is both a chasm and a bridge, a trap and a doorway. Loneliness does lurk in this place, and more exercise would probably be beneficial. But the lure of time alone gives my introverted self space to simply be, something many of us neglect. We live in a culture of doing, not being, where we could all probably benefit from days where we don’t leave the house. In the wise words of April Ludgate (Aubrey Plaza, Parks and Recreation):
Staying home all day also allows me to find gems like this.

Staying home all day also allows me to find gems like this. (courtesy of Buzzfeed)

In the past I would never embrace such a seemingly lazy perspective. I have always been a worker bee, more comfortable with overloaded schedules, long to-do lists, and a scurrying demeanor.
Ironically enough, over the course of the last year I have again and again felt God pressing me and drawing me back to this message:
“BE STILL, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
To fill my time indoors I’ve been reading a lot, and although I love reading, I must admit that in the past few years I rarely allowed myself the indulgence. Why? For the same reasons I didn’t watch a lot of TV, kept my busy bee schedule, and never crafted as much as my Pinterest boards suggest: because relaxation is a treat.
If there is one thing I’m bad at, it’s relaxing. Part of my goal for this summer was to learn how to do simply that: relax. It might seem like a funny concept, the need to learn how to relax, but it doesn’t come naturally to everyone and our culture doesn’t teach it well. The word itself makes my back tense instinctively, it makes me grab for my phone to check my emails and the news and the weather and other things I’ve sanctioned as “productive.”
Relaxing is connected to being in the way that it requires us to release the parts of our lives that so often define who we are. What we do is what we are, or so it seems. But the truth is that I still exist, I can still be, without doing anything. What is even more amazing, is that God loves me that way. Once I remember that, I discover that by learning how to simply be, how to exist confidently in my identity as someone who is loved no matter what, my doing will gain greater strength from my being.
Learning to be still and relax reminds me to trust that God’s love is unconditional, it doesn’t depend on how much I do or don’t do. I think that’s the significance of the verse from Psalm 46, because being still requires us to know, not just hope or guess or question, the fact that God is truly a loving God.
Plus, what we often relegate to “down time” (as if it is beneath other more productive time) is more valuable than we give it credit for. One of the books I just finished, a set of essays by Jonathan Franzen, said that “the first lesson reading teaches is how to be alone.” How to be alone is related to how to just be, because when we are alone we must face our very being. The second thing reading does is illuminate what being looks like in relation to the world around us, because reading gives us compassion and empathy to understand others.
Spending a day entirely inside, exploring the corners of the house and the mind, I learn to appreciate the way the sun shines through the front window in the morning, the stubborn growth of a parched kitchen plant, and the elasticity of time itself. I might not have a long list of things I “accomplished” in concrete terms, but I can say that I pondered the world around me and considered my place of being within that world.
If it helps any of you out there still doubting the value of my staying inside all day, I also did the dishes. So there.
How do you feel when you don’t leave the house all day?
Is it hard for you to let yourself relax sometimes?

The Truth About Rejection

At first, it sucks. After an hour, it still sucks. Some time later, it gets better. Supposedly.

The sky swells as the sun abandons this side of the world, clouds block out the hope of stars. The cracked desert wonders why the rain never actually materializes. Even the moon seems hazy on the whys and why nots. You ponder the planets, the depth of the universe, and you feel a deeper sympathy for poor rejected Pluto. Rejection happens in space too, you say. Maybe you hide under the covers, letting the air grow heavy with your exhales. Sleep seems like the best solution, but your heavy eyelids aren’t enough to keep the gremlins of negativity from threading through your mind.

The initial thoughts spiral something like this: oh well, so that’s that, they didn’t like me, what do I care, I guess I do care, I could’ve done better, why did I say those things, maybe they are threatened by success, who am I kidding I’m not a success, what is success anyways, why does it matter, why can’t I stop thinking about this, why why why. Ice cream.

I’ve never experienced a tornado in real life, but I think my brain can relate to it after being rejected. It swirls through vortexes, around space and time until the wind dies down and everything I had previously settled has been disrupted.

Rejection is the disruption of what you thought you knew was good.
The good part is it means you can redefine what good is. 

As a recent college graduate, rejection is something very common for myself and many of my peers. We spend hours upon hours looking and applying for jobs we aren’t even sure we want. But when we are told we can’t have that job, we believe we wanted it more. My most recent application took me through a month long process of a 15 page proofreading test, an initial interview, and a second two hour phone interview.

Needless to say, rejection hurts more when it has a longer build up.

Rejection is also a close relative to shame, that feeling of worthlessness keeping you from admitting the incident to others.

Personally, it helps me to analyze those feelings more, letting the logic mix with emotion into a dose of truth. Why is it hard to admit when someone rejects me? Probably because I don’t want to reveal that someone didn’t want me, as if giving life to my fears of worthlessness. This circles back to a problem I discussed in my last post though: letting others define my worth.

Would rejection be scary if I truly believed I was wanted and loved no matter what? Would it be hard to admit my rejection to others if I wasn’t afraid of others believing I was unworthy, which is a lie?

Somewhere in time we decided that rejection was always and only a bad thing. We also forgot that Christ came to redefine how we view rejection. His death and resurrection returned us to a perpetual state of un-rejection where we are accepted and loved by God.

With these things in mind, I can redefine rejection. If I believe the truth that I am loved and accepted by God, then what is being rejected is not my worth, but my false conceptions. I built an idea up in my mind as good, and the rejection of that idea simply means I need to redefine what I thought was good. Perhaps there is something even better out there for me, this good was not good enough.

Oh the possibilities! Rejection stops hurting when we look at it as a new opportunity, a chance to seek a greater good than what we previously hoped for. Redefine rejection by rejecting what you thought was good.

I don’t usually use The Message translation, but I love the way it clarifies the meaning of this verse:
“We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:12-13)

It’s ok to hide under the covers for a little while, it humbles us into remembering we are human and gives us compassion for people and Pluto. But God’s mercies are new every morning – the sun didn’t really abandon you, it was just giving you time before it came back with it’s warm reminder of a new day.

When have you felt rejected?

How did it work out for good?

Calling B.S. on Easy Callings

When attempting to inspire young adults like myself, many Christians have offered this quote from Frederick Buechner: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” This sounds wonderful doesn’t it?

But I’m calling out every pastor that has ever said this to me: stop sugar coating what a “calling” looks like. 

For years I waited, yearning for this jubilant, glad calling. I brainstormed every possible passion I might have, how it could be used for God’s glory, and hoped God would send me a burning bush to guide the way. The problem was, there were a lot of options I could choose from. Did God want me to bring the kingdom through hiking and the outdoors? Or maybe he wants me to start a nonprofit where I make crafts all day for a great cause? Or perhaps I can start a ministry with puppies, there is definitely a deep gladness in puppies.

Not surprisingly, I’m starting to feel like it doesn’t work that way. I’m sure Buechner is a great guy, but his quote made me believe that my calling would start off as a great gladness; now I’m wondering if a calling ends with gladness and begins with a small decision leading to a terrifying mountain of risky, arduous work.

I’m making assumptions here, but I would guess that Noah was not deeply glad when God told him to build the ark. Moses was also not thrilled when he was told to stand up against Pharaoh and lead people through the desert. Esther probably wasn’t eager to marry some old king who had banished his previous wife. And Mary needed an angel to convince her that virgin pregnancy was something to be glad about.

Among the many things the Bible has to teach us, one of its underlying lessons about being a Christian is that God’s “calling” on a person’s life is rarely easy. Yes it will lead to a much deeper gladness and purpose than life without God, but it will not always be easy. Plus, you don’t always get a burning bush to tell you what to do.

It is audaciously bold to imagine God bestowing us with a clear vision of our calling and a long-term road-map of how it will play out. If God gave us the whole picture, many of us wouldn’t have enough faith to believe in it, let along act on it. Instead he gives us ideas, small inklings of opportunities where we decide whether to answer the call and then follow our chosen path until we hit another crossroads.

The idea that we each have one deep gladness that will meet one specific hunger in the world is similar to believing in soul mates. Too much pressure arises from believing that we need to figure out that one thing, and too much fear follows when we think we might make the wrong decision about what that one thing is.

Our calling is not one giant plan of destiny. It is a fluctuating picture that adapts across the span of our lives, changing as we change and growing as we grow. My “calling” for today might look different from my “calling” in thirty years. Even though the look of my “calling” changes, the foundation of everyone’s call is the same: love God and love others.

A recent article from RELEVANT Magazine tackles this same idea. Chandler Vannoy perfectly summarizes the truth about God’s will for our lives when he says:
“No matter what your future plans are, God wants you to seek and glorify Him right now. Simply put, God’s will is your growth to be like Christ and glorify Him in all things.”

My “calling” is not pre-determined by God. In fact, each of us could have multiple “callings” in our lifetime. Free will means that God allows you to choose a passion; after that He simply wants to be a part of it. Once you pick a path and let God be your counsel through every twist and turn, then you have answered His true calling–to act as His partner in living a life dedicated to His glory.

As a recent college graduate trying to decide my next steps in life, I wrestle with this concept of calling daily. My generation is flooded with the pressure of wanting to change the world, but we can’t expect God to lay the plans in our laps. Instead, I’m learning that God gives us opportunities, small doors and windows that will inevitably involve a lot of hard work. Hard work becomes easier once we let God guide our decisions, not through a burning bush or a roadmap, but through prayer, scripture, and the counsel of others.

No matter what job I do or where I end up, God’s primary calling on my life is to make sure each decision I make offers His love to the world. This a good news for all of us. God will “call” you to many places, and it might involve deep gladness meeting deep hunger, but that call is less specific than you think.

More often than not, our “calling” is to be present in our circumstances and involve God in that place. So in concept it is easy, but in practice it will be hard. In order for deep gladness to meet deep hunger it takes a lot of deep challenges. Be patient, and trust God that you have a purpose no matter where you are or what it looks like to you. He has much better vision anyways.

How have you seen your calling change over time?

Why do you think we latch on to the idea of our “calling” ?

Days of Rest: A Window Into Post-Grad Life

For 16 years my life has been structured around a school calendar. Now I am free floating, unrestrained and undefined.

I moved to a new city (free rent thanks to my gracious brother and sister-in-law), don’t have a job (by choice), and have no clue where I will be three months from now (I have ideas, just no evidence to justify decisions yet). The typical question I’ve gotten for months now is “What’s next?”

If I’m not hangry or tired I will reply with a polite explanation of the many random tasks on my plate right now (part time publicity work for an author, studying for the GRE, reading copiously, planning a trip to Sweden in September, questioning my life plans). But if I am in a rush or don’t feel like blubbering to a stranger I often reply “I’m not doing too much, just trying to relax while I can.”

Although this definitely doesn’t incorporate everything, it is a simplified truth that I return to. Rest is NOT something I was taught how to do in my lifetime of schooling. So now I’m trying to embrace the somewhat lazy-river of post-grad life, even when I’m splashing around in a panic thinking I’m drowning in that river. To be clear, I’m not drowning. I just don’t know how to relax well or what it means to not be a student anymore.

When I first started this blog a couple years ago, I spent a long time thinking about what its focus would be. Thanks to my indecisive nature I decided on a more general vision: the elements of life that define us, and what it means to step outside of those boundaries. It developed from a soap box I’ve carried for a long time–the injustice we all experience when we are put into boxes that don’t accurately define who we are.

For 13 years I defined myself as a dancer, and when that definition was no longer an option I floated in an ocean of identity that ebbed and flowed in stormy seas until I finally found a shore to land on. I then found myself outraged at how our culture had defined other things like men, women, love, Christians, and success. I am still working on redefining those things for myself outside the boundaries of cultural norms.

Now that I have graduated from college–the culmination of 16 years defined as a student within the boundaries of public and private educational systems, school calendars, and grade point averages–I must again redefine a significant part of my life.

It was Socrates, one of the first educators, who said that “Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.” My opinions on the educational system are better left for a separate post, but for now I will say that I am incredibly grateful for the teachers who kindled the love of learning in me. However, despite their hard work, I don’t doubt I was simultaneously filling my vessel of self-worth with my status as a student.

I will always be a student, but the last two months have reminded me what it means to learn outside of classrooms and libraries. Learning is one of our greatest privileges; it is a freedom that can only be lost through individual apathy. As Frederick Douglass, Helen Keller, and countless others have shown us–learning is something we must chase after, redefine in whatever way works for our situation, and embrace whole-heartedly in order to truly succeed.

As I float through this uncharted territory I must constantly remind myself that my identity is NOT as a student chasing the grade, but instead as a student chasing the world where grades don’t matter and learning is the fire that sustains my life. This is the time to throw out the vessel altogether, if only to prevent myself from filling it up with a worthless job of climbing ladders. Vessels fill up eventually and reach a point of satisfaction, but a fire must be kindled and fed daily so that we are always learning. The point of life is not to reach a filling point, but to sustain the deeper fire which fuels a life beyond the boundaries of ordinary living.

I am now a student without a syllabus in a classroom without constraints. Although it can be scary at times, I’m trying to focus on the horizon, lighting my fire to get me through the darker nights. God’s mercies are new every morning, and hope arrives when I remember I’ve hopped the fence into a brand new world to explore. At that point I kick back and embrace wherever the river takes me.

Overlooking Albuquerque from the top of the Sandias Mountains

Overlooking Albuquerque from the top of the Sandias Mountains


What did you learn when you stopped having to go to school?

How has your identity as a learner been formed?