10 Tips to Crush That Interview & Take Over The World:

For those of you who may not know what I do, or maybe you know vaguely what I do, but it’s kind of a long title and I’ve never explained it to you because it takes me a while, and I get embarassed talking about myself in-person for more than 30 seconds: Hi, I’m Laura, I’m 23 and I am the Head of Human Resources and Communication for a real estate photography startup based in Atlanta, Georgia. Essentially, in my day-to-day, I help lead a small team of people, run a couple social media accounts, come up with marketing plans, recruit, interview, hire, and then check-in with employees on an on-going basis to make sure people like their jobs and are getting along well with their team! I work remotely in Brooklyn, New York, so I take a lot of phone calls and conduct video chats on almost a daily basis. And, on to what you really care about, that’s where my experience interviewing comes from! I hire photographers, editors, and office staff, but all-in-all, I hire team members for a pretty specific company culture we have built. Today, a friend asked me for interview advice, and here’s what I came up with.

1.  Interviewing is a two way street. Maybe this sounds obvious, but I think it's really important to remember that as you are interviewing, you are also there to interview the company, too.  They should be trying to win you over as much as you are trying to sell them on the idea of you as a team member. Have questions ready for them like "how would you describe your team culture?” “What is your personal management style?” “what is your goal, as a team, long term or at the moment?" If you're not feeling it, don't feel like you need to be working harder or put the pressure on yourself. Remember that you have some control, too! Positions and companies can be a bad fit, and that doesn’t mean that you are not simultaneously a great person who deserves a great job.

2.  Some people I interview don't really answer my questions. I think they get nervous, so they kinda dance around the topic, or over-explain. Be direct first, and then if you feel that there's room to chat about the answer futher, that's totally fine. If your interviewer needs to know more,  they’ll ask a follow-up! So don't feel the need to lay it all out there at once. 

Example: "What's your availibility?" "Well, what kind of availibility does this roll need? I'm fairly flexible, but I do have another job, and at that job, they need..." Slow down! I just want, "I can have two weekdays free, and I could make this weekend morning work, but I do have another job." Then, I have my answer. If I need to know what that job is, I can ask, but in this case I probably won't. Your time and my time hold so much value, and being direct is good!

3.  Know something about the company that you find exciting! I like when people ask me how the company started, and I love when they have read about us online, taken note of our 5 star rating, ask me about specifics of our services—basically anything that shows they have done their research. I will always hire someone who wants to be a part of our team over even a more qualified person who just needs a job. If someone says, "I followed you guys on instagram, and I would be really excited about connecting the way your staff does." I automatically get excited. Interviewing all of a sudden is fun, and it gives me the opportunity to brag on my team mates, which is cool. Ultimately, every (healthy) company is proud of what they’ve got going on, so they'll feel wooed. And if they don’t get excited, it tells you that maybe the employees aren't happy! So it's another way for you to gauge your own opinion, too.

4.  I usually open with "tell me about yourself," and personally, I don't want to dive right into why a person would be good for the job; I genuinely want to know what stage of life this person is in, are they well-rounded, do they have interests and depth? It shouldn't be too long of an answer, but ideally someone would say "I'm 28, I've lived in Houston for 2 years, I studied biology in college, but now I want to work in a creative field! I love rock climbing. I have a dog!" What a breath of fresh air! I can paint a picture of this person now, but they didn't rush the interview and they didn't say too much. 

5.  Positivity is rad, and being confident without being cocky rules. I usually ask people "how would coworkers describe you?" because it is the only way to get people to  brag on themselves, and I want that! Saying things like, "I'm really great at xyz…My team excels with my help because of blahblah…I'm reliable, dependable, goal oriented, and a self-starter," isn't rude! It helps people understand what you value and where your gifts are. Plus, preaching over yourself can help calm nerves! It's like, the more you say, "actually I'm super awesome" the more you'll believe it then and there, too. 

6.  Don't be afraid to tell a story or make a connection. I just had a call where a woman told me she knows she excels under pressure because once she shot a wedding and the minister passed out, she had to revive him, and find an ordained minister in the crowd while the bride freaked out. It was impressive and personal, I got a sense for her story telling, and it was funny! I won't forget her story, which means she sticks out in my mind! Our call took an extra 15 minutes or so, but I enjoyed it and was still able to bring the conversation right back, because I think that's my job, not hers. 

7.  Asking for next steps and when you can expect to hear back is a POWERMOVE.  If someone says "what are the next steps," one, I'm like “dang, you want this job.” And two, then I have to tell them. Let’s say the next step is a video interview next week. Then, in their thank you email, they can say "thanks so much for the interview! I am available these times next week for the video interview, and I look forward to speaking with you.”  I feel all the more ready to schedule them and move them along through our process. Pretty much anyone who is that direct is going to have the idea of being interviewed again at the very least presented to them, sometimes simply because I am not ready to reject anyone. And, on that note, I am impressed when people thank me for my time after an interview is over, within the next 24 hours or so. I always appreciate people following up on their application. I work so many different rolls, and persistence is genuinely extremely helpful. No one has ever annoyed me by wondering where their application stands. HMU! Sometimes when people don't do these things, it gives me the opportunity to think, "maybe they didn't want the job."

8. If there's an in-person or video interview, people really throw me off when they wear their most formal clothes. I usually interview in a t-shirt, as do my counterparts. So I think knowing how to dress for the company you're interviewing with is huge. It's a great thought to look your best, absolutely, but it makes me question team-fit. Show effort, but I would usually really rather someone just show me who they are in their day-to-day. And that's definitely not all jobs, but also, you can ask over email or phone beforehand! Sending a quick "Great! And is business formal preferred?" is not unprofessional! I think it shows thoughtfulness. 

9. Asking about pay isn't bad in my mind, especially during a phone screen, but if it's jumped to in an in-person, I start thinking, "ok, this person just wants a job, and they might not care about specifically this job" People will even ask me, "is pay every week or every two weeks?" and my brain always stalls out...I mean, is that really the thing you're dying to know about our whole company. I don't want anyone to waste my time or to waste anyone else's time, so asking is a smart idea! Staying on that topic however can get awkward because it sounds like you’re being presumptious that the job is already yours or maybe just that your priorities are moneymoneymoney.

10. If someone asks you why you are looking or why you're leaving a job—this is basically just, "why do you want to work for us?"  I'm straightforward, so I don’t make this a trick question, but you will hear people ask it so many different ways that I think it can easily become one. Always answer these questions with how specifically and seriously you want the job you're interviewing for!  You don't have to touch on why you don't like what you've been doing or how you've been looking in the whole market, even if you are just looking to move on to anything else. In this interview, it is all about this one job. Whatever job is on the table is the holy grail of jobs for the next 30 minutes. Their company is the fountain of youth. Other jobs? Don't know her.

I don’t think you have to be dishonest, but I think this is also a healthy mindset because you can simply repeat back what you’ve learned that most excites you. It’s a good way of checking your heart and staying positive in your job search. If answering this question feels like lying, why do you not want this job specifically? Is it a bad fit?

Applying for jobs and not hearing back, or hearing back something that you did not want to hear, can be very exhausting.  I know firsthand that it feels like rejection, and it’s very easy to turn away introspective, thinking “what did I do wrong?”  And from my perspective, truly, probably nothing.  If you’re following these tips,  gaining work experience all the while, and trying your best, it might be that the company you’re applying to is weird. They might be a big bunch of weirdos. They might be thinking “she’s too nice and qualified and wonderful, and we’re a big ol’ bunch of weirdoes so we only want to hire people with scary voices, who burp a lot.” My point being, you can’t know. It’s not worth thinking about, at all. It might be that they had ten amazing applicants including you, and it literally came down to the fact that they already have a Laura on the team, so hiring another Laura would be confusing, and Stephanie had the same availibility, but a different name. So rather than stressing over why you weren’t a good fit, repeat after me, “that company was not a good fit for me.”

Wishing you all the best! Go out there and get that bread! Unless you’re gluten-free, in which case, go out there and get that fruit salad. Just...you know, just go out there and get whatever it is you need, and get it specific to you.

Italy in 2019: Venice, Rome, and the Dolomites

I can only describe the beauty of Venice by explaining that, headed into this trip, I was so, soooo sick. Our last flight in from Paris, I clutched my vomit bag in front of me the entire flight. I had bronchitis, no voice, surely a fever, and a massive headache. But arriving on our little boat taxi to the island, stepping out onto the dock, and taking in Venice, I started to cry. I have never felt so overcome by anywhere that I have traveled, and despite how terrible I felt, I wanted to explore. All of a sudden, I felt like I could walk for miles, get lost, lose sleep, and dance. Venice is festive and colorful and fresh and alive.

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Our first stops were obviously pasta and gelato. We spent the night in a low-budget hotel, saving our fancier stays for Rome and Valentine’s day, but even low-budget in Venice comes with a cute view!

Scott, being the wonderful husband he is, ran down to the pharmacy when I couldn’t fall asleep, and y’all—Italian cough syrup is the Cure. By the time our early morning train took off for Rome, I felt like a new woman, cappuccino in hand.

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SO Rome, how amazing. How ancient. How many SCAMS though. We got out of the train station, walked to the only booth we could find to buy public transport passes, which we did, without realizing until halfway through our trip that they were sold a year expired lol awesome. Make sure everything you purchase in Rome is official. Sometimes it’s hard to tell, so, probably opt for distrust.

Anyways, we took the bus to our hotel in Trastevere, which is sort of Rome’s Brooklyn, as far as I can tell. It’s not where all the big attractions are, and it’s recently cleaned-up, but it’s beautiful and peaceful. We dropped off our bags and walked to pizza!

After food, we checked out nearby cafes, and checked-in. This was my favorite place that we stayed during our first week! Pictured above are the view from our room, the breakfast room, and the courtyard!

That night, we went to Piazza Venezia, close to the Forum and the Colosium. Some very Euro couple madeout in the middle of an incredibly busy sidewalk and I was furious that I didn’t have my film camera on me. It was so classic.

Our next couple days were all about site seeing! We’d start our mornings with a traditionally Italian breakfast of lots of sugar and caffiene. I walked Scott through all of the sites I have grown up looking forward to, my favorite being Piazza Navona and the Trevi Fountain.

 
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The Vatican was a stop that had a surprising affect on me. Scott and I both grew up Catholic, so I know the history and tradition of that place. In months leading up to our trip, I wasn’t sure I would want to go. The Catholic church’s leadership has led abuse and scandal, and the amount of lies and money wrapped up in that history and tradition now—it’s not lost on me. But I remembered Peter’s death when we arrived in Rome. I remembered that the best friend of Jesus had walked where I was stepping, but where I experienced beauty and culture, he was crusified for his actions of building-up the early church. Seeing the pilar, the spot where he was reportedly crucified, and remembering his unworthy crucifiction and upsidedown death, I felt awe. This man made many mistakes, lost everything, and kept giving of himself because of who he knew Jesus to be, and remembering that man and feeling close to his life, was well worth the trip. We did however skip the vatican museum and sistine chapel, which some people have told us is a mistake, but they’re not free, like St Peter’s square, so I feel justified in that.

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On our last day we got breakfast at Piazza Popolo and soaked up our last moments in the City To End All Cities. Then we returned to the train. We were so sad when it came time to leave our beautiful lemon-tree-courtyard hotel. But hellllooo Valentine’s Day in Venice!

This stay, we were on the other side of the island, did a little bit of shopping, and got a little lost. We also ran into Scott’s Aunt and had a great walk, lunch, and an affogato out in the sun.

Maybe my favorite moment of our whole trip was Scott and I’s Valentine’s Day Dinner. Some people make reservations and get dressed up; we break open-container law. To each their own. We got a take-away pizza from a small local business that we fell in love with, Bella + Brava, bought a wine cocktail at the grocery store, snuck away to a long dock and ate with our feet dangling towards the canal.

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Scott gave me a letter, addressing a fear I have that marriage ends when you die because “til death do us part,” letting me know that he called in a special request with God. I feel better. And very lucky to be married to someone who marches to the same beat and cares so deeply about what I feel.

After Valentine’s Day it was time to meet Scott’s family at the airport for our shuttle to the Dolomites! Scott’s sister Alison is newly engaged, so we all have a lot to celebrate and it was very exciting to see everyone. We arrived to the resort just in time for dinner!

To sum up this experience, it was five-star and I have never experienced anything so luxurious, ever. We had large, beautiful breakfasts, swam in an outdoor heated pool surrounded by snowy mountains, I got a full body massage and peel, and our room stayed pristine the whole week there (which is unheard of). Our bathtub had jets, they gave us a complimentary jam, and now, I know that I don’t like caviar.

We went on a photography tour with Scott’s aunt that was incredible. It felt amazing to trek through the snow atop a mountain within six months of having a life-changing surgery. Also, shoutout to the gym at this resort for helping me return to workouts and feeling physically strong! I didn’t need a lemon-water soaked towel after my workout, but boy, you will not find me complaining.

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The resort also had a number of saunas, relaxation areas, amazing teas, and the best service! It was so much fun to see everyone enjoy different activities and then come together at the end of the day for a nice meal. I love being a part of this family!

Unfortunately, the trip was not without its ski injuries, which was stressful for us as a family, but it also brought us all together to support each other, share stories, and laugh through the pain. And I think that’s what family is all about!

When it was time to return home, we were ready. Bring on the dumplings. Give me my cats. I missed NYC. So we flew another 14 hours, all together, I watched Casablanca, and thought, “We’ll always have [Rome].”

Coming back, I feel so inspired, by the resilience of my mother-in-law, my grand parents-in-law’s zest for love and life in their 80’s, the scenery we were blessed enough to see, and the Italian way of life. I think Brene Brown says it best, “The opposite of play is not work. The opposite of play is depression.”

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Tendons + Tenderness

I have someone else’s ligament in my knee. Someone who passed away. And because they checked a box on their application for a driver’s license when they were 16, they are a part of me. They are the reason I started walking again yesterday. And I’m very aware of the weight of that; I can feel it. I mean, I can put my finger on it, literally. The suture sticks out beyond my bone and the ligament, so I can put my finger directly on it.

I’ve wanted to write about this topic for a while, without fully knowing how to approach this conversation because it’s lofty and it’s sensitive, and in a lot of ways, I’m probably not the best person for the job.

I want to start a conversation surrounding the differences and similarities of physical and mental disability, because in my brief, brief, brief period of time in a wheelchair and on crutches, I’ve realized how problematic it is that we react one way to physical disability (that still is not nearly the reaction we should have) and approach mental illness with such a different demeanor.

The most annoying thing about being in a wheelchair or on crutches is the number of complete and utter strangers who ask “what happened,” before even saying hello, as if there was any option for me to hide my injury—as if I’m more of a curious spectacle than a person.

The answer they want: “I was surfing with Blake Lively, and we were attacked by a knee-cap eating shark”

The answer I’m not going to give: “I was born with some bone defects because I have scoliosis, so a lot of my bones aren’t well-aligned. One of my legs is actually noticeably longer than the other. Anyways, they had to cut off my tibia tubercle and align it to sit under my knee cap, then they screwed it in, twice, essentially fracturing my whole tibia, which takes six weeks to heal. They also replaced my MPFL ligament because my tendons and ligaments are stretched from the twelve years of dislocations I’ve endured. They’ll do it again in a year and a half, too. Wanna race me on crutches??”

The answer I give, usually through a clenched jaw: “knee surgery” because it’s none of your business.

But, the fact remains—whether out of some amazing, universally-shared concern or sheer curiosity—people ask. They see me and the way I am struggling to live normally, and they ask how I’m doing or rush to get the door or bring me meals. There is something remarkably beautiful about picking out a meal for someone and putting it together with your hands, hoping it will warm and nourish and comfort them in a time of need.

People see your struggle when it’s physical, even if you don’t want them to. They’re confronted with it, even if they don’t want to be. You are inconvenienced and you’re inconvenient, too. People are either kind to you because of that, or maybe in spite of it, or they’re an asshole.

But I’ve been disabled for a long time, long before my bones and ligaments caused me any real problems. I’ve been mentally ill since I was eight years old, at least. That’s the first time I remember having a panic attack, and that’s the first time I remember feeling crushed under the weight of not being good enough in any conceivable way.

I have had days where I felt that if I got out of bed, I’d be doing myself and everyone else a disservice. I’ve had nights where I cannot turn off my brain—I can’t even turn it down—in order to let myself sleep. And I take medication for those problems every day, not just for seven days in a row until the infection goes away and the wound heals back up.

There’s no x-ray or MRI machine they can wrap you up in to see what’s going on inside your head, not really. It typically takes years in a psychiatrist’s office to be told a correct answer—to be given the vocabulary to share what you experience with other people.

In high school, I referred to it in my journal as “the cold.” Because the same numbing, cold pain that you feel on your skin when you walk outside in a t-shirt when it’s 35 degrees out, is what I felt internally, always. And I was capable of hiding that from people, so no one was able to confront it with me or offer me help.  Instead, I received poor grades and was treated for ADHD.

Let me make myself very clear, were this a long term physical disability, I would in no way be making comparisons or pitting one hurt against the other. What I am saying is wholly based on my ability to recover, to point to exactly what’s wrong with me, explain precisely how it is being fixed, and to ask people for specifically what I need in my day-to-day journey of getting back to a better physical state. So I can’t understand or fathom the emotional, mental, or relational hardship that comes with being physically impaired long-term.

But I simply I cannot express how nice it feels, to point to my pain and share my timeline to normalcy with a loved one, and then ask them to pass me something I need to feel better or move forward. I have exercises that I do every day that put me in control of my growth, and I see noticeable, tangible healing weekly. I have a therapist who knows exactly what I require at any given moment, who has seen the same injury and surgery dozens of times, and who is equipped with tools guaranteed to create results. My insurance covers my visits to her, which occur twice a week.

The differences are many, we could do better societally with both, but the similarity is crucial. These disabilities are robbing people of the life that one could have without them, and the disabled person is likely thinking of that every hour, on the hour, every day.

For me, currently, yes, sidewalks could make more sense, people in an ideal world would be less weird and rude, and boy, would it be nice if walking felt natural at all. But the two months of bed rest, and one month of ass-kicking, tendon-stretching pain have nothing on the way I have talked down to myself my whole life, the way that I cannot trust my own perception, the millions of apologies I have said or held close to my chest over things that I don’t believe I could have controlled. I can’t replace the part of my brain that doesn’t work. I can’t cut out the heartache and throw it away. The plain-old, boring, ugly, miserable and to-some-incomprehensible heartache I have felt for little to no reason since I was eight.

Thank you for your care baskets. Thank you for your prayer. Thank you for encouraging me. But please, start talking about mental illness like it’s everyday, common, or like it affects one in four people. Because it does. And those one in four people need your prayer and your understanding too, even when they’re inconvenient for you—probably especially when they’re inconvenient for you. And they are much more alone in that disability than I am in this one.

Chapter Three

I am not broken; I'm naturally not perfectly balanced, which is different and alright.

I know a lot of good people with flaws that don't stop me from loving them. When I accept that everyone is imperfect but there are many reasons I should love them anyway, I’m free to let go of unrealistic expectations of others.

I’m still learning to give the grace that’ll allow me to see myself through that same lens.

I used to worry so much about purpose. Depression made me feel robbed of it. Mania had me convinced I could have it all figured out.

There are things I want to do. I want a baby with tiny toes to rest in my arms, pressed up against my tattoo that says “to hold,” knowing that no matter how she grows, she'll always have a place there.

There are things I'm good at. Saving seats. Remembering birthdays. Asking questions. Recognizing people's strengths. Praying desperate prayers. Telling stories over and over. Understanding feelings that aren't my own. Saying goodbye.

And I know there are things I am meant to do. Although, I couldn't tell you what they are yet.

I didn't know a year ago where I would stand today. Every year since I turned 18 I have been a different person by the time my birthday rolled back around again. Is it possible to be born again and again and again?

I think it's ok to not have all the answers and to leave some endings untied.

Purpose, maybe, isn't some cosmic, mystery to unfold. Maybe it's the questions we ask ourselves as we rub our eyes open every morning.

"Will you give it a go? Will you try your best? Will you speak the truth? Will you stumble? Will you learn? Wake up.”

I hope you don't feel that you have to figure yourself out, figure the future out, or figure God out, but trust all three.

You should do the things you want to do and discover the things you're good at, but there is also a level of accomplishment that is yours because you are trying. You're still here. Pain has come at you and found you undefeated time and time again. You're the reigning champ of living your one, horrifying, mistake-ridden, lonely, patched-up, breathtaking, miraculous, fast and short life.

My mom says she had a dream once in which she asked God, "why am I here?"
He told her "to wrinkle.”

God, give me the laugh lines to know I chose to live.

- -

Sometimes I feel like everything I write is a lie because I still pray to get better. I know it’s a selfish thing to do. I still pray I’ll wake up one day and my skin won't hurt. I close my eyes and picture Jesus in front of me, and I pull on his clothes, like that woman in scripture. I won’t let go until he heals me. I corner him maybe, and I don’t let him walk away without acknowledging that he made me like this when I just want to be like everyone else.

The guilt starts seeping in when I remember the messages in my inbox, the way people tell me that they didn’t know who else to talk to, the way—for whatever reason—strangers trust my face and tell me secrets. I am a chasm of otherwise unspoken truth.

I think of Jesus in the garden sweating blood, praying “let this cup pass before me,” but knowing that the will of God is better.

I figure, God can heal me, and he wouldn’t leave me this way if he didn’t have a reason for it.

That, of course, doesn’t stop the pain. I still cry at night. I rise in the morning to the thought of you. I wake and walk and breathe thinking of my inbox friends, those like me, who need to know that having a heart too heavy for your body doesn’t have to leave you lonely.

When we lived next to the train station, there was a wall across from our home with the worst spray-painted graffiti I have ever seen, if you could even call it that. It only said “get better.” in black, in someone’s everyday handwriting. I saw it every day for a year probably, before someone covered it over. And I appreciated the way it sounded like a command. You don’t just get better one day. You get better every day. You work at it. You wait in it.

Jesus isn’t your fix-it man. He’s not the maintenance you call when the door handle breaks and you can’t move forward to the next thing. He’s not your three-wishes-in-a-bottle or your twelve step plan. He doesn’t come with a twenty day meal list, essential oils prescription, and a promise to cure your ailments.

He’s just a man who was God.

I don’t mean “just,” like it’s any small thing. I mean that he’s all you get.

Anything that promises you Jesus and something else in order to make you happy is a lie. It is Jesus, and everything else counts for nothing. If you don’t want to hear it from me, there’s a book I’ll send you written by a handful of other people who were broken and buried, and that would’ve been the end of their story without him.

- - 

One day, someone important to you is going to tell you that you are not enough for them to stay, that your efforts aren’t good enough, or that you aren’t the right fit. You might beg, and you might want to try again. You’ll think that you should change, and if you change, there could be another ending. Don’t.

You are not everyone’s cup of tea. You are sweet tea. You are an acquired taste. Do not water yourself down for a person who will never love you as you come. To many, you are a reminder of home—not an earthly home, either. You are a living, breathing reminder of what’s to come. You are a piece of heaven. You are deeply steeped in love—full, and warm, and comforting.

Hear me. We do not change for those who will not love us no matter how we contort our lives to try and make them room.

Welcome heartbreak like a friend before you begin to believe you were made improperly. You are wired for greatness. You are imprinted with purpose. Open your hands. What comes, comes. What goes, let go.

You’ll learn this lesson applies to friendships, churches, leaders, jobs and places. You’ll learn you won’t be prepared for a lot of goodbyes. They’ll catch you off guard. They’ll leave you buzzing.

But Jesus’ last words in the bible are “Surely, I am with you always, until the very end of time.”

And I think there’s a reason He leaves us with that. It isn’t “be good” or “aim for perfection” or “get better.”

He leaves us with “I won’t walk away.” He promises us all of time. He says he is our everlasting friend.

Resting in those words, that non-goodbye farewell, every other heart-wrenching end just pales. I need those words to speak any others.

- -

My most cherished moments are when, in saying, “I believe I'm inadequate,” I’ve realized I’m not alone.

The most comforting thing, through every panic attack and every irregularly dark night, has always been a hand to hold.

We can't fix each other.

I'm sorry, my dear friend; I cannot make you better.

But I won't leave you when the lights go out.