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Take The Shot

Take The Shot

From Career Tips, 2023 Volume 11, November 2023


Hockey Player About To Take A Shot
Photo by gerhard crous on Unsplash

You miss 100% of the shots you don't take.

Wayne Gretsky


I was asked to speak to college class on interview strategy. I started with a discussion of three questions that these students should anticipate are in the interviewer's mind, the third of which was:

"Do I see you as a future leader?"


I explained how that required demonstrating that you have soft skills such as communication and leadership, telling stories that illustrate those qualities you bring to the table.


Later, I invited the students to do mini role plays to illustrate different aspects of the interview. I explained how it’s one thing to hear about concepts and believe you understand them, but it’s an entirely different thing to actually try to put them into practice.


Despite my encouragement, the lecturer basically had to call on students for the exercises. They completely missed the chance to demonstrate confidence and potential leadership skills simply by being proactive and volunteering, rather than waiting to be called upon.


This is where the rubber hits the road in any activity, when you actually get off the bench and put something into practice. Yet it is where so many in a job search fall short.


It can be uncomfortable to try new techniques, to pick up the phone and call someone you don’t know well, to introduce yourself to people you don’t know at a networking event, to seek out a steady stream of one-on-one networking meetings, to follow up with a hiring manager, or to call for feedback after being rejected for a job. But doing the things that make you uncomfortable is where true growth comes from.


This is like working out. As you try to do those initially uncomfortable things, you build your muscles, and they become easier to do.


Case in point:

Back in my actuarial days, someone I knew used to ask questions all the time in exam preparation meetings, to the point that other actuarial students would sometimes refer to him as “Shut up, Sam.” (Obviously, I’m not using his real name.) But he progressed to be a senior executive at one of the largest insurance companies, and I’m sure part of the reason was that he didn’t hesitate to ask questions.


When you are on a Zoom call, at an in-person meeting, or at a workshop, do you make a point of actively participating by volunteering or asking questions, or do you sit and quietly take in what is being said? Others are drawing conclusions about you based on that. And if you don’t participate, you miss the chance to get the most from the discussion.


See this for comments one of my mentors shared with me about participants in one workshop I ran, simply based on their level of participation:


Do you turn your camera on for remote calls? This is another way to distinguish yourself in a positive way:


Oh, and during the presentation to those students, I offered something that I believe would be of great value to them, at no cost. How many do you think took me up on it? Zero.


One student did reach out to connect with me afterward, telling me how valuable the session was. Even in that case, I had to ask if he would like to receive it, to which he responded “Absolutely!”


So remember to consistently take the shot!


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