In my last article, “Am I My Resume?” I emphasized one of the strongest points from The Performance Project, extracting lessons on career skills from the performing arts. Practice-Practice-Practice, as a key to mastery was the closing segment.
Practice + Alternatives
John Michael Dias is a key person in my Performance Project work. He’s performed in the title role of Frankie Valli in the first national tour and the Broadway production of Jersey Boys. John Michael provided a perfect example of the practice-practice-practice model. In college, John performed the same song for an entire year, “over and over and over again” until he got it right. He sang the song in four different styles in front of the teacher and his 10 classmates. His classmates were performing their songs “over and over and over again,” all receiving feedback from the teacher and each other.
John’s song choice was the standard, and Academy Award Best Original Song, “The Way You Look Tonight,” originally performed by Fred Astaire, in 1936. The song has been recorded by scores of artists in every decade since. From a career perspective, think about this as the classic interview question – recorded with the same well worded answer by each different performer.
For John Michael, the task was singing the song in its original, as written and scored style, then in a 1920’s style emulating the sound of an old phonograph and in a higher key, then in a 40’s, Frank Sinatra (who did record the song) style, a lower key, a jazzy, swing style, and finally in his own interpretation, singing it to a specific audience, to a loved one, or to a classmate, or even to a dog – making it personal, changing the way he delivers the message of the song.
I’ve seen John perform this song in three styles. Think about this for your interviewing skills. It’s more than just “practice-practice-practice.” It’s practicing different deliveries of your message.
I could take the most frequently asked interview prompt here, “Tell me about yourself,” but I’d rather use a really good interview question as a starting point: “In your current position, what’s your most significant accomplishment in the last year?” Create a two minute answer to this. What was the “challenge,” what “actions” did you take, and what was the “result?”
Now, practice delivering your response, hopefully with a friend or colleague who will give you some honest feedback. Practice delivering the response “naturally,” to the friend or colleague. Now, practice delivering it to one of your parents, to an HR rep, and to the CEO of the company you hope hires you.
Have an upcoming interview? Rehearse at least three different, performance-based answers to questions about your accomplishments, strengths, and career goals. Then, rehearse them “over and over and over again” until you get them right.
Successful performers are comfortable receiving positive feedback, particularly if they are able to achieve primary roles in successful Broadway shows/national tours. “The crowd goes wild” is a key promotional line – and a true one – for “Jersey Boys.” Diehard fans who have seen the show dozens, sometimes hundreds of times, await the performers arrival before the show, linger around afterward, collect pictures, autographs, memorabilia, and flood the social network sites with their adoration. The artists speak clearly about how the fan reaction to their performance is a key reason for their willingness to rehearse, travel, and perform in a show six or eight times a week.
But there’s another side to feedback that brings forward a message for job seekers. Before they “get the gig,” these performers endure endless hours of auditions – often filled with “in their face” “constructive criticism” that can instantly end with a “thank you for coming in” and another rejection. On the other hand, one of the biggest complaints of job seekers is that they not only don’t get feedback on their interviews, but also they don’t get any type of follow up – nothing.
Find someone to be your career coach – someone who will give you honest feedback on your answers and your performance delivering them.
Job seekers – and hiring managers – often place too much emphasis on “experience.” Boring descriptions of job titles and basic duties dominate too many resumes and interviews. Resumes and prepared, practiced interviews based on clearly stated performance improve every aspect of the job search. But the lessons from the performing arts, particularly one that states ‘you’re only as good as your last audition” adds another dimension to good preparation. In an audition, prospective cast members must demonstrate they can do the job needed for the particular role or show. It’s the ultimate of the ‘show me what you can do for me now!” Performers accept this – so should job seekers. The world doesn’t owe you a job – you must earn one.
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