How to Shine in any Interview — Me at My Best! Stories
It was 7:15 am. We had just finished up our morning kick-off meeting for our lab staff at the generating station, which was about to start-up following a planned outage. Mary, one of the senior lab technicians, came frantically into the lab from the plant.
“We have a problem! The circulating water pH meter is reading a 3.0!” Mary
My heart started racing.
If you know anything about chemistry, you know that a pH of 3 is acidic – and very corrosive to the metals and coatings of the circulating water system. This water flows from the cooling towers, through circulating water pumps, through piping and through the tubes of the condenser, before returning back to the cooling tower. So lots of potential for equipment damage.
Additionally, some of the water from the cooling tower can overboard to a basin that eventually leads to an external outfall to a large river. If that were to happen, it would be harmful to the environment, and likely would result in an environmental exceedence.
However, there was an even more emergent problem than possible equipment and environmental impacts. There was maintenance scheduled to be performed on the circulating water pumps. Safety of those employees could be compromised if they came in contact with the low pH water.
To add to the pressure of the situation, the unit, which was in start-up, had developed what appeared to be a small condenser leak (possibly accelerated by the acidic solution. This could lead to catastrophic damage to the steam cycle equipment (shell side of the condenser, boiler, turbine, etc).
We quickly discovered that a valve from the the acid tank – typically used to control the pH of the circulating water – had allowed the tank to drain to the cooling tower. As the lab supervisor and station chemist, the responsibility fell to me to coordinate all of these critical (and somewhat competing) problems. I spent the next 12 hours leading our station through the necessary step to correct these issues.
With the help of my teammates, a plan was developed that eliminated the safety hazards, corrected the pH, mitigated the potential environmental exceedence, plugged the condenser leak, and got the unit back online. Thanks to some quick thinking, collaboration, and strong leadership, we were able to avoid any injuries or death, millions in equipment damage, big environmental fines and provide reliable service for our customers.
It was a defining day for my career and my confidence. A day that tested me. A day that showed me at my best.
What is a Me at My Best Story?
Ok, so a Me at My Best story is just that, a story that demonstrates YOU at your BEST. These are stories that help communicate all that you are capable of during an interview (formal or otherwise). It is important to have these identified ahead of time. We all know what happens in the middle of an interview when you are not prepared. Your palms get sweaty, your mouth dries up, and your mind goes blank. Even the most experienced person can drop the ball during an interview if they haven’t figured out what they want to say.
So do the work ahead of time. Like right now. Whip out a pen and paper, or better yet – download the Me At My Best! Workbook (for free), and be ready to knock the next interview out of the park!
In the long run, it will save you a TON of time. Every couple of months, I found myself preparing for a new interview or “career discussion” – making a new list of applicable experiences to talk about. Wasting hours rehashing what I had done just a few months prior, with just a few additions. That is until I got smart and started documenting them in the way I am sharing with you. You’ll gain new experiences to add to the list, but once you’ve had the experience you’ll have that forever. So document it once, and have that reminder at your fingertips for the rest of your career.
Step 1 – Brainstorm Your Stories
Ok so, first make a list of all of the career-defining experiences you’ve had. Here are a few prompts to get you started:
- What are some successful projects you’ve led?
- What are your biggest career accomplishments?
- Were there days that you left work feeling like you really rocked it?
- What have you received the most praise from your boss about?
- What is a mistake that you made, and how did you turn it around?
Make a list of as many as you can, 5 to 10 if you can. The more the merrier, but just make sure the stories are as impactful and substantial as your experience allows.
Step 2 – Write Your Stories
Now write down your story about that project, day, or mistake. Jot down all of the pertinent details. Make note of all of the awesome things you did or accomplished.
Write it down as if you were responding to the phrase, “Tell me a time when you….”
Do this for all of your stories.
Step 3 – Revise Your Stories
Now, read it back to yourself. That sentence that doesn’t make sense – reword it. Those details that don’t add to the narrative – erase them. Keep doing this until you have a powerful, but brief story of how awesome you are!
Step 4 – Pick Keywords for Your Stories
Just to keep things organized for later, pick a few keywords that quickly communicate what the story tells about you. Here are some examples:
- Business Acumen
- Process Improvement
- Project Management
- Technical Expertise
- Time Management
Step 5 – Tell Your Stories
Whether it is at your next interview, a networking event or a coaching session, start weaving in your stories when you are talking with folks.1
How do they sound? Do they come across like bragging or sincere?
Start rewording your stories until they sound like you, but the best possible version of you!
Step 6 – Add to Your Stories
As your experiences increase and evolve, so should your Me at My Best stories. You should have more and new “bests” than you did 5 years ago, or even 1 year ago.
Keep a printed binder and electronic copy of your finished Me at My Best stories. Whip them out and read through them before your next interview or networking event. This will serve as an easy reference, a reminder of the awesome things you’ve done.You can match up your keywords with those from the job description, and have those experiences fresh in your mind to share. What is even better is that the keywords you chose in step 4 will act as a trigger in your mind.
How have you demonstrated safety leadership in your current role?
Ding. Safety Me at My Best story coming right up!
Do you have experience with lean manufacturing?
Bam! Process Improvement story ready to go!
What is great about this method of documenting your stories is now you have a go-to tailored resource that you can use time and time again. You will never again be at a loss for what to say!