Practicing To Be A Coworker

I know it’s cliche, but a lot of times the job search turns out to be like playing a game. And though people don’t often think of it consciously, it is likely that most of  your time will be spent in practice than on actually playing the game. Just like in sports, the practice to game ratio usually works out that you will practice hours and hours for just a few minutes of  game time.  Just imagine how many times NBA players practice a shot before they actually take that shot in a live game.  Yet without the practice, how likely will they be to make the basket when it counts? 

With that in mind you may want to think about how you are preparing for your job interviews, but more than that, you may want to consider how you practice for the actual game of working with others.  Remember, just like those NBA players, you are never playing in a game alone. Depending on how long you’re on the job market, you may find yourself getting out of the practice of being a coworker–forgetting in fact that this is what you are ultimately working toward.  If you are neglecting this, you may that allowing your coworker skills to atrophy may prove critical when you are sitting in front of interviewers.

Sitting in a room practicing interview questions in the mirror and having your spouse ask you interview questions is not the same thing as a round table interview and hanging out with friends over dinner is not the same as being a co-worker.  The first day you become a new coworker could almost be considered the true final interview.  This will likely be the first time you meet the people that you will actually be working with and believe me, they are the real final say on whether or not your new company will be the place you want to spend most of your time.

So what are some ways that you can practice being a coworker before you actually land a job?  Well, the first one is obvious–volunteering.  Volunteering is the perfect way to stay in the groove while you’re on a job search and the best thing is there’s no awkward salary negotiation.  Unfortunately, most people feel volunteering takes away time that they could be spending on job hunting when it actually couldn’t be further from the truth.  To hear more on volunteering check out this post from Walter Feigenson entitled “Volunteering can help you on your job search.”

Another uncommon way that will put a little extra cash in your pocket as well is to go on sites like craigslist.org and sign up to do some small one or two day jobs. I did this once in Colorado and have been friends with one of my one day coworkers for almost 4 years now. 

Another way to work with others and keep your coworker skills fresh is to start a group at your church, local library, or community center.  The group can create connections over a common interest and it will give you the opportunity to work with others–which is what you are going for.  You will also be able to exchange ideas and maybe even make connections who can tell you about available jobs you would never know about otherwise.  Who knows?  But one things for certain, activities like these will help you stay in the coworker rhythm and ultimately that’s where you want to be.

Additional benefits of actively working to stay in the coworker rhythm will be your ability to interact with all types of people with very little pageantry.  Once you get good at meeting new people it will be very easy for people to instantly feel like they know you.  That can’t hurt when you are interviewing. And of course, there are many other ways besides the three mentioned that you may be able to stay in the coworker groove such as taking a continuing education class or organizing a neighborhood yardsale.  The point is to get out there, meet new people, and engage with them over new or mutual interests.  You’ll be surprised by the value it adds to your job search experience.

If you can think of any other ways to practice being a coworker, please feel free to comment here or email me at psilva@jcsi.net.

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