My impressions of Denver during Denver Startup Week

Following years living in the hustle and bustle New York and the Bay Area, I’ve been ready for a different pace for a while. I randomly stumbled upon DSW’s Ambassador program and decided to apply as a way to plug into a new community and meet some new people. And, my experience was that and so much more. I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to participate in the Ambassador program. 

Here’s what I’m taking away from my incredible experience at Denver Startup Week:

  • There’s no shortage of passion for the city and its potential. I was so impressed by how many people are not only actively engaged in their careers but in the broader Denver community. This was evidenced by the number of people volunteering (with joyful, smiling faces) just happy to be a part of this community-based event.

  • DSW is inclusive. This event is for people of all backgrounds and interests -- you do not need to work at a startup or have an MBA to both contribute and glean value from the experience. I was also impressed with the intentional diversity, equity, and inclusion focus of both the Ambassador program and the larger programming as part of DSW. And, for those of you in the people & culture work, they launched a whole track about people this year! People are a priority!

  • And, Denver cares about conscious growth. I participated in multiple discussions where Denverites were seeking to understand how to consciously grow in a way that honors residents and existing businesses. In many conversations, I observed people acknowledging the present and potential future challenges of growth, and seeking to understand a way to move forward that honors the people and history of the city.

  • The people are genuinely kind, curious, and community-oriented. In almost every conversation I had, the person I was talking with asked: “how can I help you?” One of my personal values is community and connection, so this absolutely made my heart sing. 

  • Denver is a place to have a thriving life. Health, wellness, and balance are a priority in Denver, and this is not lip service. They really mean it. People work hard, but their lives are not only about work. They are about being in nature, enjoy time with their families and friends, and investing in their community. There’s something really beautiful about the lifestyle in Denver and it’s unlike any other place I’ve visited.

  • And it’s a place to have a thriving career!  Don’t mistake thriving life with a lackluster career. Denver’s economy is thriving and the opportunities are endless. This is a great place to start or grow a career. This rang true during host company visits to Ibotta, Evolve Vacation Rental, Pie Insurance, and Guild Education.



I can’t recommend this experience enough. Apply to be a #DSWAmbassador today -- you won’t regret it!


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Finding Purpose

 
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There’s an interview question we need to talk about. It is one that I strongly dislike and it goes something like this: “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” You could replace that 5 with a 10 or 20, but the question is still equally unhelpful in my view.

I’ve been asked this question multiple times and it sends a feeling of “ugh” down my spine every time. Why? Because, if we’re being a bit vulnerable and 100% honest here, who really knows what journey of life will lead us to in 5 years? Not me. This question has made me doubt myself, my clarity about what I wanted, and my drive to get to my goals. It has also made me feel inferior to those who could answer so clearly and confidently.  But all of this is simply a byproduct of a well-intentioned yet poorly formed question.

A few years ago, I decided I no longer cared about this question, at least in the format in which it is presented. Rather, what I actually cared about was finding out my why, my purpose. I started swirling these questions in my head (and - spoiler alert - I still do):

Why am I on this planet? What am I supposed to do with all of my waking hours? What is my role in addressing the world’s most urgent needs? What is my greatest value add and contribution to my community? What do I enjoy doing so much so that time passes extraordinarily fast? What gives my life meaning?

During this time, I started a list of all the things that gave me joy and meaning: physical movement (specifically, yoga and cycling), simply being outside, recipe-free plant-based cooking, rescue animals, editing resumes (for real), talking with people about their career and life goals, raising resources for causes I care deeply about, launching side projects that allowed me to be creative, learning new skills, reading business books, gardening, and the list goes on. Keeping this expansive list ultimately helped me to identify trends and priorities in my own life. Much of what landed on this list has informed my career and life ambitions, which are about the many ways we invest in ourselves as people.

The Learning: Once I stopped asking myself a boundaried, unfair question, I unknowingly set myself free to explore my purpose in a way that is creative, freeing, and exciting. Identifying and honing my purpose has given me just enough grounding to have roots, but enough liberty to create, pilot, fail and pivot over and over again.

How does this purpose stuff translate to interviewing? Good question. What is deeper and more meaningful to learn about is a candidate’s purpose versus their plan. Plans stem from purpose and are meaningless without it, so go deep first - discuss purpose!

For this particular question, think about what you’re really hoping to learn from candidates by asking “where do you want to be in X years”. Let’s assume the real intent has to do with assessing job fit, career ambitions and their alignment with your open role, or something in that arena. If that’s the case, instead of asking “where will you be in X years”, try something that goes deeper and is more meaningful. Here are just a few purpose questions you could try:

  1. What is your why?
  2. What gives you meaning in your work?
  3. What gives you great joy at work?
  4. What impact do you hope to leave on the world?

If you’re still interested in the plan, here are some questions to ask as follow ups that will get you that type of information.

  1. How do you see this coming to life in your work?
  2. What steps have you taken to achieve meaning? What future steps do you hope to take?
  3. How does this role connect to your personal mission or purpose?

I’ll leave you with this quote that I refer back to regularly and often:

“Things that excite you are not random. They are connected to your purpose. Follow them.”
 

How to nail your phone screening interview

Congrats! You’ve applied for a job and got a callback. Make sure to celebrate, as this is a great accomplishment. Many job openings receive hundreds of applications, and not nearly that many candidates receive the call back you received! After you celebrate, it is time to prepare. Preparation is the key to nailing your phone screening interview.

First, and foremost, let’s quickly get aligned on what exactly a phone screening interview is and does. Phone screening interviews are the initial conversation(s) that you have with an organization, typically by phone. By design, they are quick and geared at understanding your high-level fit with the job and organization.

It probably goes without saying, but first impressions really matter here. Screening interviews can be a ton of fun for both the interviewer and the candidate. As a candidate, you can either make the interviewer (often a recruiter or the hiring manager) absolutely fall in love with you OR make them decide very quickly you're not a fit. There's always the middle ground, too, in which the interviewer will be undecided or neutral about your candidacy. And, in the recruiting world, a neutral review is typically a no. Insider tip: when I conduct screening interviews, I ask myself two questions: Am I excited to learn more about this person? Is this a candidate that I’d confidently present to XYZ hiring manager? Your goal is to give me, as a recruiter, a resounding yes to both of those questions!

There are some key things you can do (both ahead of time and during your interview) to "wow" your next interviewer. Here are some tips that I've developed from my personal experience as a candidate and as a recruiter.

  1. Do your homework. I cannot count the number of times I hop on a phone screening in which a candidate either doesn't know the job title of the role they're applying for, the name of the organization or just completely fails to mention their interest in this job, at this organization, at this time. Not a good first impression. Lesson: do your research - review the company website, check out LinkedIn profiles of people who work at the organization, talk to someone you know that works at the company (make sure you actually know them).  Additionally, in most organizations, the mission matters greatly above all else. Tip: As you’re doing your homework, jot down “zingers”, or things you discover that really resonate with you. Then, find a way to tie the role and the organization to your personal mission, and prepare ways to make that known in your interview, which leads me to my next point...
  2. Strategize what you’ll say. Once you've done your homework, it's time to strategize and craft what you’ll say in your interview. To be clear, this takes thought, strategy, and reflection. Think: how can I help this company solve the problem that is the reason this job was created? In what ways can I blow it out of the park? This is where you should put most of your prep time in advance of an interview. It is YOUR job to show how your background and experience are totally relevant to the job at hand, and that you are the right person to do it.  In other words, you need to show how you’re the perfect fit from a skill, will, culture, and mission perspective - no easy feat! However, if you do this right, your interview will feel easy AND fun. Here's how I do it (in case you are wondering): I print out the job description and my resume.  Then, I start to build a case based on my experience (i.e. resume) of how I could live into the particular action items, goals, competencies, etc. on the job description. This is not an exact science; however, these strategies have been integral and effective in my own job searches in the past.
  3. During your interview, be you.  There is no replacement for 100% authenticity in interactions with people, and the same is true of interviews, as they are simply an interaction with someone you don’t know...yet.  Think about it this way: If you are ultimately selected for the job you’re applying for, don’t you want to be selected because of who you are, the skills you bring, and how you’ll execute you work? Remember that this is about assessing fit for you too, and the only way to truly assess fit for yourself is to be fearlessly and authentically you.
  4. Always ask (good) questions at the end. If you don't ask any questions, this signals that you're not interested and/or didn't care enough to do your homework (see above). Secondly, make sure you ask strong questions.  Don’t ask about anything that is clearly found in the job posting. You’ll want to ask new, thoughtful, reflective questions. A bad question = What are the responsibilities of this person? A good question = I see that your enrollment goal is 80% by October. How has your team done against this goal in the past?
  5. Send a thank you note or email. A showing of gratitude is always a good thing, and evidence of emotional intelligence. I recommend sending within 48 hours of your interview, particularly for roles in which relationships matter (so, all of them).

Originally posted in February 2016 on my LinkedIn profile.