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How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice!

The economy seems to be doing great. You've seen the official unemployment statistics. We keep hearing about a "skills gap."

Yet, so many of us know someone who is unemployed, under-employed, or "off the rolls."

These people need support. Studies conducted by sociologist Ofer Sharone (MIT, UMass Amherst) and the Institute for Career Transitions have revealed that SUPPORT---emotional, coaching, and educational---is crucial in helping the unemployed (especially the long-term unemployed) obtain their next job.

Fortunately, there is a lot of support available in several areas. For example, LinkedIn is populated with many people (including me) who can help you with your résumé, cover letter, and general networking skills. Your local career center and many coaches & counselors can help you discover the real you, via Myers-Briggs, Skillscan, DiSC, and other personality assessments. Coaches, counselors, family, and networking groups help with emotional support. Career Centers, colleges, and other institutions offer many educational programs.

Unfortunately, there’s one area for which support isn’t generally available: Interview practice.

Local career center classes typically offer only a few minutes per person for interview practice. Most unemployed people can’t afford the expensive hourly rate that career coaches & counselors would charge. Some networking groups occasionally offer interview days, but they are usually not regularly scheduled and involve brief one-on-ones with another unemployed person.

An interview involves more than the elevator speech. Rehearsing that isn’t enough.

Being ready for an interview includes knowing answers to likely questions about your résumé, having answers ready for behavioral questions, and having questions of your own to ask.

Are you ready to “tell me about yourself?”

What would you say? How long will your answer be? Can you guarantee you won’t go off track and bore the interviewer or start talking about your ex-boss?

I feel this concept is so important, I once helped an unemployed friend practice that one question for forty minutes the day before an interview. (Yes, he got the job.)

Good practice with others supporting you demonstrably improves your chances for making a great impression at the interview.

For example, Career Collaborative (CC) in downtown Boston offers a jobs program for economically disadvantaged people that includes weekly mock interviews. CC has a tremendous record helping its audience land higher-paying jobs

And, one year ago, I started a free Framingham practice interview group. Around fifteen people thus far have landed jobs after attending a few sessions.

So, next time an unemployed person tells you they have an interview coming up, don’t just wish them luck; offer to help them practice.

And if they are in the Boston/Metrowest area, consider attending our free practice group.

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