A lot, it turns out. This photograph explains two often-problematic aspects of planning your professional life:
The first is how to integrate your passions, hobbies, and causes into the job search.
LinkedIn urges us to include “Volunteerism and Causes” in our profiles (and on our resumes). We hear stories about the person who scored her dream job because she and the hiring manager had a shared passion for animals, both active with the ASPCA.
But how do you find out which of those causes to include in your application materials and interviews? Couldn’t it backfire? Is there room to list all of those things that might resonate with a hiring manager?
There are really two options here:
1) If you can do research and networking to find out what you might have in common with your interviewers, then you can place it in your application documents. That’s pretty rare!
2) You can be ready to deliver an honest answer when asked about your hobbies or how you like to spend your free time. You should have a prepared answer that connects your hobbies & passions to your professional aspirations. And if what you say resonates with the interviewer, then you can have a genuine, spontaneous conversation about your shared interest.
This is where the pizza photo starts to come in. When asked about hobbies, this candidate was prepared to talk about his passion for pizza making in the wood fire pizza oven he had installed in his back yard and the online community of pizza-makers at Pizza Making Forum. In any medical school interview, he was ready to talk about the parallels between pizza making and medicine—the combination of art & science, the chemistry at the core of one of life’s great pleasures, and how those balances reflect the balances of a healthy life.
In one med school interview in particular, the interviewer was also a home chef interested in artisan pizzas. They were able to engage in a more extended spontaneous conversation. That really helped! It left the candidate embedded in the interviewer’s memory in a way that other candidates were not—on both the explicit and intuitive levels.
But that’s not enough!
And this is what leads us to the second often-problematic issue related to planning your professional life: follow-up after an interview. It is important.
I hope by now you can guess where that photo of the pizza comes in…
In his handwritten thank you note, the med school candidate included that beautiful photo and mentioned to the interviewer that it had been featured on the cover of seriouseats.com
Did he get into medical school? Yes! And it’s icing on the cake that the place where he happened to have a hobby in common with his interviewer was his first choice.
Darcy Lear is a career coach specializing in job search documents, professional school applications, and interview preparation. For one-on-one support in preparing for your job search or to set up a campus workshop, contact Darcy: firstname.lastname@example.org