By Deborah Vieyra
Congratulations on landing an interview for a fellowship! You should feel very proud of yourself for getting this far. To land an interview, the selection committee has already deemed your application suitable for the fellowship you have applied for. In other words, you have already been through a round of vetting and come out on top.
The trick as you move forward is to ensure that the committee meets the best possible version of you. Remember that they are interested in meeting you or they would not have called you in, to begin with. They want to know who the flesh-and-blood person is behind that riveting personal statement or compelling resume. You’ve already impressed them. Now it is time to show them that their intuition was right.
Perhaps you are the type of person that just needs the opportunity to get in the door, and once you have done so you are able to dazzle everyone with your other-worldly confidence. If, however, you feel it is easier to represent yourself on paper than in person, there are certain steps you can take to ensure that you enter that room feeling composed and self-assured.
Here are three tools that will help you walk into that room knowing that you are going to walk out of it feeling proud of yourself.
1. Play make-believe
One of the reasons children play games is to “try on” situations that they observe in real life. Pretending “as if” you are in a particular situation is an excellent way to learn and prepare. If possible, try to assemble a small group of your peers and rehearse your fellowship interview before going into it. Ask them to question you as if you were in the actual interview. Give them a copy of your personal statement and resume so that they can frame their questions appropriately. This will give you an opportunity to practice your responses out loud rather than letting them play on a loop in your head. Your fake committee may also throw a question or two at you that you had not considered, allowing you to feel even more ready than you would have if you had prepared all on your own.
When it is time to go into the real interview, playing make-believe will come in handy again. Act as if the situation you are going into is no different than the one that you set up with your peers. You’ve done this before! It will be a walk in the park.
2. Think of it as an opportunity, not a test
A young actor once told me that he settles his nerves before an audition by re-orientating his mind to seeing the task ahead as an opportunity rather than a test. Rather than becoming crippled with fear, he considers the audition an opportunity to play the part he is reading for, even if it’s just for the day. Think of your interview in this way. It is the opportunity to be in a room of accomplished people and talk to them about your path going forward. It is a chance to articulate why the work you want to do is so important, and the steps in your life that have led up to you being where you are today.
Nobody is sitting in that room to catch you out or to try and get you to make a fool of yourself. They would like to see you succeed. Show them that their confidence in you is warranted.
3. Dig into your toolbox
Your heart is racing and your palms are producing enough liquid to cure a drought. The physical symptoms of nervousness are unmistakable, and in some cases debilitating. Before you let the anxiety get the better of you, know that these symptoms can be overcome.
Think seriously about what tools have worked for you in the past. Does it help you to exercise beforehand to get some of that excess energy out of your system? Perhaps eating or avoiding certain foods is important to you as a means to keep calm. Deep breathing, talking to your best friend, cuddling your pet—find out what tools work for you and make sure you factor them into your schedule on the day of your interview.
Now go out and show them why they selected you for an interview in the first place. They are looking forward to meeting you. Confirm their hunches that you are an excellent candidate. And if you can, try your best to enjoy every minute of it.
Deborah Vieyra is a Fulbright alumna from South Africa who completed her MA in Applied Theatre Arts at the University of Southern California. She now works as a writer, proofreader and performer in Vancouver, Canada.
© Victoria Johnson 2018, all rights reserved.