Many of us have experienced a sweating-inducing interview or a nerve-wracking exam. You probably understand the highs and lows that follow from such moments. Maybe you feel like junk one second. Then, you experience pure elation. Is there a way to strategically tackle interviews and exams? Yes, there are.
You have a university or college exam approaching. Maybe an employer has invited you for an important meeting or a job interview. It’s certainly right to think about what to wear or how to do your hair. But I want to offer thoughts on how to mentally prepare for it.
I haven’t written an exam for a while – I’ve only given them out to students for the past few years. On the other hand, I have had my fair share of high stakes interviews. So the ideas below flow from my personal experience and observations!
You may not be able to eliminate the stress, but perhaps you can harness it and make it work for you.
How can I calm my nerves before an important meeting?
The following thoughts are aimed at doing your absolute best during your exam or your interview.
Locate a cozy, quiet place with minimal distractions
Find a comfortable spot where you know you won’t be interrupted. Get a frothy coffee (if you drink coffee, that is). Make sure the place is relatively quiet. (Throughout my university career, I found natural light worked best for me.)
Now settle in.
Prepare in small chunks of time
But not for too long!
Aim for two-hour blocks with a 15-minute break work. Our concentration wavers after prolonged stretches. Studies indicate that smallish windows of time help many people focus and retain information.
So, get up and move around. Get some water, stretch, or check your messages.
Don’t skip the background work
Sit down on your comfy chair and review the job specifications closely; make sure to think about answering questions that relate to your successes and failures in the past. Also, make sure you have concrete examples to talk about.
(When I had a job interview last year, I familiarized myself with the company’s mission, vision, and 5-year plan. It’s worthwhile to develop an understanding of the big picture and go from there.)
Now, if you are prepping for a big test, familiarise yourself with the course outline for information about the learning outcomes of the class. Look at previous quizzes or exam papers from years gone by.
Get prepped by doing
This is the most extended entry here. That is because there are some ways of putting the necessary time in.
For instance, speak out loud instead of merely reading. Answer a potential interview question as you would during the actual interview! You could video yourself and review yourself. Watch for eye contact and listen for ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’ and carefully monitor your body language, which speaks volumes to employers. Practice. Practice. And practice.
If studying for an exam, teach others what you have learned. I tell this to my students all the time. Communicate what you’re studying. Maybe that person is your gran or your goldfish. Perhaps it is your brother, boyfriend, or potted plant.
Also, write practice tests under test-like conditions (timed and with your books closed). Park your backend and simulate the exam. You will be happier for play-acting when the real test kicks off.
Find yourself a crew
Spend time prepping with others that you trust. Even better, these people have been through the process before. Choose partners who have the same general level of knowledge and commitment.
These people should offer you constructive criticism and tons of high-fives! You should be able to accept both.
When I am preparing myself for exams, I had three or four friends that I worked with. It’s different for everyone, but find yourself an upbeat, hardworking group.
Keep a regular schedule
You must be sure to eat right, get enough sleep, and take time to exercise. Don’t get caught up in the moment and forget about your general wellbeing. Don’t sacrifice what you love, whether that’s cooking, or going to a yoga class, or getting a full eight hours.
Whatever you do, don’t stay up all night before the big day! That increases stress.
(Quite honestly, I was a ‘crammer’ for the first few years of university. And what a bone-headed mistake that was!)
There are lots to say about social media and de-stressing. Generally, some social media during your study period could help you connect with others going through the process.
But during your short two-hour study chunks, close down your laptop. Turn off your phone. Forget about Instagram and Reddit. Never mind your Twitter or Facebook. Remember, you’re trying to do get prepped with minimal distractions during small windows of time. Be sure to tug yourself away from distracting sites.
Find time for ‘you’ on the day
Before the exam or the interview, go for a walk. Center yourself. Focus. You’ve put the time in. Recognition of this fact will help defuse and de-stress the moment.
When I visited Fredericton, New Brunswick for a day-long interview a few months back I made sure to take fifteen minutes halfway through the day. It wasn’t a huge amount, but it gave me a moment to collect myself – to reflect. (I didn’t get the job!)
Finally, during the exam/interview, focus on what you do know rather than what you wish you had spent more time studying. Breathe deeply. Smile.
When it comes to potentially life-altering moments such as exams and interviews, stress and anxiety come with the territory. It’s important to recognize these events as necessary. And it’s just as crucial to have a plan and address the events head-on. I certainly wish I had prepped more cleverly in university. With job interviews, I have put a lot of time in. Others have written about stress-busting and self-care on Having Time, and I’d recommend taking a look at some of these articles.
photo source: pexels