If there was ever an “Alpha Male” it was my father-in-law.  Paul Patrick Stone was the type of man no one could ignore.  He had a big presence; physically and expressively.  When he showed up, things got busier.  Louder.  More raucous and animated.  When he left, things slowed down.  But he had a way of commanding a moment in a way that didn’t steal the spotlight, he just turned up the brightness a few degrees on everyone.

One of the things I loved about my father-in-law was his ability to do things.  Anything!  Seriously, the man could teach himself anything.  He was a self-taught engineer who built stuff; big stuff!  Boats, tanks, airplanes.  He taught himself to weld when his boat was leaky.  He taught himself to lay tile and build cabinets when his house needed sprucing up.  He could fix cars and create stained glass.  He was the rare artisan who was also an artist.

Never one to let his accomplishments go unnoticed, he was also fond of pointing out what he’d just done.

Damn Butcher, I know some s***!

Some people would hear this and think he was a braggart.  Cocky.  Overconfident.  Actually, his enthusiasm cost him one job and meant he bounced around in others when his leadership failed to basically quick talking and move so he could get back to work.  Love him or hate him; no one was indifferent!  And that’s what I loved about him.  He was a perfect role model for a new grad searching for their calling.

At this point of the tribute it’s important that I point out the difference in “cocky” and “confident.”  For me, cocky is the BELIEF that you can do something.  Confidence is the KNOWLEDGE that you can do it.  Confidence is borne of experience; trial and error.  Usually a lot of error!  Cocky is borne of ego; nothing to back it up.

Tomorrow students will attend the UCF Internship Fair.  In a couple weeks they’ll attend the Fall Career Expo.  Lots of them will get interviews out of these events for internships and jobs.  I hope they’ll draw inspiration from my father-in-law to add a bit of confidence to their answers by incorporating these three tips:

What have you done? – Interviewers love “behavior-based” questions because they draw out specific experiences.  Interviewees loathe behavior-based questions because they may not have an experience.  Don’t answer a question about a time when you had to lead a team with something like, “As a student we lead teams all the time…”  Or worse, “I was the team leader on a class project…”  EVERYONE has to lead a project at some point!  Be specific and find unique opportunities to lead.  If you do lead a class project, then take it seriously and actually do something different.  If you don’t strain at least one friendship over an assignment, then you really aren’t trying!

What was the result? – Don’t wait for the interviewer to ask what happened.  Be forthcoming with data.  Be proud of what you did.  If you failed, be proud of that too.  Talk about what you learned and what you’d do different.  And remember to focus on OUTCOMES rather than just ACTIVITY.  Activities are the things you do; outcomes are the results you produce!

How can you do it for them? – Finally, and most importantly, turn your attention to the needs of the job they are trying to fill.  How can what you did and what you learned be applied to their position?  Remember, confidence comes from knowledge.  Show that you understand their priorities and know their job well enough to apply your experience to their situation.  This will require some research on your part so don’t wait until you have an interview offer to start.  Talk to people, get to know industries, and review the jobs that are available.  If you are already working for the company and this is for a transfer or promotion, show that you know about their operation.  Be prepared with recommendations.  Nothing annoys me more than an internal candidate who is only as prepared as an external candidate!

So if you have experience, don’t be afraid to flaunt it.  An interview is definitely not the time to be shy.  PP wasn’t shy!  And if you don’t have experiences, then hopefully you have time to go get some!  Remember, it ain’t cocky <EXPLETIVE> if you back it up!