Rest in Peace, Sweet Kitty

We lost our sweet, adorable, cuddly baby girl this week. Pixie, formerly known as Batman, passed away and I am heartbroken.

Our sweet kitty was only 3.5 years old–so young, TOO young to be gone. Earlier this week, we noticed she was lethargic and moving slowly. Two days ago, we noticed she stopped coming when called, wasn’t eating or drinking, and no longer demanded to be pet. She spent most of her time laying in the bathtub.

I brought her to the vet on Tuesday after work. Unfortunately, they were unable to diagnose her with anything as she had no other symptoms (vomiting, coughing, etc.). Our poor baby was just not herself.

The vet gave her subcutaneous fluids and gave me a syringe to feed her with. They took a blood sample and told me we should hear results by Friday. We were sent on our way.

This week, I was fortunate enough to work from home. Every hour or two yesterday I spent syringe feeding her a little bit of baby food and a bit of water. She seemed to be getting better. I wanted her to get better…

Last night, she headed into our hallway where she flopped down in this un-catlike position. I called my husband over and we were stuck. We didn’t know how to help. I grabbed my phone in an effort to find a vet who would do house visits, and in that moment she let out a painful cry. Husband went over to feel for her breathing, when she let out one last cry and passed away.

All of this transpired so quickly. Our baby girl was her normal playful self just this past weekend and in a couple days made a turn for the worst.

I didn’t tear much last night and thought there was something wrong with me. Today I realize I was in shock. I experienced a wave of emotions and today is filled with tears as we said our final goodbyes to our sweet little cat.

Pixie was my very first pet. She was always so silly and never vicious. In the last couple months, she finally seemed to feel at home with us. She was finally comfortable with cuddling with me on the couch while watching TV. I am heartbroken that she left us so soon.

Rest in peace, baby girl. Mama will love you forever.

Sincerely,
Squirrel

black cat

10 Interivew Tips to Nail Your Next Job

Must have interview tips for your next job hunt from an experienced interviewer.

I know how daunting it can be when gearing up for an interview. If you have one on the horizon, I imagine your mind is spinning. You want to make sure to demonstrate professionalism not to mention remember all your answers to questions.

Not too long ago, I was interviewing multiple times a week to find a job post-graduation. Even more recently, I was interviewing virtually to try to land a job in NY before I moved back here. I want to help you be as prepared as you can be for your upcoming interviews to land the job of your dreams (or maybe just to pay the bills—I feel ya).

10 interview tips to nail your next job by Sincerely Squirrel

Why should you trust me to give interview tips?

Before I jump in, you might have paused and asked yourself, “Wait, what does some online squirrel know about interview tips?”

In my last three positions (aka every job since leaving college), I have done some sort of interviewing and hiring as an add on to my role. While a concessions manager, I spent two winters interviewing candidates for various position in our 500+ person department. The second winter, I spearheaded the process, myself interviewing at least 200 people—likely more.

In my next position, I looked for and hired people a bit more skilled to join our (much) smaller operation. Finally, in my current job, I’m actually in the process of hiring two vastly different positions—one an intern position and the other a masters-level + 5 years of work experience position. While I can’t say that these are the be all end all tips, I know that if you put them into practice, it will land you a step above your other average candidates.

So Squirrel, what amazing interview tips do you have for me?

To get here, I imagine you have some knowledge of interview basics. Bring multiple copies of your resume, arrive early (but not TOO early! 5-10 minutes is good), give a firm handshake and make eye contact, et cetera, et cetera. If you are still learning the basics, I think that’s great! We have to start somewhere, and if you want some additional information, please feel free to reach out to me via comments or one of these methods. I am happy to help!

Alright, without further ado, here are 10 interview tips to make you shine:

Tip 1: Dress one step above what you think the dress code is

My first tip is a bit of a segue. I went back and forth about whether or not this should even be a tip as it sounds obvious. However, you would be amazed at how many people fail to dress appropriately for a job interview.

Think about what the dress code likely is at the location you are applying for. Now dress slightly above that. If an office is casual (jeans and hoodies), dress business casual. If it’s business casual, dress business professional. If you are unsure, it’s typically best to err on the side of caution and dress business professional. First impressions are important!

Bonus tip: 

If you are extended or have accepted an offer and are still uncertain of how you should dress at work, it is perfectly ok to ask your future employer what the dress code is—it shows that you care about how you show up to work.

Tip 2: Be friendly and professional to everyone you meet

In this tip, I am not just referring to everyone you are formally introduced to. You need to be friendly and professional to any security, receptionist or other staff that you come across. This is two fold:

  • Some employers ask their receptionist how the candidate treated them to get a genuine feel of their personality. You could be interviewing for a C-suite role and this still applies to you. In fact, I would argue it’s even more important that someone at that level demonstrates basic human decency.
  • If you are hired, these people, particularly the receptionist or office manager, can make your life smooth sailing or hell. I’ve heard horror stories of people who went on to have awkward interactions with a receptionist for years because of their inappropriate behavior as a candidate. Don’t be that person.

Tip 3: Bring a notepad and pen to take notes and actually take them!

This is one of my favorite tips! You should always bring a notepad and pen to take notes. Padfolios are even better, but a simple notebook will suffice.

When candidates show up for interviews with these simple tools, it conveys a sense of forethought and professionalism. When they actually take notes, it conveys a sense that they are invested in the job they are interviewing for and care to remember the details you discuss at a later time.

Bonus tip:

Write down the questions you have for your interviewers. This ensures you won’t forget them and shows them that you took the time to prepare for this specific interview (even if your questions are the same for every interview you attend). I will get back to question suggestions below.

Another benefit to having a folder or padfolio is that they allow you a natural space to put the extra copies of your resume. Plus, if you fidget, writing down notes can be an outlet for your nervousness.

Tip 4: You can take a minute before answering questions to seem thoughtful and keep you from rambling

When asked a question, you don’t need to start talking right away. Many successful interviewees pause for 30 seconds to a minute before answering. Trust me, I understand how that can make you go from nervous to sweating bullets and it might take a few interviews before you can do this calmly, but that’s okay! You just need to get there and here’s why:

  • When you pause to collect your thoughts, you appear thoughtful and intentional when you speak
  • By pausing, you can fully process what it is they are asking you
  • If you are able to mentally process your answer, you are less likely to ramble in hopes you’ll answer their question with you story
  • Pausing can help the interviewer too! You give them a chance to finish writing up notes from a previous question or further skim through your resume. Ideally, they will have more to remember you by.

The pause time will always seem longer and more awkward to you than to your interviewer, so try not to stress it, though I know it’s hard.

Tip 5: Answer behavioral question using the STAR method

Interviews have largely moved toward behavioral questions. This is because candidates’ past experiences and actions are better indicators of what type of person and worker they are than an answer to a hypothetical situation.

The downside to this type of interviewing process is that people tend to ramble when they are nervous, especially when recalling an event. I have had interviewees go on about one story for 10 minutes, never really touching on the points I needed. This is where the STAR method comes into play.

STAR stands for Situation Task Action Result. In brief, this is how you should structure every “Tell me about a time when…” question. This ensures you set the stage for the story, explain what you did, and what the outcome was. Learning and implementing this method was life changing. Visit my post on the STAR method for a deeper explanation and examples.

The one caveat I have is that if you are applying for a job that’s highly technical, this method might not be fully applicable. Technical interviews are wildly different and you need to prove you know what you are talking about.That said, it doesn’t hurt to review this method anyway.

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Tip 6: When asked if you have a weakness, the worst thing you could do is say you don’t have one.

It might seem counter-intuitive to air your weaknesses when you’re trying to sell yourself for a job. Contrary to what your instinct says, you absolutely need to prepare at least one weakness. My company actually asks for “areas of growth,” which sounds better but is essentially the same thing.

Failing to acknowledge an area of weakness/growth shows a lack of self-awareness and desire for improvement. Everyone has some area in which they are not great at. Now, that’s not to say you should list any and all things under the sun.

When I am interviewing someone, the best weakness answers are those that are somewhat related to the job, but are not crucial to getting that job done. I also suggest you identify a way you are working to improve it.

For example, one of my weaknesses when I was interviewing in college was public speaking. I was a painfully shy child who grew into a shy and soft-spoken adult. I would explain this history, then mention that I was in the process of taking a public speaking course to learn tips and gain confidence. This is actually a true story and I (surprisingly) quite enjoy presenting now.

Tip 7: Your answer to “Do you have any questions?” should always be YES

However, don’t just ask any questions. This is your last chance to stand out from everyone else. I am so appreciative and become advocates for candidates who ask thoughtful questions. You want to demonstrate your interest and curiosity of the position and company. Also remember that it’s not just the company who is interviewing you; you are interviewing the company. For example, you may want to ask:

  • Can you describe the culture at [company]?
  • Can you describe the team dynamics of the group I would be working with?
  • Is this position new or had someone held it before? Why did they leave?
    • This may give some insight into what it’s like working for the company or team
  • Based on someone with my experience/resume, what would you say would be the most challenging part of this position?
    • This opens up a window for you to address any concerns they have regarding your qualifications.
  • What vision does the leadership team have for the organization?
    • You should assess whether or not this question would make sense for the position you are interviewing for or it may come across particularly odd.
  • What does success look like for a person in this position? How would my performance be measured?
  • What are some of the immediate projects that I would be working?
  • How would you advise someone who is starting in this position to gain as much knowledge about the work and content as fast as possible?

These are just some of the many questions you can ask and there are tons of resources on the internet with more.

As I mentioned above, you should write some down in your notebook and refer to it during the interview. However, please do not ask ALL the questions. My recommendation is you pick about 4-6 of varying difficulty and actually ask 3-4. I tell you to pick more because they may answer some of your questions during the interview and asking would make you come across as not listening.

10 interview tips to nail your next job search

Tip 8: In some areas, asking for salary history is illegal

As a way to combat wage inequality, some lawmakers have made asking for salary history illegal. This way employers must pay people what the position is worth rather than just pay enough to make it appealing to the candidate. That said, I see how it can be tricky to not answer that question—you feel you are coming across as being difficult. You have a couple options:

  1. You can tell them (nicely) that they are not allowed to ask that by law
  2. You can answer truthfully, and possibly mention at the end something along the lines of, “For this position, I am looking to earn [insert range here]”
  3. Tell them that you are making the amount that you want to or should be making in your position (if underpaid). Now, yes, this is a lie, but they also can’t verify it. The only time I would caution against this is if your salary is particularly high for the position you’re in. Just as you don’t want to shortchange yourself, you also don’t want to box yourself out of consideration by being too expensive.

Tip 9: Send a personalized thank you note

If you don’t already have an email address (from setting up the interview), ask for a business card at the end of the interview! Then make sure to send a personalized thank you note within 24-48 hours.

What do I mean by personalized?

Remember those notes you diligently took in the interview? This is the perfect opportunity to tie a pretty bow on your interview experience. Pick out 1-2 things they shared and/or you discussed and integrate them into the note.

You can express your gratitude for their transparency and willingness to talk. You can reiterate your fit for the position. You can even go on to ask additional questions. This exchange solidifies you in the hiring manager’s mind and can be a way to keep the lines of communication open.

Tip 10: If you don’t get the job, be gracious and consider asking for feedback

It is extremely frustrating to get passed over for an opportunity that you believe you are the best fit for. Most people read the rejection letter and move on with their lives, which I completely understand as I have done that too. One thing you might want to consider, if the letter was not automated, is asking for feedback on where you can improve. Take care to not sound bitter or ungrateful, but use it as an opportunity to restate your interest in the company. You never know when a position that you are a great fit for will open up.

A few months ago, my team was hiring for a vacancy. We interviewed one woman who was great, but not quite the right fit for our team. However, she stayed in touch with the hiring manager over the last few months and lo and behold, a position opened up that she is a better fit for! We are still in the hiring process so I can’t tell you whether or not she is joining the team, but this is a great demonstration of what can happen if you keep the lines of communication open.

There you have it folks. 10 tips to help you nail your next interview and get that job! I hope I’ve provided some helpful advice or at least a refresher for you brilliant people!

Let me know if there are tips you think are missing and I can create a part 2 with your generous help. Alternatively, if you find you have questions about any of the tips, please reach out in the comments below or via my contact page. Until next time…

Sincerely,
Squirrel

Answer Behavioral Interview Questions with the STAR Method

Employers are increasingly interviewing candidates with behavioral interview questions. If you’re on the hunt for a new job, chances are you may come across these questions yourself. Come learn how to  answer these like a pro.

In my last three positions, I have interviewed over 400 people for jobs ranging from a dishwasher or concessions stand worker to a masters-level 5+ year experience professional. Between my own interviewing experiences and through the eyes of an interviewer, I have seen the good, the bad and the confusing. Now, I’m here to share my tips with you.

What are behavioral interview questions?

Behavioral interview questions are most often those, “Tell me about a time when…” questions. These allow employers to gauge your fit and ability off past performance. Past performance is often a better indicator of future performance than hypothetical questions. While people may know and want to respond to situations one way, they may not have the skills nor personality to do so.

For example, if you asked me, “What would you do if a client’s network went down?” I might answer something along the lines of, “I would look at their equipment and troubleshoot it based on the problem. I would make sure I get them back online.” That sounds great, right? The problem is I don’t know how to do all that. Now if you asked me, “Tell me about a time where you troubleshooted a network issue,” we would both know that I am not the right person for that job. Sure, candidates can still make up answers, but it’s much easier to tell when a story is not true.

STAR Method Answers to Behavioral Interviews

So what is the STAR Method?

You should employ the STAR method each time you answer a behavioral interview question. This ensures that you tell a full story and answer what your interviewer is asking. STAR stands for: 

  • Situation — You need to set the stage for your story by explaining the details of your situation. What job and position were you in? What happened to spark this experience?
  • Task — What was the task you were trying to accomplish? What was your goal?
  • Action — What did you do? Ensure that you are specific and clear. Take care not to talk about what your team did, though you can mention you had one, but explain what you yourself contributed.
  • Result — What happened as a result of your action? Did you complete your task? What did you learn? Ensure you fully answer their question by this point. If you have numerical evidence or positive reviews, highlight them here.

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Here’s an example of the STAR Method

The Question

Let me demonstrate an example of using the STAR method to answer, “Can you tell me about a time when you made a mistake?”

This is a fairly common question since most jobs deal with others in some capacity or another. Employers want to know how you handle these types of situations.

Here is a STAR Method answer:

Situation:

When I was at my last position, a coworker, who was an associate in the Communications department, and I, Operations Manager, had to work on a project to rebrand the company. We were to modernize it and present our idea at the next staff meeting.

Task:

I assumed that due to my more senior position that I was the lead on this project. I went to work drafting a plan, but made the mistake of not conveying that to my coworker. She also went to work hatching a plan.

Action:

When we finally met, I realized that we did double the work because we were unclear of our roles in the project. Then it dawned on me—she works in the communications department. Of course, she thought that she would lead the project. I asked that we sit down and talk about our options, especially now that we had less time to get the work done.

Result:

Initially, she was frustrated as it seemed that I under minded her authority because of our title differences. However, I apologized for the lack of communication and conveyed my support for her spearheading the rest of the project. We looked through the work both of us did and while they were vastly different, it sparked new ideas for how we could accomplish the rebranding. This situation taught me the importance of communicating and avoiding assumptions if possible.

By following the structure of the STAR method, you are able to tell a full story. You set the stage, explained what happened and what you did and ended on a positive note with what you learned. I don’t suggest saying, “The task was… The action was…” as your answers are a bit too canned and unnatural sounding.

Learn how to use the STAR Method in Behavioral Interviews to score your next job!

Preparing STAR Method Answers for Your Interview

Part of your job search should include taking some time to sit down and draft your answers to common behavioral interview questions. To help you, I have created a template for you to outline your stories. Sign up for our newsletter and have it sent straight to your inbox!



When I was interviewing, I printed probably 5 pages front and back (20 questions total) and filled in answers for as many as I could. It takes some time to complete, but paid off TREMENDOUSLY. I used many of my written answers in my subsequent interviews.

One thing I can improve on going forward is to rewrite my final story in the template to make it easier to review. However, even my messy notes were incredibly helpful. Interviewing was far less nerve-wracking because I had stories at the ready and could answer questions with confidence.

Before you leave, remember to sign up for my email list and get this template sent to your inbox. As a bonus, I also included a list of common behavioral interview questions to get you started. Be sure to adapt them to your field and occupation.

Let me know in the comments if this is helpful and what other job tips you want to see next! Until next time.

Sincerely,

Squirrel

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10 Kids Activities and Outings to Try this Summer

Hello hello! How often do you go on Pinterest or other blogs and see TONS of kids activities for toddlers and young kids? I have nothing at all against them and truthfully, I’ll be seeking their advice in a couple years. On the flip side, I often see articles like “Top 10 Amusement Parks to Visit this Summer.” However, I currently have a 9 year old stepdaughter who needs a bit more stimulation than a 3 year old, but is not quite a thrill seeker. Now don’t get me wrong, there are PLENTY of adventurous 9 year olds. I just don’t have one at the moment. As a result, here is a round up of 10 suggestions for our kind of kids activities. Continue reading “10 Kids Activities and Outings to Try this Summer”

Easy Breakfast Burritos with Common Kitchen Staples

Normally the Sunday of Memorial Day is a day for relaxing in the nice spring weather with a barbecue roasting in the background. Unfortunately, for those of us in the New York area, today is anything but. It’s gloomy and was down pouring when I left the house to go grocery shopping this morning. I returned to the house much soggier than when I had left. That’s alright though as I was looking forward to making some delicious and easy breakfast burritos.

This recipe makes 2 adult sized (honestly bigger) burritos.

Ingredients

burrito ingredients(Not pictured: sausages, whoops!)

Continue reading “Easy Breakfast Burritos with Common Kitchen Staples”

A Bear and Two Cats

Hi reader!

I figured what better way to start this blog than to tell you a bit more about me and my everyday life.

Husband

I refer to my husband as Bear, but for the sake of my readers, I will just refer to him as my husband. People might be puzzled otherwise 😉 We met at work when I told him a corny IT joke that I won’t ever live down. However, I must say it worked as we ended up married 2 years later! Continue reading “A Bear and Two Cats”