“Pray as if everything depends on God, work as if everything depends on you.”
This is a very famous saying attributed to St. Ignatius. It applies to many things in life. One of those things are applying for jobs and appearing for interviews. I have been to a few interviews in my career and have fared quite successfully in most of them. I must acknowledge God’s role in that and all the people who have fasted and prayed for me. However, that accounts for only the ‘pray’ part of St. Ignatius’s wise words. The focus of this article is on the latter part of that saying, the ‘work’ part.
INTRODUCING YOURSELF –
The famous first question at an interview is “Tell me something about yourself…”. I feel a sense of familiarity everytime I hear that question because I hear it on so many occasions at the various activities in the CFCI community. For e.g., when I joined the community I had to introduce myself to the team and the other participants. I also have to introduce myself every time I have to give a talk or a testimony. I know what you’re thinking. Introducing yourself to a religious community is completely different from introducing yourself to a group of VIPs who would hopefully give you a job that is required to survive. That is true, but just that sense of familiarity makes me comfortable enough to answer that question without being nervous.
One of the skills which are useful at interviews is improvisation. There will always be a question that you have not prepared for and in those cases, you must improvise. This is another skill that I have acquired over the years of active service in the community. Sometimes, at an event, we have an open Q&A forum. The questions asked could be anything – about the community, about the faith, about my opinion on a certain matter, etc. Over time I have learn’t not to panic in such a situation, but think of the right answer, while avoiding the awkward silence.
GROUP INTERVIEW –
I have never been to a group interview, but I hear it is fun. Well, it may not be so for someone who does not have experience with small group discussions, but it is not the case if you are an active CFCI member. Household group discussions are a core part of the community and for the most part, you get to practice once a week. Knowing when to speak, how to steer a conversation, how not to be threatened by the pressure of everyone watching you as you speak. These are some of the things you become comfortable within the community.
MANAGEMENT SKILLS –
If you are really active in the community, you get to help with hosting big events, like conferences. It involves a lot of preparation with some people working round the clock to meet deadlines. If you have attended an event hosted by CFCI, you will see professionalism in the organization of the event. Does that mean event managers were hired for the event and experts were consulted for every little detail? Certainly not. The entire set of skills in organizing the event comes from ordinary people who live ordinary lives, who for the most part, have nothing to do with event management. The results speak for themselves. You could imagine how important it is to have a skill like that in a corporate environment. It is perfect to impress your boss, being hospitable to clients, or just creating a memorable moment for everyone.
PREPARING PRESENTATIONS AND PUBLIC SPEAKING –
Learning the art of preparing presentations is important not just in the work environment, but even in the academic world. I have a perfect example of the impact the community had in this area during my days in college. I was doing my final year in arts at St. Xavier’s College, Goa. For the English class, we had to prepare two presentations as part of our curriculum. The first one was to be prepared during the early part of the academic year and the second one during the close of the year.
I happened to join ‘CFCI Youth’ in the midst of preparing these two presentations. The first presentation that I prepared was acceptable. I scored 6 out of 10. I was happy. I did not expect much in any case. I did not think I was capable of anything more, because I had never considered myself a speaker (and I still don’t). During the CFCI Youth camp I delivered two talks and a few testimonies.
Pursuant to this, I presented my second presentation for the English Literature exam. This time I got 9 out of 10 and the professor asked to see me in private. She was a pious lady, and felt it was her duty to inform me that I should consider joining the priesthood because I was ‘priest material’. Well, I am married now with a son, so I obviously have not taken her advice very seriously.
The point however is that I am still not a great speaker, but the one thing I never have is stage fright. I may not be prepared for what I’m about to say. I may be invited to give an impromptu talk without being given a chance to prepare, but I will still not get stage fright. That, given the circumstances, enables me to deliver the best talk that I possibly can.
MEETING PEOPLE –
I have always been a shy person. Meeting new people is a constant challenge for me. There was a time when I just could not speak to strangers. My wife would argue that I still cannot, but I beg to differ. Although I am not as good as many people, I have improved a lot. As part of my services in the community, I have had to talk to strangers all the time. I remember for one activity, I had to go up to random couples at Miramar beach in Goa, tell them I would like to sing to them a song, and ask for a request and then play the guitar and sing for them. Before you stop reading further, in fear that you would have to do a feat like this, I assure you it was not forced but suggested. I agreed to do it.
A couple of years ago, I had the privilege to sit along with the human resource personnel and some other important people and conduct certain interviews. One of the candidates was shy and nervous. He was a nice guy and I felt bad for him. I made him feel comfortable and got him to speak. I later looked back and realised that making people comfortable and getting them to speak is what we do a lot in the community. Every time there is a CLS event (Christian Life Seminar – the entry point into the community), there is always the one shy person who needs coaxing to speak up. It happens all the time and as part of the CFCI service team, a part of our job is to make them feel comfortable.
THINK AGAIN –
For all of you who are either not part of this community and for those of you who are, but have not been active and also for those of you who feel that spirituality and religion are a waste of time – Think again! The skills that I mentioned help you immensely in life. Being an active member of the community will help in the various situations as I have mentioned above. It will take care of the ‘work’ part of St. Ignatius’ quote. As an active member, before you realize it, the ‘pray’ part will definitely follow. I assure you!