There’s a common saying when interviewing, “Act like the job needs you, not like you need the job.” For the most part, this quote is pretty accurate. When you walk into the conference room, waiting for the lineup of potential bosses and coworkers to meet you and assess if you’d be good for the team, you need to keep a cool head and pull a left turn: flip the tables on them. Make them want you.

You need to become the one asking the hard questions, to make them fall in love with you.

By flipping the script and interviewing your would-be peers, you’re letting everyone know that you mean business. Answering questions with thought out replies is a significant part of the interview process, but by keeping a few questions in mind to ask when feeling out how the team and company moves shows you’re thoughtful and that you care about the position.

Confidence and composure are what the team is looking for, not how your resume reads. By creating conversation, or bouncing ideas off one another in an admittedly awkward environment relieves some of the tension but also shows that you can assume control of a situation that you’re not entirely comfortable with. People enjoy being engaged, it’s not Pavlovian, but we react in kind when an interviewee volleys the questions back and thus creates an honest dialogue vs. a rehearsed call and response.

We asked some folks who’ve been on the hiring side of the interviewing table what they’d love to hear when looking for their next great teammate, what makes them raise an eyebrow or catches them off guard. In the world of the job hunt, it’s all about impact and standing out, not just answering what you think the interviewer wants to hear.

“The interviewee should have made time to conduct strong research on the company, role, market, and form ideas about how they will add value. The most compelling candidates do their research and ask relevant questions.” – Brian, CFO/COO

It’s important to come to your interview prepared and know the company, their space and what you think they’re trying to accomplish. By asking about how the company is positioning itself against natural industry evolution, it shows you’re trying to plan the next move and instead of trying to come from behind and jump in mid-stream. Granted, no one expects greatness overnight, but it helps to feign commitment to developing the future instead of relying on status quo.

Others are all about goals and successes, finding out ahead of time where you could fit in and what is expected of your role. By asking what metrics can be hit for the most effectiveness or how you can be a major contributor to the team makes a case for an objective-minded person:

“I want them to ask about team dynamic. If they aren’t asking about what level of autonomy they’ll have, what the feedback process looks like, and how we typically communicate, then they likely aren’t looking to be engaged in the way we need them to be.”

– Beki, Project Manager

“What are the KPIs for the position, how are they measured (if not obvious), and is there a bonus in exceeding them?” – Victorio, CEO

“I also now ask what success looks like for the role. And add a time frame, like six months. It makes the interviewer distill the real aim/purpose of the job. What they say first is very telling about what they care about, e.g., You have met all your performance targets, or you’re successful in your team, or you’re taking the initiative on new projects.”

– Claire, Technical Writer

Other questions are straight ahead and get down to the brass tacks, looking to strip away any fluff. It’s important to keep the smaller, more direct questions at the forefront, too. Every question doesn’t have to be a big picture narrative, there’s plenty of room for the inquiry that strikes to the heart of why would I want to be on this team?

Can I meet some of the people that I will be working with, or managing? – Heather, Writer

What surprised you most about joining this team? – Elena, Product Marketing Manager

Heading into your interview with a few questions about the position will only help drive the point home that you’re the person for the job. It doesn’t matter if you’re trading stocks, cleaning toilets, or writing blogs, the important lesson here is to drive engagement between you and the people interviewing. You want them to see you as effective, informed, and ready to be an impact player on the team. You made it all the way to the in-person round; they like you, it’s up to you to seal the deal with some extra pizazz.

And if all else fails you can be weird and ask something like “Would you rather fight 100 horse sized ducks or 100 duck sized horses?” We don’t recommend it, but Michael, a quirky CEO went there. Don’t blame us. We’re just trying to help.

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The gig economy is now a part of everyday life. Job growth numbers factor it in, and economists have established an obsession with trying to access the long-term power of someone being able to plug in for a moment and then drop out when they feel like it.

What many people assume though, is that for folks driving for Lyft or running errands for Favor, these jobs are their only income stream.

For a lot of people, this assumption couldn’t be further from the truth. Lots of people in the gig economy have full-time jobs but are using these additional income streams to pay off their bills. One of the biggest reasons folks get behind the wheels of their cars and pick up the groceries or the dry cleaning is simple: picking up gigs is an easy way to hack down student loans. A whopping 28% of drivers under 30 use ridesharing as a means to pay off their student loans.

GET YOUR RIDE ON

By adopting the famous Uber promise of “make at least $500 a week guaranteed” people are getting off work and turning on their driver apps in hopes to chip away at the mountain of debt in their lives that won’t go away. What’s worse, is that while most of us have debt due to owning a house, or a swollen credit card bill, there aren’t a variety of programs like Credit Karma or refinancing your home when it comes to student loans. Once you’re saddled with that payment, you’ve gotta pay it every month.

The average Lyft driver makes around $20 an hour, depending on the length of their day. In today’s economy that’s pretty good money for driving around town. For new graduates, that’s fantastic money. When you’re first out of school or have a degree in something that finding a job takes a little bit longer, the job market can get real tight, real quick. It’s not uncommon for working professionals, or the barista at your local spot have between 30-60K in student loan debt thanks to a crooked system of borrowing – and yet, somehow they gotta pay that debt off each month or risk default.

Because drivers make their own schedules, they’re choosing to pull a few hours a week. Nothing over the top, but enough to put all of that money away and into an account specifically to pay off more than the minimum due. Picking up around ten rides a week allows the drivers to get ahead of their bill and then move on toward bigger goals like buying a house or a better car. 31% of Uber drivers use the ridesharing app to make their house payments, proving that the side hustle is strong.

WHEN SHOULD A DRIVER GET BEHIND THE WHEEL?

The hottest times to drives is if an event is happening in town. People hate parking. Nine out of ten times, it’s easier to get dropped off than it is to deal with parking at any major event. Another great time to work is the weekend.

Because no one likes drunk drivers, the demand for ridesharing is through the roof. By working one weekend in a major city, that’s rent. And for enterprising drivers, that’s a major dent in their loans.

YOU’LL NEED A PLAN

If you’re already working and trying to maintain some semblance of a social life, you’re only going to pick up rides part-time. Because you have limited time out there, it’s important to set a realistic goal of what you’re trying to pay down a month. Start small because you don’t want to burn out. Remember, you’re already working a full-time job. If you can set a goal to earn $150 a week with ride sharing, that’s $600 toward your loans. Luckily, the interest rates are usually pretty low on the loans, so the typical payment is around $250 a month. By paying it off with more than double the amount, you’ll be making waves in the principal amount.

An easy way to get this money is to stick to a schedule. Don’t deviate from it, keep your weekend mornings open for folks on a coffee run or seniors heading to church. If you work during rush hour, then make sure you’re consistent, so it becomes routine. Because the money you’re making is more or less “extra credit” vs. income you need to live on, you’ll see it pile up, and when you make that big payment, it’ll feel good to see your ugly number drop each month.

FORGET BRAND LOYALTY

If you’re looking to make money, you can’t rely on one income stream. Grocery stores are doing home delivery or in-store personal shopping. Favor or Task Rabbit pick up and deliver just about anything you need. When it comes to ridesharing, there are the two giants in Lyft and Uber and a few smaller players like Fasten. Don’t rely on just one of these platforms, get them all. If you feel like going shopping for someone for a few hours, do that. If Lyft isn’t popping off, switch over to Uber and see what their patrons are up to. You’re in control of your financial destiny.

In the end, it’s all about how hard you want to hustle. You can’t work your regular 9-5 and then try to cram in 70 hours of ride sharing. You’ll go insane, and you’ll end up spending way too much time at the McDonald’s drive-thru. There’s an adage that’s been around forever, and it’s right in this case: marathon, not a sprint. Your loans will take some time to chip away at, but if you’re diligent and stick to a plan, you’ll make an impact, and it won’t come out of your regular check. Besides, you’ll get to meet some cool people in the process.

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You’ve been preparing for this. You got the grades and have an idea of what you want to do for the rest of your life. Or maybe you don’t, and you’re winging it. Either scenario is ok. Leaving the comfort of high school is a big step. College comes in many forms, but the most critical thing you can consider right now is: where should I apply to?

Rushing to get into a good school doesn’t have to be a torturous process. It’s supposed to be as easy as making a list of colleges that look cool and apply, right? Well, it can be, but there’s a little bit more work involved than that. There are a few things to keep in mind when you’re studying brochures or obsessing about compiling every link ever to your top 50 colleges to check out.

First, you have to ask yourself: is college right for me? Societally, we’ve adopted a point of view that life begins and ends with a four-year degree. This is just wrong. There are a lot of talented, smart people who work in the trades and make a fantastic living doing so. If your idea of a great day is being outside and working with your hands, sitting in a classroom for four more years may not be the best use of time. Trade school or getting an apprenticeship with a union could be precisely what you need. Plumbers, bricklayers, carpenters make great livings. If framing a house or running conduit seems like fun, save yourself and your parents some cash and don’t try to cram that passion into getting a psychology degree that you won’t use.

If working with your hands isn’t your bag, that’s cool, too. There are a lot of jobs out there. One of the biggest mistakes a new student can make is center in on an area of study they have no intention of actually finding a career in. Students who get an obscure degree with a subject they can’t use in the real world are the ones that end up with mountains of student debt because typically they can’t find jobs to correspond with their skill set. It’s a vicious cycle, and no one in higher education is trying to stop it. If you’re not expecting to move to fill in the one job in 1840’s Russian art, what exactly are you planning to do with that degree? Be wise about what you want to major in. Take the classes and harvest a love for whatever lights your world up, but getting a job is the whole endgame of the exercise.

BUSTING MAJOR COLLEGE MYTHS

After you’ve faced a lot of existential questions and centered yourself, it’s time to pick a school. It’s not all just ACTs or SATs and GPAs – you need to attend a school that fortifies who you are as a person, or at least provides the kind of personal growth you’re after. There’s a college for everyone. There are over 4000 colleges in America. Do you want to learn in a high-pressure situation or at a place that’s laid back?

Don’t try to oversell yourself on one idea or the other. Go with your gut. If you’re a little high strung and need to have constant deadlines, you may want the kind of environment that an intense school schedule demands. If you’re low key and like a less stressful schedule, maybe an art school is what you need. Listen to what your gut tells you. Don’t let mom, dad or a friend pressure you into attending a school because they think it’s what’s best for you.

If you check out the stats on a school and don’t get that immediate “yeah, this is me” feeling, move on. They’ll never have your heart. Instead, you’ll always be wondering what other schools are like. Listen to that internal voice because usually, it knows best.

GO TO THE PLACE THAT’S RIGHT FOR YOU

Keep culture in mind. If you’re a progressive liberal, going to a conservative school won’t be four years of perfect harmony. If you’re deeply religious, a secular college may be a great idea. Every community, no matter the makeup, has a set of values they uphold, and the college you pick should reflect yours. Some schools are way invested in their traditions while others… not so much. If there are things you aren’t personally into, don’t force yourself to adapt for the sake of a program. College is about enjoying the experience, not enduring the time because a few classes are interesting. Compile your choices into immediate Yes or No groups.

Stick to your guns. If you’ve got a college on your mind, go for it. Everyone feels inadequate at one point or another. No one is perfect, and no one has always batted .1000 in life. Don’t get lost in your fears about school to apply to the places you want to go. You’re cool enough. You’re smart enough, and you’ll find a place.

Don’t obsess. It’s not worth it. There’s always some movie where the kid is freaking out over getting into the school of their dreams. Take the journey one step at a time. Research a new school each day. If the school appeals to you, write it down and move on. Once you’ve compiled a few, start building out a plan. There are a lot of schools and a lot of amazing teachers. If you don’t have the grades for MIT but still want to work in the space, there are plenty of schools who’d love to have you on their team.

GET THE SUPPORT YOU NEED

Speaking of teams, don’t forget to lean on your people. Ask for help. Talk to your parents. See what’s up with your guidance counselor at your high school, or just grab a teacher to get an opinion on your goals. If you’ve got a question, call the college admissions office. Let them help you. You’re not in this alone. People want you to succeed.

That said, don’t rely on your friends. They mean well, but their goals aren’t your goals. Your friends are flying blind just the same as you are.

Keep costs in mind. There are a lot of grants, scholarships, and opportunities for students out there. There are grants specifically for left-handed people. There’s no excuse for you not to fire up the Google and look to see what kind of money you can save. College is expensive. You want to minimize the amount you’ll be spending. Student loans can rack up and guess who’ll be left holding the debt? You will.

Think long and hard about what goals you want to achieve with college. Can you attend a community college for two years to knock out your basics for a quarter of the price? Making sure you’re planning within a budget is essential. There’s an adage of not putting an amount on an education, but that’s not entirely fair. There is most definitely a price tag that comes with college.

Now that you’ve been briefed on the basics of prepping for college, are you ready to apply? We’re waiting for y’all to change the world.

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Higher learning can be a magical time. College students are essentially dropped face first into a real world-flavored place where no one is accountable for their lives, except, you know – them. Mistakes are made in college, but it’s a place where learning to correct those mistakes is just as easy. But, there’s one part of the college experience that means more than your GPA or how much you showed up to your English 301 class: it’s your internships.

Everyone needs to pull their weight at an internship. They offer a portrait of staff dynamics, but also teach humility and let a student know how much effort a 9-5 entails.

Hiring bosses won’t be impressed that you got cheese plates for the most powerful real estate company in Austin, nor will anyone care that you got to write code for the front end of for EA for a semester. In reality, you need something different that you’re not thinking of. You need to go the road less traveled.

It’s critical for students to think about real life goals and what the plan in a post-school world could be. Students need to look at the companies on the back pages of the book, the companies who are not flashy and receive a 10th of the inquests of their acclaimed classroom competitors. The real unpolished diamonds lie are in these places.

By applying to smaller companies or less flashy ones, the chances of you getting real, meaningful work are higher. An internship is meant to teach a student life skills and offer a view into X industry. By getting hands-on experience at an internship instead of just the crap work no one else wants to do, you’re given a front row seat to check out what’s behind the Great and Powerful Oz’s industry curtain.

INTERNSHIPS ARE THE GREAT EQUALIZER

Consider this example: you’re a fashion design student at Tulane University. You love clothes, and you want to work in New York. You read all of the fashion blogs, have curated a fashionista Instagram feed and you’re always looking for the next new trend. You want to be seated at the right hand of Michael Kors or Calvin Klein. They don’t realize it yet, but you’re going to be a force, you’ll be the one to breathe new school style to the tried and true brands of the last decades. At least, this is how you see the world in your head. You need to get a few internships before anyone will take you entry-level serious.

You’re killing it in school. It’s time to search for an internship. But, not all opportunities are created equal. You don’t live in New York. You live in New Orleans. New Orleans has a fashion community. Albeit small, there are people putting out exciting clothes. Naturally, you want to go with them, you want to apply yourself to the biggest name in town, or at least work for one of the shirt companies who design all of those pieces all of the locals and tourists alike gobble up. You want to be aligned with that company making the cute dresses they sell on Magazine Street or maybe even try to work at one of the city’s fashion-minded publications. It’s you and a sea of other students who also live in one of the most art-obsessed cities on earth. The competition will be tough. There are only so many spots.

You can put in the application and hope to be called. Alternatively, there’s another route to take. Instead of hoping to do some social media posts around the new shirt with the trumpet logo, you can design something. Look for the little clothes companies, the one’s who are branding shirts for the beer league softball teams, or the company who has a small locally sourced clothing factory. Installing zippers on prototype hoodies isn’t glamorous work, but it’s impressive because you can speak to actual function over fashion. These teachable moments are what the working world is comprised of – it’s not all glitz, there’s actual work.

MAKE THE SMARTER INTERNSHIP CHOICE, NOT THE FLASHY ONE

Chances are, if you approach a place like this, they’ll be happy to have you on board. A blue-collar clothing factory would love an intern.

A hiring manager sees a bazillion applications for a job. They’re looking for experience, or at the least something interesting if you’re right out of school. Having that big name clothing company looks cool, but when you’re asked about what you did, what can you tell that hiring manager? That you sent out of a few tweets and got a lot of coffee? Maybe worked a handful of events and handed out t-shirts?

By taking the gig that’s less flashy, you can talk about how they gave you meaningful projects or that you were given carte blanche on a design project. Typically, the smaller the company, the happier they are to have your contributions. Because you can cite some real-world experience and likely walk away with stories of being challenged, or even just deal with a demanding boss, you’ve solidified yourself as a better candidate for a job.

Experience is everything in the working world. Give yourself the leg up and apply to intern at the places who offer the best shot at actually doing the work. Make the connections, and do the work. Let someone else worry about getting coffee.

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