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Write a career journal

Steve Gilles
Feb 13
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Ah, interviews.

I'd fail one without preparation. You would think someone paid to conduct interviews would wing it, but I can't.

When asked to provide an example, I'd struggle to think of stories, and without a story, I'd waffle. My answers would fall short, or worse, go down a long-winded path leading nowhere.

My interviewer would smile and thank me for my time. But eventually, there'd be a nope in my Inbox, or a call if they're decent.

Even if I get a lot of things right, they enjoy meeting me, and I am an incredible hire for the gig, I would somehow end up a false negative without interview prep.

So what's going on?

Thinking on the spot is hard for me. My brain needs threads to pull on to unlock memories. Then, I'm great.

Ask me my favourite restaurants on the spot and I'd underwhelm. After glancing the favourites list I keep in Apple Notes and you'll have me describing the food, vibe and decor like you were right there with me. You'd finally see why everyone asks me for restaurant tips.

Another thing. I can re-listen to a part of a podcast/audiobook and tell you exactly where I was in my commute when I heard it last, but it takes a bit to give the synopsis on the spot. Anyone else like me?

Back to interviewing.

You're going to face behavioural interview questions. The "tell me about a time when" questions. And if your brain is like mine, retrieving older data on the spot requires extra processing power. What would make it easier is a large cache of stories and career learnings that are ready to go and easily accessible. 20-30 to choose from, so you have the right 2-3 in your meeting.

Next time you prepare for an interview, try writing a career journal. Think of it as your second brain, in which the written memories become the threads to pull on when you're in the moment.

Fill it with situations, people and learnings, but only focus on high-level stories so they are easy to memorise, like flashcards before an exam.

Start writing your journal by reviewing your calendar. Make a list of milestones, mistakes, accomplishments and learnings. Find old emails, project folders, or anything else to help fetch those stories from the back of your mind. I've been decision journaling for years (thanks, Sebastian!), so I would go through that and write down the titles of various decisions.

Make a long list of stories, then prune them down so your journal is easy to scan and memorise before an important interview.

With stories ready, you're ready.

I hope this helps.


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