The Boy Scout motto “be prepared” can be used to distinguish yourself in the interview and workplace. Proper preparation for routine business tasks can improve your productivity and put you well ahead of average performance.
Preparation can be used in many situations including meetings, projects, job interviews, and time management. Although conceptually simple, I am surprised at how little preparation goes in to most work. And it’s something I need to improve myself.
Sometimes the “tyranny of the urgent” dictates what we do each day with interruptions, phone calls, small projects, and emails taking a large share of time. But don’t let that take time away from preparation. If you have to, close your email program, close your door, or go to a quiet location where you will not be interrupted. Additionally, plan for what tasks you need to complete in advance and hold yourself accountable to the timeline. Really take time to think about your priorities each week as opposed to completing whatever seems most urgent without planning.
Before a meeting, make sure you have thought about questions like: Who are you meeting with? What is this person’s background? What do you share in common with the person that might spur a conversation? What is the goal of the meeting? What is a follow-up item to propose? I’ve gone to meetings before with little or no preparation and missed big opportunities to find common ground, suggest collaboration, or ask for a larger gift.
Before a job interview, ask who will be included in the interview so you can learn more about everyone involved. Read the organization’s website and familiarize yourself with the main projects so you can discuss them intelligently. Speak with others in the organization if the opportunity is available – those who work there now or have recently. The employer can tell when the candidate has prepared and that is an indicator how the person will probably perform on projects once hired. Needless to say, candidates who are not familiar with the organization and do not have constructive questions and suggestions are less likely to get the job.
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