Every job I have had since I was 15, aside from a brief 2-week stent in retail, has been in an office somewhere. I have done internships in defense contracting, human resources, administration, government, legal research... you name it. I felt like I was shopping around the workplace for a field that best fit my interests.
After searching through the many listings on American University's career web, I came across a position that perked my interest-- an internship at the Department of Commerce's Bureau of Industry and Security. As an economics and international studies major at AU, I thought this position could serve as a nice marriage of my academic pursuits and so I eagerly applied. A few short weeks later, I had heard back from the Department and they wanted to schedule an interview with me. Finally a job in economics... I would be landing the perfect internship. I wanted to ace this interview.
A few days thereafter, I was on my way to the Hebert Hoover Building for my interview. Naturally, I was a bit jittery but I had left early so I wouldn't run into any trouble. Before I continue though, I should warn you before you read on that this post isn't about how to give the perfect answers at an interview; it's about the importance of maintaining your composure.
Well, here I was crossing K Street toward the metro. I could see the crosswalk flashing up ahead: 21 seconds. I knew I didn't have the time to make it up to the corner to cross so I just ran across the street and got to the curb without problem. As I made it to the other side, praticing potential answers in my head, I heard a scream and a loud thud. I turned to my right to see a woman getting hit by a commercial truck in the middle of the crosswalk. My jaw dropped. Everyone stopped. I felt like I was in a movie.
There she laid on the ground, motionless. And there we all stood in shock. All of the papers she had been holding had floated down to the ground and people then began checking to see if she was OK. After making sure the ambulance was on its way, I headed down to the metro. People just a block away at McPherson Square had no idea what had just happened. Neither did the interviewers in the Hebert Hoover building.
Here I had planned to review my resume on the metro and instead all I could think about was that poor woman. My ability to focus was gone. Luckily, when I arrived for my interview (miraculously on time) they weren't ready to see me yet. As I sat in the lobby stunned. I breathed. Should I tell them? Would they even believe me if I did? I breathed again.
Within a matter of seconds, I had decided that I should not reveal the incident to my interviewers. It would only serve to distract me from the interview itself. I then pulled out practice interview questions and my resume and started to go over them. Shortly thereafter, an analyst came to escort me to my interview. So my advice is this: no matter how prepared you think you may be, always set aside a few minutes to compose yourself before an interview. It's a lot more important than you may ever realize.