The Harry Potter Interview technique

I used to get super nervous in job interviews. Like heart racing, bowel upset, can’t think anxious over job interviews.

And this isn’t a surprise.

In a job interview you’re basically trying to sell yourself. You’re trying to prove that you’re awesome, and the company is trying to determine if you’re the right kind of awesome for them. And they’re trying to sell you on how awesome the company is, and you’re trying to work out the truth of that… it’s a whole can of worns.

It’s a situation that makes you vulnerable. It can feel like if you’re not offered the job in the end, there must be something wrong with you – as a person –

This isn’t at all true by the way. There’s a huge number of reasons coming into play: the timing might be off, another person they’re interviewing might have just a smidge more experience, they could also have someone in mind for the job but wanted to ‘go through the motions’, the interviewer may be having a bad day, or the weather might be affecting them. You might even remind them of someone they don’t want to work with. There’s a lot of reasons, and none of them are your fault.

Whatever. You can’t control those things. The thing you can control is yourself.

Here’s the technique I use, which is stolen almost directly from Harry Potter. Just with less death.

You know the bit at the end of the Deathly Hallows when Harry is about to face Voldemort and possibly die? He pulls the resurrection stone out and turns it. He’s surrounded by his parents, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, a whole lot of friends and adopted family who died. They tell him he’s brave, that they’re proud of him, that he’s done well. It’s a beautiful tear-jerking moment.

I use this idea. I visualise my friends and family around me. I don’t kill them or anything, I just imagine them like they’re astrally projecting.

I go into the interview as prepared as I can, obviously, but once I’m there I sit and imagine people who love me. I imagine them standing behind me, which makes me feel a lot less alone when there’s two to three people on the other side of the table.

I choose people who are super supportive to me in real life. The ones who have my back. The ones who check in on me, the ones I can trust implicitly. I imagine them telling me I’ve got this. Maybe they’re telling me I’m awesome, or maybe they’re just standing and smiling and reminding me I’m not alone.

It’s kind of a form of self talk, and it’s a visualisation for sure. It might sound totally woo-woo. But I’m a geek, and a confirmed Gryffindor, and it’s very reassuring to me. It’s more or less erased my nervousness about job interviews and it frees my mind from the anxiety over ‘what if they don’t like me?’ and allows me to focus on answering the important questions. Not to mention remembering to ask questions of the people doing the interview.

I’ve even had moments when I’ve been asked a question which threw me, and had the feeling like these people standing behind me (Mum, Dad, partner, best friend, etc). One of them leans forwards and says ‘yeah, you know the answer to this’ and the answer comes to me.

I’m sure this technique would also work for other scary situations like public speaking, or going into a new situation like a new workplace, or going to a new meetup or club or something.

If you can contain even some of your nervousness, you’ll come across better in the interview. So, maybe you can try out this technique,and let me know if it works for you.


Self care 101

What is self-care, and why should you well, care?

Back before the internet’s obsession with self-care, I would’ve called it pampering, or the more long winded ‘stopping to smell the roses’. But the analogy I think works best is ‘what would you do on a sick day?’

Because imagine for a moment, you’ve got a cold, a nasty virus, whatever. You’re staying home from work, and you suddenly have a whole day in front of you. Sure, you could do the dishes and the vacuuming and the million other chores which need to happen, but you don’t, right? You take care of yourself so you can get well again.

Self care is looking after yourself mentally and emotionally. It’s listening to what your body needs, what your mind needs, and then giving yourself those things. It’s about doing something to nourish yourself. And you don’t just do it when you’re sick. You do it whenever you can.

Self care is for everyone

You know how on the airplane safety video they say to put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others? Self care is like that too. You might be running yourself ragged dealing with your co-worker’s issues, and need some emotional space for yourself. You might be trying to do too many things in a day and find yourself feeling overwhelmed. There are hundreds of ways we push ourselves too far.

There’s a tendency to think ‘yeah, I’m stressed but it will pass’, or ‘it’s not that bad’. But you can help the stress pass faster with self care. You can energise yourself, you can give yourself some down time which makes things better, so why wouldn’t you?

Self care is whatever you need it to be

When you start reading about self care, you’ll see a lot of ‘essential’ lists. Some of these might have useful things for you in them, and some might have entries which if you were to do them, would just stress you out more. This is because self care is different for everyone.

Early on in my journey I was a devotee of Gala Darling, who preaches something called Radical Self Love. I’ve since fallen off the Gala bandwagon; as her brand developed and I became more of myself, we weren’t a match anymore. But I always think of her sad trombone list. It’s a catch all 100 entry list of things you can try which might make you feel better, and a lot of those were never going to work for me but I did find one or two which did.

The ‘guilty pleasure’ entry. One of the things I do to soothe myself during times of stress is watch Romantic Comedies. There’s a couple of reasons I like doing this: RomComs are formulaic, you  know the basic story structure going in so there won’t be any jarring surprises or unpleasant twists. They always end happily ever after, which is comforting, and they feature pretty people in nice clothes and often fancy locations, so they’re just nice to look at.

Romantic Comedies certainly won’t work for everyone, and they also require the freedom to sit still (or lie on the couch with a blanket) for a couple of hours while you watch them. You need to find the things which will comfort you in the time available to you.

You should also take into account your own introvert vs extrovert tendencies. If you’re an introvert who’s been to a lot of busy, people filled events recently then some alone time will probably help. If you’re an extrovert who’s been alone or doing solo work, you may need a catch up with a close friend, or a rowdy dinner with a bunch of friends.

My self care bullet journal spread

How do I find something that will work?

A very wise woman recently asked me “what grounds you?” and I didn’t immediately have a response. I’d not ever thought of things I do as grounding me. But she teased out the question some. Where have you gone where you can turn your mind off a little? When can you remember feeling calm and relaxed, what were you doing?

For me it was going for walks in my local park, or going to the beach and just staring at the ocean. The different environmental qualities there work for me. Parks with trees have a higher oxygen concentration, the ocean generates negative ions which physically make you feel better.

Another thing for me is sewing. I’ve been sewing since I was a kid and learned patchwork off my mother as a teenager, so it has a lot of positive associations for me. Sitting at the sewing machine and creating something new can put me into a flow state which is naturally relaxing.

Other not so obvious forms of self care I or people I know have used include:

  • Video games ( console or mobile)
  • Watching horror movies
  • Road trips
  • Going to a museum
  • A long hot bath and early to bed
  • Bundle up with a warm blanket and a book
  • Cooking or baking
  • Cycling slowly through a park
  • Free writing

Think about a time you’ve been totally at peace, what were you doing? Can you do some version of that? If like me, you love the ocean, why not make a picture of the ocean the wallpaper on your desktop or cellphone, so you see it more often? If you like walks in the park, listen to some ambient bird and wind noises while you work.

Now go try something!

Remember there’s no right or wrong answers. Whatever makes you feel like you have a full drawer of spoons again, or fills your cup, or gives you some serenity is successful self care. I’d love to hear from you in the comments if you have any particular techniques which work for you.

Here’s some soothing links to help you on your journey:

Kitten witch breathing gif

The latest Kate – art and quotes for anxiety

Headspace meditation app 

Interactive self care flow chart

Videos and reassurances from Jeffrey Marsh 

Some Ted Talks