How Freelancing Made Me Nail My First Job Interview
Ever had the sweats before your first job interview? I bet you did. I never did though, when you are well prepared, sweat will think twice about staining your armpit. I think back back now to that day and mentally grin at how I nailed that interview.
I am sharing my experience with anyone out there waiting to have their first job interview and are clueless on what to do despite the many interview tips articles online. Come to think of it, this experience will also be good for you even if it’s your second job interview. Maybe your first job was via a family connection which allowed you to skip the interview process and now you actually have a real one to prepare for. A job Interview is like that first awkward date but without the calming ambiance of soothing music and great food, isn’t it.
So here I was fresh out of the University of Ghana with a Bachelor’s Degree in Banking & Finance ready to take on the world. It's 2007. I wasn’t just a fresh-faced graduate. I actually held an arsenal of internship experiences in my resume armoury. You see, I spent my school vacation periods very wisely by interning at Barclays Bank. At one point, I actually want to go on holidays to the United Kingdom to ‘chill’ and come back with the latest summer trends like other students. But God had other plans for me so I was bounced like twice😫 . Painful I know 😅. But after realising the importance of the internships I forgot all about going to the Queens land. My resume was a detailed list of my assigned responsibilities as an intern. What I loved most about those 4 years of my internship at the bank was how I was treated like an employee and not just someone to send on roasted plantain errands. I worked as hard as everyone else despite the internship pittance of 7,500. It was the experience which mattered to me.
I completed my National Service at Ghana Commercial Bank in 2008 where it further dawned on me how very different my lecture notes on banking was from the real world of banking. My service time was a steeper learning curve than my previous internship experiences. GCB was on another level of manual entering of banking transactions. I appreciated technology after that service time.
What next? My Aunt employed me to be her Executive Personal Assistant in her HR consulting firm which was home-based. That was my first working from home experience and it opened my mind up to a whole new world. It required discipline to wake up each day, dress smart and get to work in the home study. My Aunt was extremely professional and strict so there was not a single thought to even slack. My ears would burn😆!
I would go back to my home during the weekends and it was during one of those weekends that I run into an old friend of mine. During our catch up chat he mentioned that he was working with a friend in the newspaper publishing industry and they were about to publish their first copy and they were looking for columnists. It was a Property focused newspaper. Would I be interested in writing for the paper? I didn't have much knowledge about writing content for a property newspaper. But I decided to propose on something different. I offered to write on keeping an environmentally friendly home with home safety tips etc. My friend loved it. I decided to call my column ‘The Green Home’. Thus started my freelancing job for this newspaper. I wrote usually after 5pm after my 8-5 job with my Aunt. Regarding payment, I wasn’t going to be paid till the paper had made some sufficient sales. Or something along those lines. But I didn’t mind. I was too excited to be a columnist for an unknown paper! Imagine! And boy you should have seen me when I saw the first print publication! I was grinning from ear to ear just seeing my photo staring back at me from the paper.
I had written three articles for the paper when I was informed of an oil and gas company in Ghana recruiting for a team assistant. My first question to myself was, ‘Wait. Ghana has oil?’ Dumb right? How had I not read about this anywhere? I later discovered the vacancy in Daily Graphic and perused the requirements. The qualifications went right up my alley.
I quickly went online to read about this Oil and Gas company called Tullow. Interesting! I read more about the Jubilee partners for the exploration of the Jubilee Field and what it meant for us as a country to have oil. The internet reveals a lot with a bit of digging. A little hardwork doesn't kill. Try it and see.
Updating My resume
I quickly updated my resume to reflect my Executive Assistant role and the freelancing job as well. The vacancy was for a team assistant for the Health, Environment & Safety Department. Do you see where I am headed with all this? I double-checked on my email address and updated my phone number to reflect the most reliable one. The average Ghanaian in Ghana has a minimum of two mobile phone numbers. One is very reliable whilst the other is for whatsapping. Always state your most reliable contact on your resume.
I arrived 30 minutes before the interview time to familiarise myself with the organisational environment and culture. Another job applicant came a few minutes after me. We sat in silence and waited to be called. I was actually the last to be called and I walked in to find the HR manager and the Departmental Manager as interviewers. I wasn’t too surprised. It was expected although I wasn't expecting a South American departmental manager. We went through the usual questions of my background etc. Then I was asked why I would be a good fit for the organisation. That was when I pulled out my trump card. I had brought copies of my published articles from the newspaper and confidently handed it out to the panelists. I told them I not only wanted the job but was very passionate about keeping not only a home but also a workplace environmentally friendly and safe to work in. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the departmental manager’s pleasantly surprised look. They said they would be in contact and I walked out.
I went to have a quiet lunch in Osu after the interview. My phone rang around 2pm. It was the HR manager. The job was mine. I didn’t scream or anything, calmly and confidently I raised a triumphant fist in the air 💪🏾! I started my job in January 2009 until the global layoff at the company in 2015.
Freelancing at the newspaper business gave me the upper-hand during the interview. Of course, my internships, researching and other key actions I took before the interview also contributed to the success. The lesson of not overlooking small opportunities stayed on with me and still does today. Small opportunities lead to bigger breakthroughs. Never look down on jobs that you might see as beneath your qualifications. I took up the team assistant role and worked my way up the company. Take them up and work studiously and passionately on them, you never know when they will serve as golden keys unlocking golden doors of opportunity. If you are a graduate or soon to be one, grab up internship opportunities when you can. Internships are gold on your resume for your entry-level job. Impress your employer where you intern with proactiveness, diligence and a heart for learning on the job. Trust me, they will not forget you anytime soon. And they also make excellent references. Keep that in mind.
I hope you have picked some grains of wisdom from this post and will be a sharing human and share with your social circles :D. In the mean time please share how you also succeeded in your first job interview in the comments below.