"What will you personally contribute to the company?" employers usually ask during a hiring interview.
For some people, this is a simple question that leads to a reply full of grand achievements and a litany of transferable skills. Their answers are full of terms like "enthusiasm," "teamwork," and "high-energy." But for some people, this question poses a challenge because it's a question that demands self-awareness and confidence; a question that forces you to consider what you've done in the past and your capacity to work and give.
It's a question we may be tempted to answer with a touch of extravagance. We aren't faced with it on a daily basis.
A few days ago, I attended a workshop at UBC about the job application process. There was a panel of student alumni who articulately described the experiences they had acquired so far; a panel of employers who hinted at what they looked for in a resume, and what factors put cover letters on the path to the trash; other key note speakers; and plenty of colourful powerpoints.
It was a theatre full of undergraduate students trying to make the most of their degree. And I knew I was there primarily because I wasn't convinced that my English major would win me a career after graduation.
But that question of "personally contributing" struck me for the first time as something more important than a mere hoop to jump through.
Taken out of the job application context, asking oneself: "How am I personally contributing?" seems like something that could be beneficial in more ways than one.
Currently, it seems the more popular question is: "What is this certain thing/ person/experience going to do for me?" I am aware this is the default question I'm usually asking myself. Maybe the media and consumer culture plays a role in conditioning such a mentality. Maybe it's a whole combination of other things. I want to make an effort to move away from it though.
Challenging myself to consider what my existence contributes to the world or - more realistically - to my family, to my school, to my community, is rather eye-opening, thought-provoking, and resolution-inspiring.
There's something refreshing about the idea of contributing. I'm sure it's why so many people have harped on and continue to harp on "making a difference."
The idea of using the qualities that make you uniquely "you" to fill a need is rather reassuring. The idea of being useful gives one a hopeful feeling of having purpose and value.
"What am I personally contributing?" I think if you train yourself to answer that question frequently, you'll probably own that next interview as well.
Anna Toth is a JN Burnett graduate and currently attends UBC.