What do method acting and a high-stakes job have in common? More than you might think, says Gina Barnett, a longtime actor and executive coach who helps corporate power players communicate
According to Barnett — whose new book, “Play the Part: Master Body Signals to Connect and Communicate for Business Success,” translates actor training to the business world — the same principles that help an actor deliver a heart-stopping performances can help a job seeker interview with new confidence and new success.
1. Pick an objective — and it’s not “get the job.”
Obviously, you want to get the job — in theatre terms, that’s your “superobjective.” But when you go into your interview, you want to have more specific objectives in mind. You want something you can act on: Not “Be likeable!” but “Do I want to work here? I want to figure out if this a company I’m excited to be part of.”
Going in with a concrete task “changes the whole energy in the room,” Barnett explains, “because you’re coming in and trying to suss them out, as much as they’re trying to suss you out.” You’re no longer a powerless job candidate struggling to keep your cool before the firing squad. Now you’re a curious and open person, interested in learning about these new people you’re meeting.
Why does it work so well?
When you have an objective, you’re able to “get your focus off of yourself and onto the other people in the room,” Barnett says. And the less you’re focusing inward, the less anxious you are. “I think that’s one of the major contributors to tension — when people have their focus all on themselves, and they’re not really taking in and picking up the cues around them,” Barnett says.
2. Harness the power of your point of view.
“In theatre, the term ‘point of view’ is used instead of belief,” Barnett explains. “Point of view” is the inner belief you’re carrying about yourself, and it colours every action you take.
On stage, an actor could play the same exact scene (say, the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet) using the same exact objectives (say, “to woo Juliet”) and yet give drastically different performances — just by changing their point of view. Wooing Juliet while secretly believing “I never get what I want,” Barnett points out, looks completely different than the exact same actions performed with the belief that “I’m irresistible.”
But that’s also true off stage. “You can walk into a job interview with the point of view, ‘Oh my god, I hope they like me,’ or you can walk in with ‘I’m going to see what I learn about these people,’ or ‘I’m totally the person for this job,’ or ‘Oh s–t, I’m never going to get that.'”
Those ways of thinking about yourself can profoundly alter the way you enter the room — and what you do once you’re in it.
For an interview, “try ‘I’m going to be the best possible candidate,'” Barnett suggests in the book, or maybe “I can’t wait to see whom I might meet.”
The idea is to train yourself to adopt points of view that are going to work for you, rather than against you. Which — pessimists among us rest assured — doesn’t necessarily require banishing all self doubt. “Doubt is important,” Barnett agrees. “Doubt is healthy. But there’s a difference between doubt and beating the crap out of yourself.” The point is to shift your thoughts to “engender a sense of strength and power and courage.”
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