May 26, 2011

little fishes. big sea.

Tomorrow there are some interviews at my work for doctors wishing to go to America for an international exchange program.

I was plucked from my happy place of neutralness and must sit on the panel of interviewers along with the hospital president, the chairperson for international relations, and a doctor from the international hospital in town.

So, in this week's English class I'm teaching them how to interview. There are so many differences between how Chin.ese people interview and how Americans interview. The aim is usually different, what the interviewer thinks is important is different, the types of questions are different, and the way the interviewee responds is also different.

Culture is a funny thing.

So in today's class we brainstormed a bunch of possible interview questions and I had them talk away - interviewing each other for over an hour. (I call this "endurance speaking practice").

One of the possible interview questions was, "what are you strengths and weaknesses?"

As the monkies were chit-chatting away, my favorite dentist pal called me over to ask, "how do I describe my strengths?"

me: "Well, you just tell things that you are good at. Are you patient with parents in the ward? Are you good at doing different things at once? Are you good at managing your time? Can you get along well with others?"

him: "I have no strengths."

me: "Everyone has strengths. It's impossible you don't have any strengths. What are things you think are you good at at work."

him: "...."

me: "I know you are a hard worker. Your work ethic can be a strength. I know you are a good father, that can be a strength."

him: "But if I say that it is not rude?"

me: *light bulb goes off* "So, if you are interviewing in Ch.ina and you are asked this question, what do you say?"

him: "You should say you have no strengths, then maybe some some other things. When I was interviewing for my job in 2004, I was asked this question and I said I have no strengths. I got the job."

me: "Don't do that in tomorrow's interview. Being humble does not mean downgrading yourself. You can be humble and say things you are good at. Everyone is good at something. We do not need to push our selves down. We should be happy with the talents we have and thankful for them in our lives."

him: "This is just culture."

me: "That doesn't mean you have to do it. State your strengths, ready, go..."

him: "Well, actually, I am really good at incisions...."

I have never met a confident, satisfied, content Chin.ese person. And little encounters like this reinforce my understand as to why this is the case. I live in a culture that pushes its people down, not encourages them.

I asked them what are some interview questions they have been asked in the past and there were some standard ones and some whacked out ones. Most had to do with religious or political ideas. (So, if they fall outside of the "proper mindset" they are not chosen).

Sometimes I feel like I am a little fish swimming against a tidepool of whacked out negative ideas. And I have to shine a light on all the little fishes swimming past me in the stream of crazyness so they can see that there is another way.

I learn so much with these people. I love them. I want them to know their strengths and voice them. I want them to be proud of who they are.

We all should be.

Walk slow. xoxo.

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