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With the wrap up of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it takes to be a top competitor.  Athletes spend decades training to be the best at one single sport.  They have just a few minutes once every four years to show off their skills and compete to be the best in the world. But with so many talented athletes, what does it take to really stand out?  I’d argue it’s grit: being a courageous person who refuses to give up under any circumstances.  Natural ability is great, but it won’t always get you to the finish line.

Having a good day is easy.  You feel great and everything falls into place.  The real question is, how do you handle things when the world around you seems to be crumbling? US figure skater Gracie Gold fell during one of her most important Olympic performances.  But, she didn’t let her mistake keep her from completing the rest of her routine beautifully.  Despite falling, Gracie received a high score.  She came in fourth overall, and although she didn’t receive a medal, she provided she’s a true Olympian.

Have you ever been on a job interview and had something go terribly wrong?  How did you handle it?  Did you cancel the interview, stumble through answers, or apologize for yourself?

My worst ever interview disaster came about seven years ago.  I had flown to the east coast for an important in person interview at a large, traditional corporation.  The flight was in the evening, so I arrived late the night before and took a cab from the airport to my hotel.  Upon unpacking my suitcase, I realized I had forgotten the pants to my suit.  Yes, of all the things that could go wrong, I forgot my pants!  I’d worn sweat pants on the plane, so I had no appropriate clothing for the interview.  What could I do?  This was a real pickle I’d gotten myself into!

First, I looked for nearby stores.  There were none open this late, and I had no transportation to get anywhere.  Not even taxis were running.

Rather than give up, I started to brainstorm.  I wondered if I could get my pants from Memphis to me in time for the 8 AM interview the next day.  Although it was too late to drop off a package at FedEx Office, I found that packages could be dropped off at the airport until midnight.  First, I found a friend who agreed to drive my pants to FedEx.  Then, two other people helped me get a key to my apartment to that friend.  When my friend entered my apartment, I walked them through my closet over the phone, to ensure they found the right pair of pants.  The friend made it to the airport on time, and the pants arrived at 6 AM, two hours before my interview! I alerted the hotel staff of the situation, to ensure they notified me the moment the pants arrived.

During the interview, I was asked to describe a difficult situation I had encountered and the steps I’d taken to overcome it.  I used the example of my pants, and the interviewers were blown away.  They were impressed at the story, and couldn’t have imagined the trouble I’d taken to ensure I was properly suited for our meeting.  I was able to turn what was otherwise a train wreck of a situation into a great story that won me major points during the interview.

As you’re looking for your next job, you will no doubt face adversity.  You will come across situations that seem impossible to fix or overcome.  I encourage you to stay focused on your ultimate goal of finding a fulfilling career.  Stay the course.  Be gritty.  Reach out to your support network for strength.  Even on your worst days, do your best to let your talents shine through and in the end, your perseverance will pay off in dividends.

I hope these tips have helped you.  Visit to find more tips to improve your job search.

Happy hunting!

Angela Copeland


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