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The Intern’s Guide to Responsible Spinning

Matt Hudgins
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Published on February 24, 2015

Sorry to disappoint, but this is NOT an article on indoor cycling classes. Though if you want to stay on top of your New Years fitness resolutions, I’m sure your neighborhood soccer mom would love to tell you all about it over a glass of fermented chia seeds.

So what is spinning, and why is it relevant to your job hunt? Read more to find out.

What is spinning?
If you’ve ever watched or listened to coverage of presidential debates, you may be familiar with something called a “spin room.” This is the room where members of the media interview various members of the Presidential nominee camps. No matter how strong or weak the performance by their candidate of choice, interviewees must work to “spin” the situation to favor their candidate. These interviewees are experts at navigating the media, dodging criticism, and diverting attention from mistakes to accomplishments.

For a fictional (and not terribly inaccurate) portrayal of this tactic, check out the “spin team” from NBC’s Parks and Rec.

Why should I do it?
As a current student or recent graduate, you likely don’t have very extensive experience in your field of choice. But the jobs you apply for (even the entry-level ones!) often expect 1-2 years of relevant experience. How do you get this experience in the first place when everyone expects you to have it already? Sometimes, you need to be a little creative in how you present your credentials.

Am I endorsing lying about your experience in order to get a job? ABSOLUTELY NOT.

However, there are ways of phrasing and presenting your background and experience in a way that will support your qualification and improve your fit for a job in the eyes of your interviewer.

How do I do it?
Spinning your experience in an interview depends on your ability to identify and communicate the value from your experience. Sometimes this requires providing a wider context, going into detail on the scope or purpose of an assignment, or drawing comparisons to other situations. Let’s look at some examples of ways to spin your experience:

  • When your professional experience is limited/basic:
    • Instead of saying you “filed and made copies” when you worked as an administrative assistant, tell your interviewer that you “supported the productivity of the department by owning regular administrative duties” or “provided the assistance necessary for the sales team to reach record-breaking sales.”
    • Instead of saying you “answered phones” or “took notes in meetings” during your last internship, tell your interviewer that you “shadowed various areas of the company, learned about organizational operations and decision-making by supporting regular meetings, and established relationships with customers and other stakeholders as primary point of contact for incoming communications.”
  • When you don’t have professional experience at all:
    • Instead of telling your interviewer you’ve “never had a real job,” try to find value in other experiences you’ve held. For example, if you worked as a sales associate at a retail store, talk about how the fast-paced environment required you to think on your feet, problem solve, actively prioritize, remain organized, and provide excellent customer service.
    • Another approach to this situation could be highlighting your academic experience. Maybe you had a major group project in your Marketing class, participated in a business plan or case study competition, or worked as a course assistant for your department. While these experiences may not directly translate to work in the professional world, they can still show an interviewer the work you completed and value you created in other areas of your life.

Notice that in each of these examples, you’re not lying about your tasks and responsibilities or making up completely fake achievements. Rather, you’re focusing your interviewer’s attention on tangible examples of your competency and qualification for a job. You may not meet requirements like “2 years of experience in a client-facing role,” but if you can communicate similar or equivalent value to your employer, they may begin to see you as more qualified for the position.

Responsibility?
If you find yourself in a situation like one of those described above and need to “spin” your experience to show an interviewer your qualifications for a position, PLEASE remember to do it responsibly. Lying in any form will not help you.

If you massage the truth too much in an interview, you could end up in a role you are under-qualified for and therefore destined to perform poorly in. More importantly, though, you demonstrate a lack of respect for your interviewer and a lack of respect for yourself. Don’t make me finger wave you.

Another thing to watch out for is the style with which you spin. Your goal is NOT to sound like a political spinner. They sound ridiculous and their responses are often taken with a grain of salt. Your goal is to eloquently communicate your qualifications for a job, particularly those that don’t speak for themselves. This means no buzzwords, no using terms you don’t know the meaning of, and PLEASE no lying.

Like with athletic spinning, real results require real effort when it comes to qualification spinning. But with careful practice, you might be able to beat the system that requires experience before granting experience. So go forth and spin your hearts out! Just remember to wear a helmet.

Matt Hudgins

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