Revealing Your Whole Self During an Interview? Good Idea.

One of our most favorite Career Talk Live episodes starred Gen, a television producer. As is typical on our talk show, we discussed the highlights and lowlights of her career trajectory.

We were startled for a moment when she recounted an interview she had in Hong Kong, where she began her career.  She was interviewing for a junior video producer position at a prominent TV studio.

“Do you like to watch television?” she was asked.

Off the cuff she answered, “no.”

And she got the job.

Turns out her interviewers didn’t like to watch television either. Although they liked to produce it, so they saw her as one of their own.

It goes to show you: divulging your true thoughts and feelings — during an interview, especially — helps your colleagues see you for who you truly are.

Which helps them relate to you, as the people they truly are. Resulting in stronger interpersonal connections, which often lead to job offers.

When have you been candid on a job interview? What happened?

What Does Jennifer Vidbel Plan to Do After 50 Years?

As you recall, Jenny Vidbel is the animal trainer of the Big Apple Circus — which is coming back to town! Below is a transcript of the second segment of our recent interview. Read on to learn:

* how Jenny’s parents would have threatened her as a teenager
* about the peace she experiences at work,  and
* what she hopes to be doing fifty(!) years from now.

So, you were a teenager. With rebellion?

JV: No, we were on a circus, my grandpa’s circus, and we moved every day. We were in a different city every day, and there’s a lot of work. My sister and I had our jobs that we did, and it was with animals. We had a petting zoo that we would set up. We’d care for the animals, feed and water and clean them and do all that. So there was rebellion? No, there was just no time for it.

HC: You didn’t say “I’m not going to be in the circus, I’m going to be a lawyer!”

JV: No.

HC: To upset your parents.

JV: I think if they wanted to threaten us, they would say we were going to go home.  And you know, go to public school and live a normal life. That was the threat for us. (Laughter)

HC: I remember you mentioned that your parents were very supportive – if you wanted to be a dancer, whatever you wanted in your life, to stay home, they were supportive, so there wasn’t anything to rebel against?

JV: There really wasn’t.

HC: In your upbringing.

JV. Yeah.

HC: So you were able to focus, and develop your love for the animals.

JV: Yes, absolutely. My sister went a different route; she wanted to be an aerialist, so that’s what she did. My grandparents were not thrilled with that because there’s danger, a great deal of danger involved. But they supported her, and she’s an accomplished aerialist.

HC: Aerialist, not acrobat.

JV: No

HC: There’s a difference.

JV: Yeah, acrobats are on the ground. Aerialists are in the air.

HC: Not a trapeze artist?

JV: A trapeze artist is an aerialist.

HC: Is a kind of aerialist.

JV: Yeah.

HC: So this is something we learn as well, the differences of artists within the circus. Tell us more!

JV: When I was 12, my sister wanted to do aerial – when we were 12, we’re twins – I loved my grandfather’s little white ponies, I just adored them. And he had eight of them. I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I started out with one, and my herd just kept growing. As I got more experienced and really started learning about horses, that’s what I wanted to do.

HC: Looking back, a 12 year old knows things, also a 12 year old does not know a lot. As a 12 year old – I hear you say it with such certainty – how did you know? What indication did you have of your certain knowledge of what you wanted?

JV: I was around my grandfather my entire childhood. He had this great love for animals, and that’s where he spent his time. He was in the barn, with his animals, all day. He would do his last barn check at midnight, and he was up at six in the morning to be right back down there again with them. I followed him, that’s where I wanted to be. There was just no question. And it wasn’t really even a thought; I didn’t have this goal, or this idea that this is what I was going to do. It was what I was doing. And I loved it. I didn’t want to be anywhere else.

I was home schooled, my grandmother was our teacher and I just could not wait to get out of the house. I was a very good student because of that. We couldn’t leave, my grandmother was very strict with the school. We got up in the morning and we could not leave the house until we were finished with our lessons for the day. So I was quick. I’ll read, I’ll do whatever you want me to do. Please I want to go to the barn, please. So it was great motivation, I just wanted to be in the barn around all those animals.

And to be around my grandfather who had this love. I wanted that too.  I wanted his passion and love for what he did. He was so happy no matter what, and here I am doing the same thing. You would see my grandfather in the pouring rain trying to fix a tent, or a flat tire or whatever because it’s part of the business. Not only setting up and tearing down the tents and stables, but the in-between, the traveling. When you’re carrying a lot of animals in a trailer, you might get a flat tire, you might break down. But you do everything with joy. This is what we do and we love it.

HC: You talk about work almost like it’s the air you breathe.

JV: It is. It’s the hardest thing to explain. When people talk to me about my job, I say it’s not a job. It’s so far from a job. I’m doing what I love to do and I get paid for it and that’s amazing to me — that I can make a living out of this. It’s kind of like a hobby or it’s my passion that I’ve made into my career. It’s great.

HC: Congratulations on finding this, and living it, and thriving, so clearly. How do you know when you’ve done a good job?

JV: In whatever I do, if I’m starting a new project, there’s just kind of a peace that comes over me. If I’m unsettled in something, then I’ll slow way down and I’ll think I’m not going in the right direction. It has to feel 100% right. I think I’ve really succeeded when I’ll have these questions and I back right off and I look kind of to a higher power and go with what feels really peaceful. Sometimes it means just waiting, waiting for the right answer. And I will, and it always turns out perfectly. Not the way maybe I had planned, I had these ideas and if they don’t feel right I quickly back off. In the end, here I am at Big Apple Circus where I’ve wanted to be my entire life.

HC: Is that right?

JV: Yes.

HC: I want to get to that. “It turns out perfectly.” I heard you saying. And what I understood following that, is “perfectly as it was, perfectly as it is.” You have an acceptance, and so it is perfect, as it is.

JV: As it is. It wasn’t maybe the plan that I had, but this is far better than I could have dreamt up. I just went with it instead of being stuck to this path, this idea. I just went this other way and it turned out just beautiful.

HC: So Jenny is describing a kind of barometer of sorts, inside, that you pay attention to, that lets you know how you’re doing, guides you in some ways. I think a lot of people at work get sort of cloudy, that barometer, that internal measurement gets foggy, it’s hard to pay attention to. You relate such clarity in being guided by what you have inside.

JV: Yeah, and It’s a funny thing to try and explain. But you really need to have peace. You need to have peace about where you’re going. You don’t have to have clarity, but you have to have peace.

HC: What does that mean, “peace?” Read more

What Does an Animal Trainer Think About in Bed?

Jennifer Vidbel, the animal trainer for the Big Apple Circus, recently sat down with us to talk about her work life on “Career Talk Live.”

Jenny revealed what happens backstage, who’s on top at the circus, and what she thinks about in bed.

Because the master tape is marred by a loud tone–our fault, boo!–we’ve transcribed the interview, with very few minor edits.

Part I:
Haig Chahinian: Hello, welcome to Career Talk Live. I’m your host Haig Chahinian and I’m here today with an extremely special guest: Jennifer Vidbel of the Big Apple Circus. She is the animal trainer for the whole circus. Welcome back to the show, Jennifer. We appreciate that you’re making the time to come talk with us about your work and your life, because the two, we’re learning, are so intertwined. Your life is your work, and your work is your life, it seems to be.

Jennifer Vidbel: Absolutely.

HC: OK, you agree with that. Again, welcome back to the show. We were talking in the previous segment about letting go: of a strategy, of a “plan” I heard you call it, sort of a pre-conceived notion of where you would like to end, and what that takes.  Thinking about this after the show, it seems it takes a lot of patience.

JV: That’s key.

HC: Where do you get that from?

JV: It’s just here. And I think it comes with the love. You’re doing what you love to do. Patience is just there.  Because you’re doing what you love, the animals are happy, I’m happy, so it’s absolutely going to be an amazing result.  So patience is just there.

HC: We were talking about the audience in the last segment, and for example, you’re not thinking about what the audience may have been promised, or something like this?

JV: No, I think that they know, and that the animals and I are showing that we’re just having fun. And I’m only human, they’re only animals, and of course it might not be perfect. No one’s perfect.  The important message is that we’re having fun, and we’re here to have fun with you.  But it’s not always going to go as planned. “As planned,” there’s that word again. So don’t plan!

HC: Is this the case for each performance itself?

JV:  Sure. It’s live entertainment. And whether it’s the animal act or the aerialists or the acrobats, it’s live entertainment. The aerialists are risking their life, the acrobats are doing really crazy, amazing things. They’re also doing what they love, and this is their passion. It’s not a movie, it’s not scripted, and I think that’s what’s so exciting about the circus. You never know what’s going to happen.

HC: Jennifer, I should say: I get the benefit of sitting directly across from you, however our viewers are only seeing your profile. So would you sit at a diagonal? I should have been clear about this earlier, so our viewers have the benefit of seeing you as well. OK, very nice. Thank you.

I’m struck again, I’m struck by everything that you’re sharing, in this case – how the animals bring out the humanity in your work.

JV: Yeah, they’ve taught me simplicity, they really have. And they’ve taught me to have fun, because they’re just fun to be around. They want to have fun, they want to eat, they want to sleep, they want simplicity. That’s the greatest lesson I’ve learned from being around animals.

HC: You talked about fun last time. Something that we’re learning about work today is, in Jenny’s case, and I think in many examples, it’s so important to be able to have fun in the work you’re doing. How did you learn this? Because it’s not a common lesson.

JV:  It’s not something to learn, I think it’s something inside of you. You have a passion, and you go for it. It can be fun, it is fun for me loading horses in the middle of the night in the pouring rain to get to the next city — I’ll have a story to tell the next morning. Setting up our tents, because we have portable stables for all the animals. Watching out during a storm all night, making sure the animals are safe and well cared for. It’s all fun, because I’m doing what is my passion, what I love to do. So it’s a great story in the morning. I have lots of war stories.

HC: Sounds like it. As you’re describing what’s fun, you’re also relating something very serious about the work: protecting the animals.

JV: Protecting the animals. And this is what’s interesting—that’s what’s so great about this business.  You never know what’s coming down the road; you never know what’s going to happen tomorrow. But it’s definitely not this 9 to 5, where you walk into the office. That’s what I love to do, of course the animals are my family, and I’m very happy to stay up in the middle of the night to make sure they’re OK, as any parent would do for their child. It’s protecting them, it’s part of what we do.

HC: I remember in the program that I saw, you shared how you wake up thinking about the animals.

JV: Yes

HC: Like they’re the first thing on your mind?

JV: They’re the first thing on my mind.

HC: Every day? Read more

Career Talk Live: Jennifer Vidbel Pt. 1

We considered calling this post “Jennifer Vidbel Revealed,” yet we’re starting a new feature focusing on guests of our talk show “Career Talk Live,” and this is the kick-off. The irony of course is that she was one of our most revealing stars to date!

We’re quite proud of ourselves — following our visit to the circus, we reached out to the director of communications at the Big Apple Circus and asked if we could interview Vidbel on the show. His response was yes, and we taped two segments two nights ago.

Through the whole ordeal we laughed, and then we cried. During the taping we giggled at unexpected turns in Jenny’s story, and then we cried when we were dubbing the master tapes to DVD and realized we hadn’t eliminated the tone from the beginning of the second tape. So you can see and hear the interview, along with a deafening ringing from beginning to end. Boo! A transcript of the second show will follow soon.

What did we discuss on air? In the first show Vidbel talked about the elephant who lay on top of her during childhood circus performances; hiking up mountains and going to the beach with her entourage of horses, dogs and goats; and how to run away with the circus, natch. Plus plenty more — her candor was engaging and charming, and she was fearless in answering our prodding questions.

Catch the first segment when it airs Tuesday, January 4th at 6:00pm ET (GMT-5) at on MNN2. Just press play.

Have you ever dreamed of joining the circus?

Photo of Vidbel via. Video footage of Big Apple Circus used with permission.

Engineers and Scientists Need It, Too

Today is the Storycorps-sponsored National Day of Listening, wherein Americans are encouraged to take an hour to record an interview with a loved one.  Coincidentally, earlier this week we interviewed our dad Leon for an upcoming episode of “Career Talk Live: And What Do You Do?” the weekly talk show on Manhattan Neighborhood Network. We learned so much about both his professional life and the world of work.

As a structural engineer, Leon was dedicated to creating new ways of analyzing structures. One of the crown achievements of his career was a paper he published in the Journal of Guidance, Control and Dynamics titled “Jacobi Method for Unsymmetric Eigenproblems.” We wish we could say more about what that means! In his own words, it was “a big contribution to the world of mathematics.”

Upon retiring from a multinational aerospace and defense corporation, he strove to continue building upon the paper he wrote. For more than ten years he worked tirelessly at it, and sought a Fortran compiler to help him through the project. As of today, however, he reports all but giving up on his endeavors. Why?

It turns out what helped him write this paper–for which he was credited individually–was the informal feedback and institutional support he received while working as part of a team at the aerospace company. The desk-side conversations, elevator chats and multiple technological resources the organization provided facilitated the completion of his paper. The lack of these elements in retirement have been a real barrier to accomplishing a follow-up.

So what can we learn from this? One: if you’re part of a work group, acknowledge the influence of your colleagues on your projects. Two: while you’re feeling appreciation for their input, go ahead and thank them verbally. And three: if you want to work during your retirement, seek social support to keep you on track.

We’ve had the impression that scientists and engineers can work in silos, that the bulk of their work is a product of their minds alone. According to Leon’s experience, this is not at all accurate.

Watch the complete interview when it airs in December. “Career Talk Live” can be seen Tuesdays at 6:00pm ET (GMT-5) on MNN2 at

How have your teammates subtly influenced your projects?