Musings + Essays

The Realistic Preview.

By: Jen Shoop

My husband told me recently that one of the best practices in recruiting and retaining talent in the workplace is offering a realistic job preview during the interview process. Like, what will you really be doing on a day to day basis? What does an average day or week look like? Will you be on the phone or living in Excel? In meetings or with lots of maker’s time? Who will you report in to and how much autonomy will you have?

I was thinking about the notion of “the realistic preview” recently while serving as a referral for a former employee. The woman on the phone said: “I’m interviewing another candidate for the role, and her referral was flawless — her former employer said there was absolutely nothing negative that she could say. She had zero hesitations and could not remember a single weakness.” Hm. Really? I hesitated. I did not want to compromise my former employee’s chances at securing the job, but my heart said: “Everybody is an adjustment. There are always going to be accommodations, quirks, idiosyncrasies, challenge areas. I feel compelled to be as honest as I can be about my experience with this woman, which was, on the whole, absolutely fantastic and I cannot recommend her more. Still, I want to be forthright.” I wasn’t sure about the ethics — didn’t I owe more to my former colleague than this potential future employer of hers? And hadn’t my former employee listed me because she assumed I’d provide a rave review? At the same time, as an employer, I’d rather have the heads up. It felt like a due courtesy, and a down-the-road insurance policy for both of them. Under what circumstances would it be appropriate to “dress up the truth” in this context? Never? Sometimes? I ended up emphasizing the favorable, as I was anxious to help my former colleague out, but I did share some concrete examples of things she’d worked on in our time together, framing them in terms of receptivity and workarounds. It seemed to me better for everyone to offer a realistic preview. What do you think?

On a much lighter note, I have also been applying the concept of “the realistic preview” to my everyday life. I still occasionally struggle with attempting to cram too much into a single day. I will ambitiously stack my to-dos, rounding down in terms of anticipated time required for each task. Lately, I have been chanting to myself: REALISTIC PREVIEW. REALISTIC PREVIEW. REALISTIC PREVIEW. What this means in actuality is that I sit down each morning at my desk and audit my to-dos from an estimated time standpoint. If I’ve over-assigned myself, I will shift tasks to days later in the week or declare: “this is really not important enough for me to worry about this week/month/year.” I roughly sketch out the time of day I think I’ll complete each component piece, forcing myself to “round up” in these calculations. It makes the day so much more pleasant when I’m not breathlessly moving from one task to the next and can find spare pockets of time. A former boss insisted on setting meeting times as, for example, “3:05-3:35” or “3:00 to 3:25.” He was deliberately building “buffers” into our day so that we might, for example, grab a coffee, stretch our legs, doodle in the margins, etc instead of moving from meeting to meeting in a breathless sprint. The five minute meeting buffer helped with establishing a sense of fluidity in the day.

Interestingly, my exertions around setting “realistic previews” have enabled me to “find joy in the middle,” as I put it elsewhere, more frequently. That is, I find myself increasingly prone to finding those tiny pockets of happiness throughout the week because I’ve improved the design of my day. As an example, a few weeks ago, I went to the salon to have my hair cut and colored. Historically, I have always under-estimated the amount of time it will take me to get to the salon (all the way in Georgetown), have my hair cut, colored, and styled, and then turn around and make it home. I always assume “oh, that’s like a two or three hour thing,” when in reality, it’s two or three hours just for the treatments, minus the commute, parking, etc. This go around, I estimated each component, rounding up, and then realized it would be better for me to “take the day off” so that I could properly enjoy the experience. I go to the salon only two, sometimes three, times a year, and it is an expensive indulgence — why was I trying to curtail it, cram it into a morning that would inevitably “spill over” and leave me stressed out about getting home to finish my task list? It was absurd! Realistic preview, Jen! Because of this anticipatory planning, I felt like I was on vacation. I arrived early and read my book. I had a glass of wine afterward. It was delightful.

Give “the realistic preview” chant a try as you approach your day — let me know what you think.



+More on building buffers — especially helpful when toggling out of work mode and into mom mode!

+How do you seize the day?

+A mini tech detox worth trying.

Shopping Break.

+These jeans are in my cart. I bought a pair of white jeans from this new-to-me brand over the summer that I LOVED. I can’t decide whether to go with the Pistolas in black or the Agoldes?!

+This quilted jacket is giving The Great vibes for about half the price!

+My daughter needed headphones for computer lab at her new school (!) and I tracked this pair down after reading it was a best budget buy for headphones in the New York Times!

+My girlfriend Jaci was raving about this “beauty balm” — an all-in-one tinted primer, hydrator, corrector, etc.

+I shared a number of fabulous bags last week, but missed this gorgeous Oroton, which looks far more expensive than it is! I also forgot to share this Celine Sangle-inspired $70 tote! I know a shared that one last year and had a number of Magpies rave about the quality relative to price.

+I’m into these quilted shackets I’ve been seeing all over, including here and here.

+…do I go back for these in the hot pink? (I bought in the mocha.) Hot pink is having such a moment! La Ligne just launched last week its “LA Story” collection, which is all about pairing neons with navy/neutrals. How amazing is this neon pink dress? Chic chic!

+Gorgeous fall-colored slip dress for your next wedding.

+Another great Gap find.

+CUTEST kiddo bookends.

+Fun statement studs.

+Lake Pajamas in fall colors…tempting.

+Another great COS find. Toteme vibes!

+These boots are such a staple in the cold months…can’t recommend enough.

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6 thoughts on “The Realistic Preview.

  1. Please keep up with the neon pink, my absolute fame!! My DREAM bag is the LV x Sofia Coppola SC PM in cobalt and fuschia

  2. Forgive the complete randomness of this comment, but a while back you posted about an iron (help – does seeking an iron rec mean I’m officially old?) that you love and finally splurged on. I can’t seem to find it in any of your posts – did I make this up!? Either way…do you have an iron rec – ha!

  3. YESSSSSS! I bought the JCREW cord in the Mocha and the hot pink. They are insanely beautiful! It is the most unique color I own in my closet. Hurry, they are almost sold out!! I LOVE THEM! 🙂

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