DEAR HARRIETTE: How do you prepare for a spontaneous job interview? I recently spoke with a radio executive, and he asked me about myself and whether I knew about his radio station and some of the local channels. I knew of the channels, but I wasn’t sure about the details. I felt so embarrassed. He said that he will forward my resume to the hiring manager for any potential positions, but how should I stay prepared for times like this? -- Ever-Ready Interviewee, Salisbury, Maryland
DEAR EVER-READY INTERVIEWEE: The way you stay ready for any interview is to remain up on current events and pay attention to your surroundings. While it is impossible for you to be knowledgeable about every subject, your general awareness of current events and local culture should help you to engage in smart conversations whenever they occur. Be mindful never to lie about what you know. Instead, when you so have a bit of knowledge, use that to participate in a conversation. Then pivot and start asking questions so that you can learn. For example, you could have said what you do know about the station, followed by a question about what he thinks the best programming is today or what he likes most about the station. Your follow-up to this man should include you doing research about the station so that when you write to him, you share something more that you have learned about the station that demonstrates your interest and enthusiasm about the company.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a client who comes in to my work; I don't speak to her much, but I know that she is a transgender woman. We usually just say “hello” and “goodbye.” Last week, we had a full conversation, and I accidentally said “he,” which is not her pronoun of choice. I felt horrible and apologized repeatedly. She understood, but I still feel bad.
This is something I've never had to face until now. I don't want to feel awkward around her because of the mistake I made. I don't have anything against the transgender community, but my mistake makes me feel like I’m insensitive, which is not true. How do I move on from my mistake? -- Transgender Stumble, Pikesville, Maryland
DEAR TRANSGENDER STUMBLE: Move past your embarrassment at not having the language to be respectful to your client. Staying uncomfortable will only reinforce your ignorance next time you see this customer. Instead, do your research so that you can learn more about the transgender community and how to be supportive.
As far as language goes, you can use gender nonspecific pronouns. Saying “they” or “you” rather than “he” or “she” is common the days. Yes, it can be a bit confusing when it comes to grammar and number agreement, but it’s getting more common to be vague when referring to others. Many individuals have become “they” in contemporary speech. This is a safe way to avoid being gender specific when you aren’t sure.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)