If you’re looking for a job, you could learn a thing or two from a poker player. As in job hunting, poker rewards initiative, assertiveness, fearlessness, and calculated risk-taking. Here are six tips from the poker table to help you in your search.
1) Be bold. In poker and in life, the prize goes to the bold; play to win instead of just playing to avoid losing. Don’t be modest when it comes to selling your skills. Instead, show some bravado. Take risks, be fearless, and let your confidence shine.
2) Watch for non-verbal cues. Like any poker player, you need to keep an eye out for non-verbal cues, or “tells” that help you get a read on the person interviewing you. If they look distracted or bored, look for ways to re-engage their interest. Pay attention to the cues you project as well. Make sure you’re not slumped down, fumbling with your hands, or keeping your eyes down; all of these tells project fear or lack of interest. Make eye contact, sit up straight, turn off your phone and project confidence.
3) Know your players. You can stack the deck in your favor by researching the company and people you want to work for. Poker players always size up the players at the table so they can play the right way against the right people. You need to know a company’s objectives, products, and financial situation before you walk in the door. You should also try to find out something about the person interviewing you; with Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn, you have the tools you need to be prepared.
4) Don’t bluff in an interview. In a poker game, you’re expected to be deceptive, but in a business situation, your reputation is on the line. There is a big difference between a little embellishment and a total lie. If you have done something and are proficient at it and know you can learn the rest, it’s fine to say you’re good at it. But if you’ve never had any exposure to finance before, don’t pretend you are an accountant. Remember, if you’re called on a bluff that’s actually an out-and-out lie, you have a lot to lose.
5) Save your poker face for after you’ve got the job. You need to be enthusiastic and animated during an interview to convey interest. Once you have an offer and are negotiating salary or benefits, then use your poker face to try to up the ante and get a better deal. The first offer is rarely the best one.
6) Don’t give up hope. There’s a great story I retell in PokerWoman about a man named Jack Strauss. Jack was playing in the 1982 World Series of Poker and thought he had gone “all-in” and put all his chips in the pot during a hand. He then lost the hand and thought he was out of the tournament. But when he got up to leave, he saw that he had one $500 chip which had been obscured by a napkin. He went on to win the tournament and $520,000. Out of that experience came the expression “all you need is a chip and a chair.”
Poker offers many lessons that apply to your career: keep motivated, learn from your mistakes, and most importantly, stay in the game.