How to present yourself in an interview
On this episode, Jeff Akin reviews Star Trek Lower Decks, Crisis Point (Season 1, Episode 9). He will examine the leadership approaches of Captain Freeman and Ensign Boimler.
Therapy works! That's the theme of this episode. But we also get an incredible look at the wrong way to prepare for an interview or a performance evaluation - and, spoiler alert: the wrong way is likely one of the ways you've been taught to do.
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Welcome! Thanks for joining me today. Are you like most everyone and dread being interviewed for a job or sitting across from your manager for your performance eval? If you are, you are not alone. These situations make us feel like we’re being judged and assessed by someone else, because we are! I’m going to talk about how to best prepare yourself for situations like these and how you can help the people on your team prepare as well. And we get to do this as we watch the 9th episode of the first season of Lower Decks, Crisis Point.
The USS Cerritos is in the middle of a mission on some random planet, not a lot of details here, I’m pretty sure it’s not important to the story, but, here we are. They overthrew some evil-ish leader and Ensign Mariner is basking in her success. “The lizard men will no longer be subject to rat oppression!” 0:15 Apparently the rats were raising the lizards as food. But, turns out she overstepped her bounds here. Captain Freeman beams down, “Starfleet is forbidden from interfering.” 0:50 Well, that’s disappointing. They go toe-to-toe arguing about their authority and Freeman takes a different approach. Instead of sending her to the brig, she sends her to therapy!
We get a scene with Dr. Migleemo trying really hard to do therapy but he just makes awkward food references. I’ll be honest here, this guy is one of my least favorite characters on the show and this episode is a big reason why.
Ok, back to it. Rutherford and Tendi are on the holodeck skeet shooting with Janeway’s holodeck buddy, Leonardo da Vinci while Mariner sulks in the corner. Ensign Boimler strolls in and says he has an eval coming up. He’s actually used the logs of all the ship’s personnel to create a close-to-real-life version of the Cerritos so he can talk to people, Captain Freeman specifically, and see how they would actually respond to him. He wants to practice his pitch for his eval and see how he can best present himself.
Mariner is blown away by this and sees an opportunity. She starts writing a new holodeck program based on Boimler’s code. “I made it into an awesome movie.” 5:13 She is going to use this to handle her own therapy in her own way.
This launches into an awesome sequence that just revels in the Star Trek movies. Music, credits, it even goes to a 2.36 scope, or letterbox, aspect ratio! You know, I used to work at a movie theatre when we were actual projectionists that handled film and this so well done! It has a slight grain to the picture and even has subtle film scratches from time to time. It looks and sounds incredible!
The movie is called Crisis Point: The Rise of Vindicta. And we’re in it. The scenes all progress just the way all the movies do, except Boimler keeps interjecting himself trying to find out what will impress Freeman.
One of my favorite scenes is when they fly to the Cerritos. It’s straight out The Motion Picture, and even Enterprise’s Broken Bow. They’re in a shuttle and they spend like 90 seconds doing a flyover of the ship with everyone ooh’ing and ah’ing over it. It’s poking fun at the nearly 5-minute-long scene in TMP, but it’s really well done, and the music is what brings it home. “MUSIC” 7:46 But I’ve always had a thought on this. Because of the transporter, they likely almost never see the outside of the ship. They’re in that thing all the time. So why does seeing it on the outside cause all the feels? I would think that would happen, and, light spoiler alert on recent Star Trek, when they get on the bridge or their duty station again. But, for us, the viewer, it is pretty awesome.
From here, they’re on a contrived mission set up to get them to the character Mariner is playing. Vindicta. Vindicta has teamed up with Tendi as a savage, warrior queen, and Rutherford as Bionic 5. She is focused on one thing and one thing only. “At last, Freeman, I will bathe in your blood.” 9:57 She is laying into Freeman, saying all the super mean things she’s been thinking. But she is also getting way over the top aggressive and violent. She is blasting people, attacking them, just way out of line. So much so, Tendi calls it quits and walks out at one point.
There’s an awesome moment when they realize what a thorough job Boimler did where Rutherford makes decision, “So I can say whatever I want to my boss with no consequences?” 12:17 And once he’s face-to-face with Billups, his boss, he says, “Well I’ve wanted to say something to you. You are the best!” 13:38 I love it! This is such a great call back to Envoys when the joke was that people were supportive of Rutherford’s professional development.
Vindicta and Freeman finally come face to face. She does what she said she was going to and starts some therapy stuff, albeit, without a trained professional helping or guiding the conversation, but still, she starts getting it out. “I don’t want your ship, I want you to stop treating me like I’m the bad guy.” 15:55 It goes south pretty quick, though. She blows up the Cerritos, leading to scene straight from Star Trek Generations when the saucer section crashes on a planet’s surface.
But then the real stuff, the heavy stuff starts happening. Remember that Boimler programmed everyone into this simulation? Well, that includes Mariner, so she comes face to face with herself. “If you really were a badass you’d do the hard thing and be a good officer.” 19:18 Wow. This really helps her understand her thinking. She leaves the program and runs into Freeman in the corridor. “Sorry about earlier today. I was way out of line.” 22:53 A totally different approach!
But Boimler isn’t done. He’s still trying to learn what he can from his program, but what he learns is completely unexpected. “As a mother, it was a privilege calling her my daughter.” 23:33 The cat is out of the bag!! Boimler knows they’re biggest secret! And knowing this causes him to totally blow his eval with Freeman. Maybe he should listen to the command codes section of this podcast for some tips on effectively presenting yourself in situations like this.
I love this episode! It really encapsulates so much of what makes this series so good. Deep cut references, easter eggs, and a loving attention to detail that hardcore fans can absolutely appreciate. This one has a crystal clear theme to it, though, and on top of talking about some of the cool moments in this one, we’re going to talk about its theme.
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This episode did such a great job in exposing the formula of the Star Trek films. All sci-fi TV to movies, really. And it did it so well. See our familiar heroes in a different, higher budget, activity, usually some kind of team-building kind of thing that looks like it has stakes but is really all in fun. Then they get a call for an unexpected emergency and they’re off! They even brightened up the bridge and added a bunch of lens flares! So good!
In that, they made a lot of obvious and some really deep cut references to other movies and Star Trek projects. I already talked about the flyover of the Cerritos. I heard a rumor that the showrunner, Mike McMahan wanted to do a special cut of that scene that would have lasted two hours! Fun idea, honestly kinda glad it got shot down. The music was masterfully done. Homages to the movies but always coming around to the Lower Decks theme.
Mariner, as Vindicta, quotes classic literature, a la Khan reciting Melville and General Chang quoting Shakespeare. There was the saucer section thing from Generations, and then, at the end, during the credits, they did the signature on the screen thing from Star Trek 6 and then, after the credits, they showed a photon torpedo tube on the surface of a planet, where Vindicta will rise again, just like in Star Trek 3.
But, I think my favorite was a super deep cut! “You were kind of a Xon anyway.” 5:36 After the Original and Animated Series went off the air, Star Trek went through a lot of concepts. There was a will to bring it back but no one was sure about how to do it. There were a lot of ideas and concepts that went around, but one of the first to get an initial go ahead was called The God Thing. Then there was Star Trek: Planet of the Titans. Those were both to be theatrical release films. They were both left in the dust and the next focus was a new TV series called Star Trek Phase 2. A lot of work went into this project and it eventually became what we now know as Star Trek The Motion Picture. Will Decker and Ilia are two characters, along with a refitted Enterprise that made it from the Phase 2 work into the Motion Picture.
But one character that didn’t make it was Xon. Leonard Nimoy declined the offer to be a part of Phase 2, they only wanted him in 2 of the first 13 episodes, but they wanted to stick with a Vulcan science officer. Enter Xon. And for Mariner to reference him in this episode is epic! Such a deep cut. Like, you have to be the kind of Star Trek fan that is doing a lot more than watching the show, and even then you’ve got to dig down some rabbit holes to get to Xon. Love it!!
This episode did two other really important things. It pushed back against the fact races other than human tend to be totally homogenized in Sci fi. The way they did it, though, really applies to us and calls out our biases and our tendency to apply stereotypes to people. “You know the whole Orions taking slaves thing?” 12:27 This is a thing Lower Decks brings up quite a bit with Tendi, even having her lean in to some of the stereotypes at different times. But here, it kind of slapped Mariner, and each of us, in the face with the reality that we often find ourselves doing this to people.
But, the clear theme in this one is “Therapy works!” 21:59 Her methods aren’t something I would recommend, but I’m not a doctor. But I do know a doctor and they also said they wouldn’t recommend doing therapy like this. Having that professional guidance is actually necessary and can likely prevent you from phasering a whole bunch of holographic people.
I think the way they handled this can speak to a lot of people. At the beginning of the episode she would rather go to the brig than have to go to therapy, and then we learn why. The ship has a terrible therapist! Once she gets into it, she is eager to get to the work! “Oh, I’m gonna work some stuff out.” 5:15
But she is right, and so is the episode. Therapy does work. And it is super helpful. You just have to find the right match. So, for what it’s worth, coming from me, take your time and meet a few therapists. Find the one that works for you, and just like Mariner, you can work some BLEEP out.
Oh, one more thing. Even here, on this theme, they totally hit a Star Trek deep cut! “It’s the 80’s dude.” 1:39 When the Next Generation first came on the air, people hated it! And one of the their big complaints was a bald captain. Roddenberry’s response was that in the 24th century, people aren’t bothered by things like that. So, I know it’s a stretch, but this was one of those moments that modern Star Trek takes to poke fun at its younger self and this was a good one!
One of the most difficult, counter-intuitive and often humiliating things we all have to go through in our professional lives is presenting ourselves to others, honestly, to be assessed and judged. Performance reviews, quarterly evals, job interviews, the list goes on and on. In the episode, Ensign Boimler took an approach to prepare for an opportunity and, well, it didn’t go so well. So I’m going to share a dramatically better way to approach these things. But before that, the cold open of this one is going to give us a chance to revisit the ideas of empowerment, autonomy and alignment.
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Before we get into the normal ad break here, given the topic coming up here in the command codes section, I want to share a great podcast with you. My buddy, Mac, has a jobs board with a ton of invaluable resources. You can visit that at macslist.org. But, because this is a podcast, I’m also going to share his podcast. He hosts the Find Your Dream Job Podcast where shares wisdom and brings on guests from around the world to help people do exactly what the podcast is called, Find Your Dream Job. You can find Find Your Dream Job anywhere you get your podcasts or at macslist.org/podcasts.
This episode starts off, in its cold open, with Mariner freeing a bunch of lizard people from an oppressive rat overlord that has been breeding them for food. I mean, really, who hasn’t been there before?
This is about the Prime Directive. We’ve talked about the Prime Directive before and Star Trek sure has too. Basically, it’s a non-interference rule. Starfleet doesn’t mess with less technologically advanced civilizations. Of course, the franchise is littered with exceptions to that directive, but it applies to the degree the plot needs it to. For our purposes, it beautifully sets up a great discussion point.
Back in the 75th episode of the podcast, Enterprise Canamar, I talked about empowering your teams to do what they need to do to achieve you goals or mission. I used Nordstrom as an example of the impacts this can have.
But, even in that example, and even more specifically in the 68th episode, The Animated Series, The Infinite Vulcan, I talked about the need to be crystal clear in what the goals are and what the rules or guidelines are. What are the boundaries you have to work within. If your sole goal is to make money as a business, would you be ok if your employees beat people up and stole their wallets? I would hope not. I imagine you would have rules, processes and policies on how you want to make money.
That applies here as well. In the Federation and in Starfleet, they want to root out injustice and be sure every species, as long as they’re technologically advanced enough, has a shot at a meaningful existence. And that’s what Mariner did on this planet. And, she was sure proud of herself for doing it too! “My captain’s on the way and she will be so proud of me.” 0:37
The failure here, or, the opportunity, is with Captain Freeman. It’s up to the leader to provide the clarity of purpose to the team. Not just the thing you do, or the widgets you make, but how and why you do those things. My earlier example about making money was a little extreme, but it illustrates the point pretty well. But another example I thought of, that is still a little far-fetched, but that’s assuming common sense is common…and we all know how that goes, right? But another example is my first job when I was in high school. I washed dishes. At a high level, I had two jobs, get the pots and pans clean and do it faster than the cooks were going to need them. I imagine a lot of you know this, but when you scrub pots at a restaurant, there are 4 stages: scrape and spray, wash, rinse and sanitize. Pretty straight forward, right? But, on a weekend or a holiday, when it was busy, I’d feel the pressure from the kitchen. If I didn’t have an incredible manager that provided extreme clarity on how things were to be done, I probably would have combined the last two steps, rinsing and, sort of sanitizing at once. It would save a little time and, on days like those, every bit of time mattered. But I would have been endangering the health of our customers and that was not ok.
You can insert your own example here too. What is something in your world where speed and quality are often at odds? Data entry comes to mind for me. People that are really good at that job type lightning fast and with precision accuracy. Or, you can do it like I do it. I follow the Mitch Hedberg approach to data entry. But, if you are clear on how the work needs to be done, that balance between things like quality and quantity can be achieved.
Had Freeman been clear in the how and the why of the work Mariner and crew were doing, this wouldn’t have happened, Starfleet would have better achieved this mission, and the blow-up between Mariner and Freeman would have happened over something else!
But the point is to do the right work, at the right time, in the right way. It’s not to avoid the blow up, or getting in trouble. In fact, I think we approach so many things trying to avoid the wrong thing instead of trying to do the right thing.
Take Boimler in this episode. He’s going to be evaluated and interviewed for a diplomatic opportunity. He wants to do well, but he is focused on avoiding what is wrong, “Problem is, I don’t know how eager to please.” 3:58 instead of what is right, or, in this case, his strengths.
I am going to use a scenario here that is familiar to most everyone. We all go through this at one point, and with a few exceptions, we all dread it. The job interview. According to a 2022 study that I just made up but is probably close to the truth, there have been about 14 million, 394 thousand and 47 articles written about how to interview effectively. And they all say pretty much the same things! Research the company and job, practice the standard interview questions, be comfortable but also present yourself professionally. Some even offer models you can follow, like the Scenario, Task, Action and Result, or STAR. Which is a great guide for prepping your answers. But, here in a moment, I’m going to share with you the most powerful advice I’ve been able to give that you likely won’t find in that multitude of articles.
Before that, though, I wanted to talk about how this very common advice leads to what Boimler did in this episode. “All I have to do is feed it a scenario and it’ll give me an edge.” 4:32 He made an entire holodeck program, arguably violating everyone’s privacy, for the sole purpose of testing things out on a fake, no stakes Captain. Honestly, how cool would this be? Having the ability to basically Groundhog’s Day your way to the perfect interview for the person or people you’re being interviewed by? Heck yes! Just like Boimler did, you could snag some sweet nuggets and tips. “Cap’s got a sweet tooth. Cookies are a good move.” 13:07
But, in doing this, you are doing yourself a massive disservice. Of course, we can’t do what Boimler did, but I know what a lot of people do. They have that burner LinkedIn profile so they can stalk the hiring manager’s profile without alerting them that they looked at it. They pull anything they can to try and find a way to connect with them. They get a feel for what they are into and maybe even what they don’t like. But, do you notice where the focus is in all of this? Yes! It’s on the other person. The hiring manger. This approach is about changing how you present yourself to best match up with someone else instead of, and here’s the big advice for you, instead of best presenting you and what you offer.
There is a massive, huge, tremendous misconception about job interviews that I want to bust right here and right now. So many people see the interview as their chance to impress the hiring manager and to convince them to give them the job. But the interview is a two-way street. It’s your opportunity to decide if this is a place, and a person, you want to work for. If they are disrespectful of your time in the interview, imagine what working there will be like! If they don’t give time or opportunity for you to ask questions, imagine what working there will be like! Do not walk, hat in hand, into an interview ready to whatever dance you think the hiring manager wants you to do. Walk into an interview ready to present you and all you have to offer.
This applies to other situations where you are being assessed or, effectively, judged, by someone else. Performance evals, quarterly target reviews, annual reviews, all that stuff. Focus on you and your strengths. You are sitting in that chair, having this conversation because you deserve to be there. You are skilled, experienced, and ready for that next job, or the eval score or whatever. So go in there knowing that! Don’t worry about the things you think they are going to want to hear. Focus on best presenting what you have to offer.
Back to Boimler, he spent a concerning amount of time preparing for this interview. He wrote a program, he talked to a bunch of fake people, he did a bunch to get ready for this. But he didn’t prepare himself to talk about why he is a good candidate for this opportunity. He didn’t take his examples and craft them into compelling stories that demonstrate his qualifications and experience. No, he prepared to tell the Captain what he thought she would want to hear. And in the end, because he was focused on things other than him, it did not go well for him. “Ensign Boimler didn’t bother preparing for the interview.” 24:36
Now, after watching this episode that seems ridiculous, but I absolutely agree with her. If I needed you to give a presentation to a group of executives and spent a concerning amount of time preparing and learning what their favorite pizza toppings were instead of on the content and delivery of the presentation, I would also say you didn’t bother preparing. In fact, if you did that, I’d note that you wasted everyone’s time in a disrespectful way. Just like Boimler did with Captain Freeman.
So focus on you. Present the best you. You expect yourself to adapt to every hiring manager’s preference and whim, so, instead, show them what you have to offer. If you’re going to be turned down for a job, have it be because you and your experience weren’t a good fit. That’s better than getting a job because you changed how you presented yourself to match what you thought someone would want to see.
Back in the 71st episode of the podcast, DS9’s Crossover, I talked about identifying if you are working in a toxic workplace or not. I also invited you to reach out to me if you were and we’d work to get you out of there.
Well, I am so excited to announce, that at the time of this recording, 2 people that reached out have now started new jobs in new environments! I am honored and excited to have been a part of their journeys, and the people I am still partnering with to help them find a new opportunity. As much as I love producing and putting out this podcast, being a part of people’s real life leadership journeys is one of the most fulfilling things I can do. If you would like to invite me to come along with you, either to help leave a toxic work environment, or for a seminar or one-on-one consulting, reach out! Visit starfleetleadership.academy/p/consulting, or click the link in the show notes, and let’s talk!
You can also reach out on Mastodon, SFLApodcast @mastodon.world, twitter @ SFLA podcast and most other social media, @jefftakin Jeff, t as in Therapy works, a k i n.
Computer, what are we going to watch next time….
It’s the 9th episode of the 1st season of…wait a minute. Again? Remember awhile back when we had that run of the 5th episode from the 3rd seasons? This is our second 109 in a row. Weird.
Well, anyway, it’s the 9th episode of the 1st season of Discovery, Into the Forest I Go. When we last left the intrepid crew of the Discovery, the Pahvans had called the Klingons for a final showdown, and that’s where we are! How will Lorca and crew face the might of the Klingons? Will Stamets survive more time in the spore drive? Who will be the better leader, Kol of the Klingons or Lorca? Be here next time for the answers to these and probably a whole bunch of other questions.
Until then, Ex Astris Scientia!