A Few Tips for First-Timers

Looking back at a few of my articles lately, I’m starting to wonder if the tag line of “Confessions of a Certified Forensic Interviewer” should be changed to “Tales from the Frontline.” Although I’m sure anyone who has been in the loss prevention/asset protection industry for more than a few years will have similar tales to tell. A few things lately have made me reminisce about some of my firsts, and I’ve come up with a list of tips for first-timers. Here you go, enjoy!

Trade Show First-Timers
The first batch of tips concerns trade show first-timers. At the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) conference a few weeks ago, I met some new DLPMs and seeing their fresh-faced optimism took me back to my first trade show. I wish I had given them some advice at the time but didn’t, partly because it didn’t dawn on me in the moment and partly because they were with their boss. Lucky for them, they had a mentor there guiding them, so they were in good hands.

First-timers: try to talk to as many people as you can and get their information so that you can network. Don’t avoid the solution providers; some of the good ones can be your best resource. For those of you without a mentor, it goes without saying that there are a lot of opportunities to embarrass yourself at the networking events, mainly due to mixing alcohol with nerves. While I’ve personally never had a bad experience due to alcohol, I’ve heard lots of horror stories from both men and women about over-imbibing. I’m pretty sure there were times when I said something stupid or didn’t interact as I normally would due to alcohol, and I recommend you learn your limits. Also, don’t be afraid to talk to the session speakers after they give their presentations. They love to hear your feedback and will welcome questions. Make sure you get what you need out of the conference and have a full experience.

Another tip for trade show newbies: you’re going to run into people with egos, but don’t let it bother you. Everyone was new at one time in their career, though some people just seem to forget this. I still remember standing at a reception at my first NRF when my boss walked away for a moment to talk to someone else. I must have looked like a deer in headlights because, in that brief time, a gentleman approached me and proceeded to ask me where I worked and what I did there. He then wanted me to explain to him the formula to calculate shrink. I have a vivid memory of standing there thinking, “What is this guy’s deal?” He was a leader in the industry, and I knew who he was, but I just couldn’t understand why he felt it necessary to embarrass me. After I explained in layman’s terms what caused shrink, he demanded to know the actual formula. When I stammered, he said, “Come talk to me when you have it figured out, honey.” I’ve never forgotten that moment and have come up with a hundred comebacks since then. So, my tip here is don’t worry about it. There are some jerks out there but there are also a lot of great people. Have someone you trust introduce you to the good ones.

First-Time Interviewers
I also have a few tips for first-time interviewers. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about all the people I’ve trained or mentored in interviewing over the years. Being new at interviewing is nerve wracking. Even after doing over a thousand interviews, I still get nervous. I can remember sweating through a few shirts through the years (side note: it helps to wear a blazer).

My first advice for new interviewers is it’s okay to be nervous. In fact, it’s a good thing because it will keep you on your edge. As soon as you get comfortable interviewing, you are going to get lazy and you are going to miss things. You’ll miss behavior or nuances in their responses, and you won’t get that implication or the extra admissions. Nerves are there for a reason. They keep you on your toes, so just go with it.

Second tip for new interviewers: the person you are interviewing doesn’t know the process (at least I would hope not) for your first few interviews. If you screw up, don’t worry about it. They don’t know that you just forgot to protect the evidence or did your introductory statement completely out of order. Just keep swimming, as Dory would say, and you’ll be fine.

I don’t really remember my first interview because it was all a blur, but I know I didn’t get a confession. I do remember my first phone interview, and even though it was a travesty, I got the admission. My boss and I were traveling together in the middle of nowhere and had to pull over to do an interview. He had already warned me that he was a big fan of phone interviews, and I was expected to do them, a lot! He pretended to take a nap while I proceeded to butcher the entire process. But I muddled through and was able to get a written statement. He knew I knew how to do it, and he was understanding about my nerves. Luckily the person on the phone didn’t know the process and it all ended up fine. So, cut yourself some slack and don’t expect perfection your first time.

Cut Yourself Some Slack
Cutting yourself some slack in all new undertakings is, in my opinion, some solid advice. I’ve always been very hard on myself and have learned over the years it’s okay to be less than perfect. Hopefully as you go about your job and try new things, you’ll remember these tips from someone who has been in your shoes. How does the saying go? “Don’t let perfection be the enemy of the good,” or “Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.”

One last tip: go out there, try some firsts, and have some fun along the way.