GECD Improv Workshop Enhances Communication and Interviewing Skills

Jake Livengood, Assistant Director, Graduate Student Career Services

“This morning, I didn’t think I would be acting as a construction worker.” These were the words from a participant in one of GECD’s improv workshops to improve communication and interviewing skills.

Doing improv has made me a better presenter and listener, and has helped me feel more comfortable with the unanticipated things that can crop up during presentations, teaching, or workshops. In the career services arena, improv can help job-seekers prepare for unexpected questions in job interviews, such as “What do you think of lava lamps?” or “What were you like as a child?” (These are examples of real questions asked during interviews with Boeing and Biogen, respectively.)

GECD improv workshopI wanted others to experience the benefits of improv as well, so I completed the Improv Asylum Training Center in Boston’s North End and began leading workshops on campus in July. To date, I have led more than 10 improv workshops for various groups at MIT, ranging from first-year students through graduate students and postdocs. These interviewing and communication workshops have been offered to such groups as the OME Momentum Program, DUSP, the Graduate Student Council, and Pre-health, where students were preparing for health professions admissions interviews. I have also worked with staff at the Office of Digital Learning and students at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

GECD improv workshopWorkshop participants are often hesitant at first, because they are uncomfortable about not knowing what will happen next. By the end of these very interactive workshops, most are laughing and having a good time, and they’ve also learned a few things about themselves. It’s important that they engage in improv activities as a group, and in a supportive environment. This setting helps them answer an important question: What do you do when you are nervous? For each individual, answering that question can lead to better self-awareness, and in turn, can help him or her respond to questions more effectively during job interviews, presentations, and meetings.

You can read more about the workshops in an Inside Higher Education blog post, and in an article published by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. If you are interested in having an improv workshop for your student group or department, please feel free to reach out to me at livngood@mit.edu.