My physical therapist told me about the concept of motivational interviewing – a technique he has quite a bit of use for. Motivational interviewing helps people overcome ambivalence and allows people struggling to change and develop (personally and professionally) and to identify what’s really important to them.
For example, when a physical therapist meets with a patient who hasn’t completed exercises between sessions as instructed, they’re able to use motivational interview questions to help the patient identify their own reasons for avoiding the work. They ask questions like:
- When would you be most likely to complete your exercises?
- How can I help you with (whatever the obstacle is)?
- How would you like things to be different?
As I studied this approach, I realized it had the potential to help people preparing for their SMS exam. What I didn’t know was if this technique – the questions and reflection in particular – could be used by individuals without an MI coach.
Can you interview and consequently motivate yourself?
A critical part of the motivational interviewing process is the responses provided by a trained coach or therapist. As I thought about our students prepping for their social media strategy certification – especially the self-study approach – I wondered if there was a way to benefit from asking (and answering) a series of reflective questions yourself…even if the ideal approach for development is through the reflective responses of a professional.
A social media professional getting ready to prepare for their SMS exam might ask themselves:
- Why do I want to become a certified social media strategist?
- How would completing this certification improve my life?
- What do I need from others to successfully prepare for the exam?
- Have I ever tried something like this before?
- How would I like my environment to change to support healthy study habits?
- Who is the person most supportive of my passing your exam?
Ideally, you’d have this conversation with a trained MI professional who would provide affirming responses and event additional questions to help you dig deeper. But anyone – any age, level of experience, job title – can benefit from considering the above questions.
Once you’ve answered the above MI-style questions, what do you do with the information?
- Answer them all again. It’s not that I don’t believe you tried your best the first time, but revisiting each question and your initial answer(s) may help you uncover deeper answers. You might even consider running your responses by a trusted peer or mentor. (Your opinion matters most, but they may be able to provide you with additional thoughts or questions that will deepen your experience.)
- Identify any obstacles that emerged – including (if it exists) the absence of a desire to complete your certification. It happens! I was talking to a project manager once who was studying for their PMP exam – and really struggling. Eventually she realized she didn’t want to take the exam; she was being pressured to complete it by her work peers. She was considering a different career path entirely and, until she completed these questions, had been in a state of denial.
- Eliminate the obstacles you identified. You’ll likely have varying levels of control over challenges you’ve identified, but do what you can to eliminate or at least minimize challenges. This may involve tough conversations (like telling loved ones you may not be as available as you usually are) or financial sacrifices (like turning down extra hours at work), but now that you’ve identified a solid list of what’s really motivating you, these conversations will be easier! You’re already prepared to share why this certification is important to you and your professional development.
- Start studying! Armed with a fresh list of motivating factors, you are ready to tackle your exam. And if you start to struggle to stay motivated…look back at your MI responses for inspiration!
Of course the very best solution for anyone exploring motivational techniques that will help them prepare for their certification exam is to work with a MI professional, but if that’s not available, these questions can give you a great start!
Author: Amy Jauman
Dr. Amy Jauman, SMS, is the Chief Learning Officer at the National Institute for Social Media and author of the Comprehensive Field Guide for Social Media Strategists. Amy is also one of 58 members representing 12 countries in the inaugural class of the Prezi Educator Society. Previously she was the Social Media Director for Women Entrepreneurs of Minnesota (WeMN) and she currently serves as the marketing director for the Minnesota Chapter of the National Speakers Association. She is also an adjunct professor in the St. Catherine University Business Department and the St. Mary’s University of Minnesota MBA program.