Green and inexperienced, I was recruited to step into the role of marketing director for a local retirement community.

My education combined with a love and natural propensity for those senior to me far outweighed my managerial skillset, and only days after I was hired I found myself in the position of needing to hire a new sales associate.

Because I hadn’t interviewed many people at that time – okay, any people –  I read what I could could get my hands on about best interviewing practices and compiled a list of basic questions. Plus, I had been interviewed a dozen or more times, so there was that.

Sifting through a competitive pool of applicants, I selected three to interview.

More than anything I was trying to find a good fit for the role and someone with whom I felt comfortable. We would be working closely together.

I would go on to hire Mary Jane, over 20 years my senior. Time would soon tell she was an excellent choice–professional, empathetic, and, man, she could close a deal.

Over 25 years later, I still remember Mary Jane’s interview, specifically her answer to one question:

“What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?”

Without hesitation she replied, “Raising my two sons to be responsible and independent, decent men who contribute back to society and don’t just take.”

She went on to say they had both graduated from college, had landed good jobs, and were now doing well out on their own.

What is interesting to me now that I couldn’t have know back then is that Mary Jane’s answer would be formative in my life. By answering truthfully and simply being “who” she was, she influenced me in a powerful way.

How so? you might wonder.

What can you take away from our conversation?

It pays to be yourself.

I was expecting a business-related answer when I asked Mary Jane about her greatest accomplishment.

Initially I was taken aback by her candid, personal reply, but I quickly realized raising children to adult well is no small thing. It was clear she responded authentically and honestly, and that her priorities were in good order.

This job required someone who could engage people on an emotional and personal level, and Mary Jane – just by being herself – demonstrated this was her natural inclination.

Had she stifled her gut response and tried to deliver a contrived answer or something she thought I wanted to hear, it likely would have come off as mechanical and rehearsed.

Even with my inexperience, I would’ve known she was giving me a prescribed answer.

Your words and your influence are powerful.

Neither one of us could have predicted that over a quarter century later I would remember Mary Jane’s interview, let alone write about it!

But even before I had children, before I needed advice, she seeded parenting wisdom that, years later, would find its way in to my parenting philosophy.

Good or bad, your words are impacting those around you every day; your influence is reaching into future generations.

Keeping these two things in mind should affect how you’re living today, and inspire you to live the best version of yourself.

Parent with the end goal in mind.

A casual remark in a job interview, at least in part, gave me a bullseye to shoot for as I raised my children.

My husband and I were intentional parents, and there were specific values we wanted to instill in our children. Though it never occurred to us to create a family purpose statement, we parented hard and on purpose, doing our best to communicate and cultivate those values in our children.

Today, two of our children have graduated college, are out on their own, and are working in jobs they enjoy. Our youngest has just completed his junior year. Of course, we will want to give him the perfect gift when he graduates, but by watching our older two, we know we’ve probably already given him the best things we could offer.

If you’re in a season of interviewing for a job, be confident in your strengths, humble in your shortcomings, but more than anything, be yourself.

If you’re struggling with your value or worth, believe that you’re influencing and impacting those around you, and what you have to offer makes a difference.

If you’re a parent, it’s always helpful to consider your long-term hopes and dreams for your children, to know who you hope they’ll grow up to be.

And if I go on a job interview and I’m asked about my greatest accomplishment? I already know my answer.