Q&A:  I Have Bad Employment History. What Do I Do Next?

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Q:  My work history isnt terrible but its pretty bad as of late. I worked at UPS for 5 months and left in great standing, gave 1 month notice to my departure, the job just wasn’t for me. No issues there beside the fact I was only there for a short time. Then I started working at target… and was terminated about a month in for using an earbud during work hours. Not proud of it at all. I didn’t expect them to just flat out fire me but I understand why they did. I was warned once and when caught a second time, I was let go a week later. That being said I worked my *** off was recognized many times for my work, which is why I was super surprised when they fired me for wearing an earbud twice. (I do know it was a really stupid decision and I’ve learned my lesson) Then I got a job at a pizza place and absolutely hated it and left like a scumbag a week in and gave no notice to my former boss (he was a jerk and I just wanted out), just called him up about 6 hours before my shift and let him know that the job wast for me and that I’d be resigning. I feel like my employment history sucks and any employer who looks at it will likely not hire me. I was good at all 3 jobs and was never a troubled employee, besides the earbud deal but even during my time at target I worked very hard and was recognized for my work many times which is why i was surprised when they fired me. Any advice moving forward would be nice.
-Anonymous

 

A:  No one has a perfect employment history.  We all make mistakes.  Learning from them is the best thing we can do, besides remedying them, when we can.  Because you have indicated that you have learned your lesson, it’s time to move forward, making sure that any future employers understand that you have as well.  You may do so with confidence.

So, on the next application that you complete, I recommend omitting the pizza place.  Since you were not there any real length of time, the “experience” is immaterial.  While I do not know how long you worked at Target, I see that you were recognized for your work there, so you may want to list that position, as well as the one at UPS.  Be sure to get the name and telephone number of someone at both places that can attest to the positive parts of your time there.  You may even check with the manager at Target to determine whether or not you are eligible for rehire, so that you will know what will be said if that question is asked of your references.

When you are asked for the reason for your departure at both jobs on the application, be honest.  State that you resigned from UPS to find other work.  This is the truth and no one can fault you for that.  When you speak of your reason for leaving Target, use the verbiage “misunderstanding about company earbud policy.”   (You did, after all, believe that you would get either a second verbal warning or a write up before being terminated).   If there is a check mark for terminated, check it, otherwise, simply state the reason.

During an interview, simply state that you discovered that the UPS job wasn’t something you could do long term and that you wanted to find something more interesting/meaningful/challenging (choose something that fits).  When you talk about your experience at Target, accentuate the positive experience you had there.  Talk very specifically about how you were recognized for your work there.  When it comes to the termination, admit that you have learned from your mistakes and have matured in that area since.  Promise to demonstrate that once hired.

Best wishes.

Q&A: Self-introduction in a Job Interview

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Q: Employers often ask me to introduce myself (or talk about myself) in job interviews.
What kind of answers do they want? They know my name, background etc because we send our resume beforehand.
-AmyS

A: This is a very good question, AmyS. Before I answer directly, let’s think about another situation where someone would want you to tell them about yourself – dating. I often tell clients that I have a very attractive, intelligent, and single sibling that’s interested in meeting new people. I list a few characteristics my brother/sister is looking for and ask them what they would respond, knowing these “requirements.” More often than not, their response mirrors those requirements. When you are responding to this question in an interview, you are expected to do the very same thing – think about what the interviewer needs and who you are, and customize your responses to that person.

Let’s say you are interviewing for a job as a Receptionist. In the job posting, the hiring manager will have listed the things that he/she finds important to have in a receptionist, the duties one would be required to undertake, and maybe a little about the mission or vision of the company (if those things aren’t all in the ad, you can probably find them on the company’s website).

Let’s say they are looking for someone who is/has:
• professional
• at least one year experience
• good people skills
• working knowledge of MS Office
• working knowledge of office equipment
• detail-oriented
• organized
• flexible/adaptable
• able to multi-task
• demonstrated teamwork skills
• able to work under stressful conditions

to:
• greet all guests, visitors, and employees
• develop and maintain files
• answer the telephone and take messages
• retrieving, preparing and distributing incoming and outgoing mail, courier services and packages.

and their mission is:
• to offer programs and services that help the elderly remain as independent as possible
After evaluating these qualifications against your own characteristics and skills, you would reply something like this:

“I have been working as a Receptionist for the past 4 years. I really enjoy this type of work. I love people and enjoy every opportunity I get to brighten someone’s day, whether on the phone or in person. You never know how you can impact people and it’s really critical to customer service. I’m very good with computers. I have often been asked to help co-workers and sometimes supervisors with little computer issues and even big projects with Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. I don’t mind. I enjoy helping others. I see us as a part of a big family and who wouldn’t help their family, right? I’m very organized and I pay very close attention to detail. I’m also very good at staying calm in stressful situations. I can prioritize and multi-task, and I’m pretty flexible, so things that get other people frazzled don’t really bother me so much. I’m really excited for the opportunity to meet with you today.”

Of course, your response will be modified to your personality.

Practice looking at various ads and company profiles and thinking about a few different ways you can do this. Once you have a handle on what companies are looking for in the specific job title you are applying for, you will be able to craft a more general “elevator speech.”
As far as the questions you may ask, consider asking questions that are relevant to your interests and needs:
• How long have you been working here? Is it common to find employees who have worked here for a long time?
• What opportunities are their for advancement?
• Does the company offer professional development courses for employees to build their skills?
• May I meet some of the staff I will be working with?
• If I started today, what would my first priority be?

Best wishes.

Q&A: How Do I Know if This is What I Want?

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Q:  I am considering going to therapy to sort this out.

About every 3 months or so I go crazy about switching from my business career to medicine.

My plan in high school was to take nursing, work as nurse for X years, apply for med school and then work my way to becoming a surgeon. But for some reason I decided to do accounting instead.

I am decently good at what I do. I’ve been working for 2 years now and I occasionally struggle and get overwhelmed (I want to clarify what I mean by ‘overwhelmed’. I am not overwhelmed by the work itself but more as to what happens when you do 8 hours of work and find out that the end number doesn’t balance. I literally have to go through it line by line or erase it all and put in another 8 hours to find the error. It is just numbers all day long – no real interaction with anyone and nothing really getting achieved). When I am busy and engaged it is all good but more often I end up getting bored and either have to find something to look busy or I neglect the work I do have but don’t want to do.

Eventually I convince myself that it is too disruptive to take 4 years off to do the school for my nursing degree. I am married with responsibilities, it is a huge risk to leave my career and get loans for school.

I honestly don’t see myself doing this long term but I don’t know if this urge to go into medicine is a sign that I have a calling or if I am just trying to run when times are tough.

How do I figure out what I want? I don’t want to find myself 10 years down the line wishing I had went another path but I also don’t want to force myself in a second career!

-Anonymous Inquirer

 

A:  Dear Anonymous Inquirer,

While I can see that you are having difficulty settling on a choice for your career, let me reassure you that this is neither an uncommon nor an impossible situation.  From your post, I see that you have an interest in medicine, but that you have also have found some contentment in the busyness of your role as an Accountant.  While you may think that being a Surgeon and being an Accountant are from two completely different spectra on the career continuum, there are some similarities that make this whole thing make sense:

  • Both careers require one to communicate with others and to be able to understand spoken and written information
  • Both require a high level of attention to detail, reasoning and analytical skills, good decision making skills, and problem solving skills
  • Both require strict adherence to guidelines
  • Both careers require that one engage in work that keeps them busy, that they have to remain focused on in order to achieve the desired goal
  • Both require work indoors in a moderately fast-paced environment
  • Both careers considered to be are important work

Where they differ, of course, has to do with the type of tasks involved, the level of social interaction, the skills, the knowledge (education), and the specific tasks they are called upon to perform.  Would you rather work alone from day-to-day or do you want to work with and alongside people?  Are you happiest working on humans and their health or would you rather stick to data and numbers?

What I would strongly recommend for you is a career assessment.  There are several good ones online.  The U.S. Department of Labor has a few here – http://www.doleta.gov/jobseekers/assess_yourself.cfm.

You may also visit your Alma Mater’s Career Placement Office for more in-depth assessments.  Once you complete the assessment, a listing of jobs suitable for someone with your responses is given.  From this point, you should find it a whole lot easier to make your choice.

Be aware, however, that should you ultimately choose medicine, you may need to determine if being a nurse is really the path you want to take to be a surgeon.  Likewise, it may be helpful to remember that there are many roles one could have in Accounting that may be as fulfilling (Payroll, Accounts Payables, etc.).

Best wishes.

Q&A:  Is It Good to be Called in to Meet the Owner and Observe?

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Q:  So I had a job interview on Friday and today is Monday and I got a call from them. They asked me if I would be able to come in this weekend and meet the owner and observe the work place. Is that a good sign?
-Harriet

You interviewed for the job on Friday and the next business day, you got a callback.  This is great.  In that call, you are offered an opportunity to come in and meet the owner.  THIS is great.  You are going to be given an opportunity during this meeting, which will take place this weekend, to observe the workplace.  THIS IS GREAT!

Harriet, you have a real opportunity on your hands!  Not only does the boss want to meet you, probably to see who this person  is that impressed his managers so much, but you are also going to get an opportunity to go behind the scenes and see how a day in the life of an employee at this company really looks.  This is an excellent chance for you to question the employees who work there and to get a real idea of whether or not this job meets your needs and whether or not your will enjoy the work.

The company will also get a chance to see if you are enamored or disappointed by what you see.  They will be more closely able to tell if you can handle the work, and if your personality will fit in with the others in the organization.

Best wishes! Knock ‘Em Dead

Q&A: Do I Take Lower Pay to Get the Experience?

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Q: It has basically been said, in so many words that I wouldn’t move up any higher in my current department. I applied for a management position in another area that I currently support. They are considering me but because I have never had a management title they consider me as not having experience and want to start me at the bottom of the pay scale, much lower than current salary. Do I push for this position knowing it will open doors down the road even though it’s much lower in pay and the understanding that my current boss doesn’t plan on helping move up?
-KTuck
A:  This is an excellent question, K, one that I believe many people struggle with, more often than we realize.  It is possible, however, that you don’t have be one of these.
Although your job title, to date, has not yet been “Manager,”  you could very well have operated in the role many times.  I think it may be time to reevaluate the effectiveness of your resume.  Reflect on each of your previous work experiences.  Think about the tasks and responsibilities you encountered with each and weigh these against the job responsibilities and tasks of a manager at your company (the job ad or job description will help).  Research the core competencies and common responsibilities and tasks of a manager, supervisor, or leader, if necessary.  Have you lead any projects or teams?  Have you trained team members or other new staff?  Have you represented the company outside of your “traditional role?” If this is the case for you, perhaps you can submit a restructured resume showing your justification for management classification now, while you are still being considered for the position.

In this new resume, I would recommend that you include any professional development courses (continuing education or otherwise), college courses where you have been taught how to be a leader.  Then review your activities – volunteer activities or other extra curricular activities – where you have been or have emerged as a leader.  These all add to your experience. The rest is up to you to plead your case, given the opportunity.

Best Wishes.

Q&A: How Do I Set Myself Apart?

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Q: I do not mean to sound full of myself, but I one fantastic server. I have been in the service industry for the majority of my career. I have developed a passion that can’t be taught.
 
I am having a problem with technology. Everyone applies online and I look JUST as qualified as the rest, but I am not.
I don’t want to be in management. I love serving and interacting with the people. Creating unique experiences and generating regulars, is what i do. I love working evenings.
 
I AM that server.
 
I work hard and want to find the right place to call home.
 
How do I set myself apart?
– Qtiepye
 
A: Believe it or not, Qtiepye, what you have said in your question actually sets you apart from others. Using words and phrases like “passion,” “love serving and interacting with the people” and “creating unique experiences” are what employers dream of seeing on applications and resumes (and hearing in interviews for that matter). While it may be easier to make these statements on a resume than a job application, there is still a way to do it. For example, you can still include these phrases in the “Experience” section where you are asked to list your duties, the “Qualifications,” and “Skills” sections.
 
Also, be sure to quantify, as much as you can, e.g. the number of years, the number of tables per day, etc. If you have personally done something to raise the level of patronage at the restaurants you have worked for, mention that as well.
 
 
Best Wishes!

Q&A: Avoid Hobbies on My Resume?

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Q&A:  Avoid hobbies on my resume?
Q:  I read that I should avoid including hobbies on my resume unless I am certain they will help me get the job? How do I determine what is a non-essential hobby? What types of hobbies would actually aid in the job search process?
-Grace

A:  Good question, Grace.
A hobby can be defined as an activity that one does on a regular basis, in their spare time, for their enjoyment.  Generally speaking, these activities are things we practice and become good at, consequently, we develop skills from them.  From putting together puzzles, we develop our logic, hand-eye coordination, memory, and problem solving skills.  From knitting, we develop our hand-eye coordination, pattern recognition, and concentration skills.  From genealogy, we develop our research, logic, communication, computer, and problem solving skills.  From sports, we develop our interpersonal and team work skills, as well as strategy, collaboration, and resilience skills.  The list goes on and on.  (For a list of other skills developed from hobbies, visit: http://good.co/blog/2013/10/23/top-hobbies-boost-employability-skills/)
Because the skills you develop in having a hobby increases your employability, I would say that you should definitely consider them when you are applying for work.  These skills could be a part of what you include in your “Summary of Qualifications” or “Skills” sections.  Any awards that you have received as a result may be fodder for your “Accomplishments” section.  If you have been participating in the hobby for a long time, doing something that qualifies you for the position you are applying for, you may want to list it within the “Experience” or “Volunteer” section of your resume.  This way, your hobbies get a sort of “honorable mention” without getting an actual section of their own to be listed individually.
Because the resume you submit for a given position is an assertion that you are qualified for the job being offered, you want to make sure that the information you include is information that tells a potential employer why you believe you are a good fit for the job.  In order for you to know if you are a good fit, you must carefully read the job ad and research the company. You must understand what type of company you are applying with, what products/services they offer, their culture, and what they need in an employee.  The ad will tell you if they are looking for someone who has analytical skills, for example, and if you have developed these skills playing chess, then that skill is a part of who you are and should be included in your summary.  If the job is for a chess coach, you should certainly state that you have been playing chess for 15 years.   While you may not list chess on your resume, you are certainly free to talk about it in your interview when you explain who you are and why you are a good fit.

Best Wishes!