Why did you leave your last position?

It’s safe to say that a good chunk of folks looking for work are doing so because their current work conditions are less than stellar.  If you’re lucky enough to interview, you will most likely be asked why you’re leaving your current position (or why you left your most recent position).  As comfortable as you may be in that interview chair and as nice as the employer might seem, maintain composure and provide a response that won’t have them thinking: will this candidate say this about my org when they leave?

Sometimes your interview is going really well.  You and the interviewer are talking about favorite pastimes and sports teams.  You may feel tempted to answer the question honestly especially if they insinuate a “difficult” or “colorful” work environment at your previous place of employment.  Don’t do it.  At some point down the line you will have an opportunity to divulge every dirty secret of the sweat shop that you called work but that point is not during your interview.  Below are some reasons decoded for use during the interview.

“I was sick of being someone’s personal bitch” – “I’m looking for a position that includes more supervisory/managerial duties ” or “There was very little upward mobility”  (It’s good to follow up with different examples of how you tried to advance).

“They had me working crazy hours all of the time” –  “I didn’t feel like there was an emphasis on work-life balance” (Be careful with this one.  You don’t want to come off as lazy but you do want to let them know that you value this balance because it enables you to do your worker smarter and better).

“I just didn’t want to work there anymore” –  “I exhausted my opportunities for personal and professional growth” (Cite examples).

“I didn’t like my supervisor.” –  “I’m interested in pursuing different positions that allow for more creativity and/or responsibility and/or whatever aspect of the new job that interests you.

You get the point.

Refrain from citing a laundry list of everything that you hated about your past or previous job.  When you think of what you’ll say when asked this questions think about whether or not your answer would be viewed negatively.  Are you talking about a specific person that made your job difficult or a specific aspect of your job that you just didn’t like?  If so, then STOP!  In answering this question you want to give them a glimpse of what interests you and what you’re looking for a in a position/work environment.

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Staying Motivated During Your Job Search

Staying motivated during your job search is probably one of the most difficult things to do.  Sending out countless resumes without any response (or very little response) can really take a toll on you and make you start to doubt yourself and your abilities.

1. Daily affirmation – It may sound a little corny but I used to start my day off with a reminder of an accomplishment I achieved or an area where I excelled.  Sometimes I needed that reminder so as not to fall in the slump of self-doubt.  Sometimes you may need a quote to get you going.  Either look for your own inspirational saying or go to a site like this that does it for you http://www.louisehay.com/affirmations/.

2. Keep a work schedule.  Initially when you’re out of work you can easily fall into the slump of staying up late and sleeping in.  At first it kind of feels like a vacation but after a few weeks the days start to blend together and you just start feeling down. Don’t fall into this trap.  Keep a work schedule.  Wake up before 9am and go to bed at a decent hour.

3. Pick up a hobby (an inexpensive one) and a library card.  Remember when you were slaving away working 60 hours a week and didn’t have time to knit or where too tired to read that book?  Do it now!  If you don’t have a library card, get one (it’s free).

4. Work your networks.  If you graduated from college or grad school there are probably free listserves and alumni groups in your area.  Talk to your friends!  Do not be afraid to tell them what you’re looking for.  You never know who they might now or what positions may be available.

5. Check out free (or low cost)  webinars, workshops, and events in your field of interest.  These events are a great opportunity to remain aware of new developments in your field and can also serve as gap fillers if it’s been a while since you’ve been employed.  Employers understand that sometimes it takes a while to find something but they want to know what you’ve done during that off time that relates to what you’re interested in.

6. Volunteer!  Preferably in your field of interest but if that’s not possible try and find something that can create the opportunity to acquire transferable skills.  Is there a church or community group looking for better organization? Help them create an online filing structure or database.  Something that won’t take up a lot of your time but can still add value to resume.  You never know, you might be able to spin your work into a paid short-term position.

7. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t hear back from employers. Many positions that are posted are already filled by internal candidates so the posting you see is basically just protocol. It sucks but it doesn’t mean that you should stop applying.   Increase your minimum number of applications per week to make up for the duds.

8. Most importantly, don’t give up and don’t let your job search define you.  If you’re taking the time to research tips and job search strategies, you’re definitely doing something right.  Things will turn around eventually.  Stay positive and keep up the great work!

Can you recover from a Nic Cage resume bomb?

By now I’m sure most have seen the Nicholas Cage resume faux paus.   A job seeker attached a picture of Nicholas Cage instead of her resume and cover letter.  Hilarity ensued for those that read the story but for the actual job seeker (if she’s real), she was probably mortified.

No one has ever sent me a picture of Nicholas Cage (yet)  but I have received a few questionable attachments.  Some job seekers have sent drafts of their materials, resumes and cover letters in track changes, resumes and cover letters in a non-compatible format,  papers or other writing assignments and my favorite, a blank word document.

Usually if I have time, I’ll contact the applicant and let them know that the resume they sent was actually blank.  I do this primarily because they’ve probably been sending that word doc entitled “resume 2012” for some time now without any response and won’t understand why until they actually open that word document.

How does one recover from this?

Step 1: Apologize profusely and point out that your faux pas in no way reflects the quality of work that you would provide as an employee.

Step 2: Make a joke (if you’re funny).  Depending on the sector and type of position they might welcome your sense of humor.  Make sure your joke is appropriate (and funny).

Step 3: Move on.  We tend to look at the closed door for so long that we let other opportunities pass us by.   You sent a blank document to a prospective employer.  Is this the only position that you’re applying for?  No!  You’ve apologized and provided the correct information.  If they get back to you, great! If they don’t, that’s great too.  There are plenty of other positions that you can apply for.  Mistakes happen.  As a job seeker and employee you’re supposed to be perfect but the reality is that mistakes will happen.  The most important thing is that you accept responsibility for your mistake and make an effort to correct it.

To prevent situations where Nicholas Cage and his crazy eyes can make their way to your job application, set up some safe guards.

-Entitle your documents something that accurately describes what they are, “M.Honeypot_resume 2012.”

-Once documents are attached, open them and review them to make sure they’re correct.

-If you have gmail, set up a send delay just in case you spot something that shouldn’t be sent to a prospective employer.

-Save your emails as drafts and come back to them in a few hours. Sometimes a fresh pair of eyes can spot mistakes.

-Don’t save gifs of Nicholas Cage and his crazy eyes.  (Probably the most important thing to do).

For those who have not seen ithttp://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/09/accidental-nic-cage-resume-picture_n_1659343.html

Know Your Audience When You Market Yourself

With any piece of writing that will ultimately be seen and scrutinized by another individual, it’s imperative to make sure that you know your audience and market yourself accordingly.  Some positions want to see your creative side.  Others want to see a mature professional.

I posted for an Associate Executive Director position.  Below is an excerpt (unedited) from a resume I received:

COMPETENCES

• Hustler

• Confident

• Innovative

• Personable

• Self Driving

• Heavy Scheduling   

HOBBIES

• Creating One Liners

• Learning Languages 

• Talking In Accents

• Photography

• Traveling

Offer me a job because … I ran out of milk … so I made cereal with coffee mate … holla at me Martha Stewart.

There might be a position out there where a sense of humor and the ability to generate one-liners is paramount as a job function, but for my position this wasn’t  the case.  Figure out the culture of the work environment before you interject one liners that reference coffee mate and Martha Stewart.

 

“I’m Interested in Any Position That’s Open…”

This might very well be the truth but the employer doesn’t need to know that.  With each application that you send you’re trying to convince the employer that you’re the best candidate for that position.  Out of the hundreds of resumes that they’ve received, they should contact you because you will do the best job in that particular role.  How can you convince them that your specific mix of skills and qualifications make you a good fit for that position if you tell them that you’re interested in any position that they have open?

Whenever I see this blurb in an intro email or even worse an actual cover letter, I hit delete.  In some rare instances, I will actually reach out to the candidate and ask them to review the positions listed then get back to me with an updated cover letter for the position of interest.  I usually tell them that positions vary so much and listing “any” doesn’t give me a good sense of their skill set or interest.

As a jobseeker many years ago I made the same mistake.  Either there were multiple positions that I was interested in from that particular organization or I wanted them to know that I was flexible in case the position I was applying for was already filled.  What I didn’t realize was that internally, good candidates get passed around regardless of what position they’ve indicated on their application.

You do want your employer to know that you’re flexible but you always want them to know that you have purpose and drive.  Sending a generic cover letter and resume with an intro email that basically says that you’re interested in any position that’s open will convey to them that you’re lazy.  Take the extra time to review positions, assess your skill set, and apply to the one that best fits you.