Q: For the last three years I have been in college fulltime, embarking on a new career path. I’ve loved every day of it, even the difficult assignments and challenging exams. I’m graduating this summer. Prior to this second college stint, I worked in a sector I didn't enjoy and had five jobs in seven years. Each time, I just got bored or felt that the company wasn't right for me. However, since going back back to college, I have realised that my earlier career was the problem, not individual companies within the sector. I had that hunch all along, but college has confirmed it for me. However, I now fear that employers will see me as an unsettled individual who just jumps from job to job? Any tips on how I make sure this doesn’t hold me back? (DR, email ).
In your few lines, you raise several relevant topics that I will deal with as best I can:
1. Going back to college is almost always seen as a good thing. It shows that you are willing to learn and that you can commit yourself to taking on the onerous task of study. Plus, you have stayed the course and got your qualification. You need to carry those positive with you as you now seek jobs in your new sector. There’s nothing to hide in all of that.
2. There is no shame in discovering that a sector doesn’t suit you. You were in the wrong sector. You tried your best to make a go of it by moving to different companies. But you were still in the wrong sector. And that's why you went back to college. College confirmed what you had suspected. You are now in the right sector. Employers should be happy to take on somebody who has persisted until they found what suited their skills and interests? They know that you have tested your suitability for this sector and thus you are likely to flourish there. What’s not to like about that from an employer’s perspective?
3. You didn't give up. You didn’t just settle for mediocrity in your career. You kept looking. If you present this reality in the proper way to employers, they are likely to warm to you.
4. Be confident about what you have come through and who you are. Career paths are rarely linear. Change is not a bad thing. Change brings fresh insights about ourselves and the work we do. You are now about to bring all of that to the new company. If you're confident in the path you’ve taken, you stand a much better chance of persuading them of the value it brings.
5. All the foregoing is governed by one over-arching reality: it is up to you to sell your story to the employer. If you go into interviews thinking that you are a job hopper, chances are they'll see you that way too. But if you go in there telling them that have worked hard to find your niche, they are infinitely more likely to give you a break. Companies have far too many people who are in the wrong area or career. Look employers in the eye and tell them you know you’re in the right place now. That’s no idle statement to be able to make in an interview.
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