Your Career, Your Choices

Choose optimism: it’s better in the long run

Q. I have a question, but, first, I have some observations to make.

After leaving school, I worked in the family business for 32 years, but now I am back on the jobs trail after the business closed earlier this year. It has all been a steep learning curve for me, but I must say it has re-invigorated me as a person – though it has frustrated me too.

I feel I am getting close to getting a job in a new sector. In the past two years, as I saw the business was beginning to fail, I went and did some night-courses. I didn’t even know what I wanted to do, and the first course I did was in online book-keeping – something I may never use, but it did get my mind back to study and training again, and I have since gone on to do two other courses.

The main point I’d like to make is that one must take every step to remain positive. There is a huge amount of negativity out there at the moment: if you want to stay optimistic about your career, try to avoid negativity as much as you can.

I heard a businessman talk on radio recently about how he was asked by someone for advice. The woman’s business was going downhill. She couldn’t see any way out of it, and was staring at business closure.

The businessman knew nothing about her sector.

But he did give her one piece of advice: “turn off the radio when you hear negative stuff coming on. Do that for a month.”

A month later, he checked in with her. She had taken his advice. The result? Turnover was up ten per cent.

Why? The businessman reckoned it was the woman suddenly found herself with energy and time on her hands: instead of complaining about the ills of the world, she started to think about how she might improve her business.

She introduced some new lines. She improved her shop-window. Sub-consciously, her enhanced sense of optimism may have encouraged customers to come back.

When I heard the story, I found myself nodding. Keeping our attitude positive really is crucial. Don’t under-estimate it: it is the main reason why I have been able to navigate the difficult road of the last few years.

So, now, to my question. Next week, I have my first job interview ever! My father didn’t interview me for the job when I was 17!

I want to know how I should characterise my business closure in the interview?

A: To answer your question, I would say: think and talk not only of the closure, but also of the success. I don’t know how long you ran the business for, but it’s clear you played a major role for a long number of years.

Secondly, tell the interviewer all you have learned – about dealing with people, about managing finance, about exploring new products, about liaising with suppliers, about lying awake at night wondering and worrying, about your insights into what business is really about.

When you do that, you are likely to connect with the interviewer, who, as either a business owner or manager, knows what it is like to try to keep a business afloat.

And, most importantly of all, thanks for sharing your story with us. I suspect you will strike a chord with a lot of readers.

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