Q: My last job finished prematurely. I left before I was pushed. My face no longer fitted. Once upon a time, I was invited to take part in decision making, included in all management chit-chat trips to the canteen to discuss things, and sounded out about possible business developments, innovations and initiatives. Slowly but surely, I found myself excluded from the cosy club. So rather than wait for further isolation, and the likely shove, I left. I’ve been unemployed the last three months but I have a job interview coming up next week and the role suits my skills.. How should I depict my previous employment which lasted just eleven months? (SK, email )
A: Ah, where once the boss could pick you out in a crowd of 1,000, now he’d struggle to recognise you at a bus stop: office politics has a charm all of its own.
It is always tricky if you’ve had a difficult conclusion to a previous employment. Your chances of playing it down are not helped by your being unemployed for the last few months. So it will be clear to the interviewer that something did happen, and they will be keen to find out if it was a business downturn, a professional error, a personality clash, or a mix of all three.
You can’t go into next week’s interview wearing a hangdog look. You have got to focus on what your strengths are, and, if necessary, admit to the employer that things didn’t finish off well last time: but make it clear that you have put that behind you now and that you’re ready for a new challenge.
The worst mistake you could make would be play out the drama of your last employment in the interview as if you’re trying to get the interviewer to agree with you. As the saying goes, I care not how often you fall, I care only how often you get up again.
Your best chance is to convince the employer that you are re-invigorated. Show enthusiasm for the job, have ideas for what you would do, and be positive in your approach.
If you focus extensively on the job they’re now trying to fill, it will also have the impact of taking the spotlight off your last employment.
This week’s top tip
When you’re chasing a job, you need to be extremely pro-active. One area people regularly overlook is their own network.
Make a list of influential or connected people you know. Tell them you’re looking for work. Maybe a quick email would do the trick, with your CV attached. Tell them what kind of work you are interested in and that you would be good at – particularly if you are seeking to move into an area in which you haven’t worked before.
Let them you’d appreciate any referral or tip-off. People are impressed by that kind of enthusiasm – and if you talk to enough people, some day something will come of it.
So be ‘out there’. There is no shame in being out of work. Potential employers have a high regard for attitude and enthusiasm: without annoying people, you should certainly be circulating your CV, and your desire to find a job, to a large number of people in your personal network. You never know which one will lead to an opening.
Give yourself the career edge by attending our Free Online CV Workshop every Monday evening (6-7 ). Do this from the comfort of your own home – all you need is a headset and access to the internet.