Old dog can still break from the traps

Q: I’ve been called to interviews. My immediate reaction was to run a mile. I haven’t done an interview since I left school, and that’s not today or yesterday – let’s put it this way, I’ve lived through my fair share of currency changes. I’ve run my own business for the past 25 years. I’m probably set in my ways. Can you teach an old dog new tricks? ‘Needs must’, hence my return to full-time employment. Any suggestions? (KK, email ).

A: Yes, you’re heading down a new road here, a road where you have to put on the glad rags and sit in front of people – some of whom may barely remember even one currency change – and tell them how you’re a team worker who always goes the extra mile while displaying a capacity to work on your own initiative without – of course, it barely needs saying – ever losing your personal touch and winning style of customer service.

Running that mile yet?

Seriously, it may well be a culture shock for you. The self-employed person is accustomed to doing rather than talking about doing. They are drawn to entrepreneurship for a number of reasons, not least the sense of control it gives them – if they dream up an idea today (no matter how brilliant or bonkers ), they can implement it without having to run it up various corporate flagpoles where sundry others will demand both helicopter and 360 degree views, and whatever cliché you’re having yourself, before being told the idea is not bad, and has been slated for Q4, the year after the year after next.

Now you’ve got to talk about doing (i.e. the interview ).

Our advice would be to make it as real as you can. Tell them stories (or scenarios, to give them their formal handle ) that illustrate your suitability for the role.

“You want someone who can manage the yard? I managed my own yard for 25 years and I’d mind white mice at a crossroads.”

“You’re hoping to build up sales in a new region? I built sales in my own business consecutively for 15 years.”

And so on. Not in a brash, defiant, self-employed supremacist way – just by way of telling them what you did and how what you did qualifies you to work for them. And if what you did doesn’t actually render you suitable for the role they’re giving out, you’ve applied for the wrong role.

Past behaviour is generally taken as a reliable predictor of future behaviour.

Can an old dog be taught new tricks? Only you can answer that question as it applies to you. If the answer is ‘no’, there could be trouble ahead. If the answer is ‘yes’, then this old dog can take a wealth of invaluable experience accumulated and put it to powerful use in future roles.

Self-employed people can be excellent employees – they have staying power, ideas and drive. But if they can’t adapt, if they’re set in their ways, they can flounder in the world of employment. If you feel you can adapt, make sure to tell the interview panel just that – “I’m now ready to bring my staying, power, ideas, drive {insert as appropriate} to this role, and I think I can be a valuable asset to you.”

Resist, of course, the urge to tack ‘going forward’ onto the end of that sentence. It might not be just that kind of corporate flagpole.

Sli Nua Careers (www.SliNuaCareers.com ) have offices in Galway, Dublin, Limerick, and Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo. Their services include CV preparation, interview training and career direction. For more details, visit www.slinuacareers.com/cv

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