If you’ve been out of work for longer than a year, in addition to job hunting you’ve got to also spend time writing your “script”. How you explain/describe/position/deliver the message about what you’ve been doing between jobs is often directly correlated to your ability to get the next gig.
The dizzying left hook the Great Recession delivered to the U.S. economy still has millions of people stumbling to get back up again. According to a report by the National Urban League Policy Institute, 45.5% of unemployed people have been without jobs for six months or longer.
As people remain unemployed for longer durations, the likelihood that they are forced to take jobs outside their areas of expertise, interests, industries, etc. in order to meet their financial obligations (I know real estate agents who are working at The Gap) increases. The importance of creating a seamless “story” that clearly explains why your career has taken a brief detour but ALSO conveys the value of that detour as it relates to a new potential employer becomes all the more necessary.
Here are 3 questions you must ask yourself as you pull together multiple experiences (no matter how diverse) to tell one story when seeking a job:
1. How Do My Old Jobs Speak to My Hiring Employer’s Needs?
The job description won’t necessarily tell you the need. Did someone resign unexpectedly? Are they looking to expand the role? Did they fire the predecessor and just need new blood? As part of your preparation for an interview, you must find the answers to these questions. Don’t look for everything to wrap up nicely in a bow. Admitting that you took a certain job solely to be able to pay the bills should not be a shameful experience. Be introspective enough, however, to understand how even that reason can resonate with a potential employer.
2. Do I Want to Explain the Gap, or Get The Wild Card?
Embarrassment and shame cannot be the primary reason for excluding a work experience on your resume. So you have an MBA but spent time as a bartender – it can happen. If you choose to exclude that experience and don’t have anything else to show for it chronologically, you must be ready and willing to explain that gap.
I would argue instead, that a ‘wild card’ experience can help you stand out among the masses. It can demonstrate certain attributes you possess that really speak to a company’s culture or a hiring manager’s personal style. Don’t assume that your strongest option is to explain the gap – instead consider spending more time developing your script about that unique job.
3. Am I Willing To Go Back Down the Ladder?
Regardless of your reason – pride, financial obligations, etc.- if you are unable to accept being knocked back a few rungs on the professional ladder; then you must be more cautious when accepting odd jobs during a time of transition.
You may need to be much more thoughtful about that ‘wild card’. For example, while you may have to take that low skill job to pay the bills; you should also volunteer in a role more in line with your previous experiences. Perhaps you’ll need to allocate certain funds for continuing education in your area of expertise – regardless of the day-to-day job you find yourself in.
A willingness on your part to take a pay cut and re-set the clock on your years of experience, may be just the negotiating tool a potential employer is looking for.
Just because you go through the fire – you don’t have to come out smelling like smoke! Come out of the chaos of a job transition with a script that seamlessly ties together all of your experiences – no matter how traditional or unique.