Is Your Past Success a Medal or a Weight?

Have you taken a couple of sharp turns in your professional journey? Perhaps you are changing careers and want to make sure your previous experiences count for something. Or maybe you are returning to the workforce and need to talk about your gap in service.

These are normal challenges that nearly everyone faces when they are looking for jobs. They are surmountable and can even be advantageous, if you frame it well. Here are a few ways you can use these “issues” to work for you:

1. Weave Your Story

I’ve worked for a variety of industries in roles ranging from stage manager to CEO. If you glance at my resume it may seem disjointed but I can tell a clear story about how one opportunity lead to the next one logically, with a bit of adventure and success thrown in. And I make sure to highlight what I learned in my past roles that will help me in the role I am seeking, even if they don’t seem directly related.

When you first start trying to write your career story, you don’t necessarily have to start at the beginning. It’s ok to start where it’s most relevant for the job. Pick a project to elaborate on, then move on to the next step of the journey. After you write it down, try speaking it out loud. It should be about 2-3 minutes long, so you may need to edit ruthlessly. If you’ve done it right, they will have no doubts that you can be successful at their company too!

2. Confidence

You have to believe that you can do the job, so they can believe it too! If you are worried that they won’t think you are qualified or that you’ve been out of the workforce too long, you will project it, and the interviewer will agree with your doubts.

Before you go into the interview, picture yourself in the role. Imagine what a day at work would look like, and how you’d bring your skills to the table. Imagine your boss giving you a high-five for another great idea. Now, with smile on your face, walk into that interview with your head high, give lots of eye contact and smile confidently, knowing that you can rock this job—and the interview!

3. Use your “issue” to make yourself stand out

Some people wear colorful shirts or suits to interviews (me!) but an interesting background story works too! Often interviewers are seeing multiple candidates, maybe even back to back. You want to make sure that you are remembered! When they ask about you, you can bring their attention to the elephant in the room by saying, “I bet you were surprised to see an electrical engineer applying to be an events manager, but it’s always been my dream to throw great parties.” You have their attention immediately and they will be rapt to hear more of your story.

If you’d like assistance writing your story or coaching around interviews, let me know! I’d love to help you land your dream job.