By Amy mazur

Searching for a job is part of the employment game that is played every day here in the US. Playing the game includes navigating the interview process, and knowing the rules of the game affects how successful you will be.

If you are playing to win, here are some interviewing rules:
1)    Do not say anything bad about yourself
2)    Do not say anything bad about your former employer(s)
3)    Convince the hiring manager that you are the greatest thing since sliced bread

Here is the reality:
1)    We are human and we have successes in our lives as well as failures
2)    Employers have successes and failures too
3)    Employees want satisfying work and to make money; employers want good workers and to save money

If you are in the comfortable position of choosing to leave your position to pursue a unique and exciting opportunity after having a very successful tenure at your current employer, you are well positioned in the game.

Note the words choosing (you are making the choice, and it is not being imposed on you), successful tenure (lasted a significant amount of time) and current (you are a not among the long-term unemployed).

But if you are not working and have to answer the question, “Why are you no longer at your last job?”, and the response is either you were let go (fired), you do not have a long tenure at recent jobs, and/or you do not have current work experience (within the last 6 months), then your strategy has to change, and you may have to play a bit differently.Below are some responses to situations in which job seekers find themselves, and some ways to negotiate the interview: 

  • Being fired.  Can you soften the blow and “reframe” the situation?  What actually happened? Are there ways you can talk about some aspect of the situation where you did not succeed, but others where you did?  Can you talk about changes in your role and/or the organization that meant you no longer fit what the role and/or the organization needed?  Can you share what happened and talk about what you learned as a result?  
  • Voluntary time off.  “I was in a position where I could take some time off and reflect on my next career opportunity.  In doing that I have found that your organization and the position for which I am applying are a fit for the following reasons…”
  • Lay off. “The organization restructured/was bought out/downsized, and I was among a number of employees who were laid off.  I had been with the company for a number of years, and was valued for the following reasons… Those reasons are why I would make a valuable contribution to your organization.”
  • Short-term jobs. “As I review my career trajectory, I see a that my short term jobs and my time out of work helped me to learn a great deal about myself, the workplace, and what I do and do not want to pursue.  Now that I have been through these situations, I am prepared to commit to the focus I have now on using my skills (and building new ones) to perform the type of work you are offering in this position.
  • Short break in your career.  “Since my last position, I have continued to keep my skills sharp and stay connected to my field by…”
    o    Volunteering my time
    o    Mentoring other professionals
    o    Enrolling in a course
    o    Teaching a course
    o    Working on a short term project

Obviously more elaboration is needed, and personal circumstances must be considered, but acknowledging that there is a job search game can be the first step in learning to play more strategically, thereby creating a more satisfying work reality. Game on!

Amy Mazur is a National Certified Career Counselor, a Master Career Development Professional, and a Distance Credentialed Counselor based out of Newton. She is committed to helping individuals find their vocational path by tapping into their strengths and passions. Amy strives to create a trusting atmosphere for the client that, in turn, allows for self-acceptance and self-exploration. In addition to meeting individually with clients, Amy facilitates Job Search Strategy and Career Decision-Making Groups.
Amy earned a Masters of Education with a concentration in Counseling & Consulting Psychology from Harvard University and a BA from the University of Michigan. She is a member the National Career Development Association and the Career Counselors' Consortium.
In her free time, Amy has been known to dance with professional dancers, act as an extra alongside Henry Winkler, and get arrested in support of Boston hotel workers.

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