Coping with Career Problems

In an interview career problems may be any aspect of your experience that doesn’t match up with the profile of the ideal candidate. Most employers have an idea of what the perfect candidate looks like, at least on paper. They will be looking out for certain key skills and experience. If you don’t have them, you will need to assure the interviewer you don’t have a career problem that will prevent you from being the right candidate.

Remember the interviewer will be looking to answer the core questions about you. It’s up to you to connect the dots and show you are the real deal.


You’re a graduate

A graduate’s career problem is they haven’t had one! Most graduates don’t have workplace experience. Joining the workforce will be a steep learning curve as they learn how to put theory into practice (and all the other things they need to know).

So how do you get experience if no one will give you the chance to get experience? This is the big challenge for graduates. The answer is to look beyond experience. Think about the core questions of the interview. First is can you do the job. But there are two other very significant questions. Will you do the job, and will you fit into the team? As a graduate you need to focus on what you bring to the table as an overall package and why you the right kind of person for the role?

What are the attributes they are looking for? When have you demonstrated them? What have you done outside of studying? You’ve probably had many varied experiences that you can draw from. Use the star technique to think about how you would show you have the qualities required.

As a graduate one of the most important things is TRANSFERABLE SKILLS. This is the ability to be able to pick up new skills, and adapt previous experience to perform in new environments. It’s the opposite of being book smart. Companies will want to know that you can adapt, learn and be productive – show them.

Lacks of Experience in desired position/skillset

Particularly in more technical industries such as IT It can often be difficult to get into the areas you want to be because of a perceived lack of experience

Your job is to demonstrate how past experience mirrors what is required.

Always remember that for any job a skill set serves a purpose, to perform some task, to add value to the company. By identifying the purpose, you can identify the key traits that the employer wants. Then present these traits when describing your commercial and education experience. If you are short in one area, be sure to emphasise your strengths in the others. In my experience the closer your CV gets to the hiring manager the better placed you are. Although in an ideal world a walking version of the job specification would apply, this is rarely the case and managers are the most willing to compromise if they see a potentially strong candidate. It is more likely to be dismissed by recruitment consultants and HR specialists who are less aware of the balance of technical skills. They need to find the “perfect” candidate to be seen to be doing their job.

You’re “Too old!”

Now, obviously it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of age. Nevertheless you may still face this line of questioning and it’s good to have a plan of how you can overcome it. The main worry here is that your best work is behind you. No one wants to employ someone who is a spent force. The question of age is really a question about your attitude. In today’s workplace the emphasis is on being open to lifelong learning and continually improving yourself. You will need to show that you believe in these principles and that you believe your best work is yet to come. Your experience doesn’t limit you; in fact it broadens your understanding of the bigger picture and makes you an even more effective employee.

You have been fired in the past

This is a real tough question if you aren’t prepared. Click here to learn how to deal with it You want to switch careers/change career direction

There are two issues here; the first issue is whether you have the skills required for the new role you are seeking.

Second is your attitude. It’s easiest for people to understand a typical, linear, career progression. The interviewer will be looking to make sure this isn’t just a whim, but that you will be committed. You will need to make it clear how the role fits in to your long term plans, and just what an important and exciting stage in the process it is for you.

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