Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Work History Challenges

The subject of work history comes up routinely usually in conjunction with resume writing and applications. This is however only the tip of the iceberg.

Prospective employers will use your work history in any way they can during the decision process. They'll quantify and analyze the information and use their sixth sense (gut feel) as well. They know how people operate and they understand personalities rarely change. The old adage that the best indicator of future behavior is past behavior makes work history is a very big deal.

In the article 6 Red Flags Employers See In Your Job History writer Alison Green adds nicely to the work history discussion. Below are her 6 red flag points re-ordered to reflect the reality many of my clients face.
  1. You have large gaps between jobs
  2. You've been unemployed for a while
  3. You quit your last job with nothing else lined up
  4. You have multiple short-term jobs
  5. You were laid off from your last job
  6. None of your past managers are on your reference list
Not infrequently work history and background challenges are related. Together they represent a basket full of issues and barriers that must be overcome. The natural impulse is to somehow "fix" them, to find a work-around.

I suggest the best fix is to accept what is (and work history is indeed something that is what it is) and not something that should be to lied about or spun. Accept it so that you can see it as something that's about to change. If acceptance doesn't happen you run a big risk of continuing along asleep and unaware, moving into the future as if past actions really didn't happen as indicated by your work history.

When you dwell or stew over gaps, periods of unemployment, quit jobs, temp positions, etc., you place yourself where you don't want to be -- in the past which no longer exists. It's done with, it's finished. Your concern should be on you and the service you provide today and each day going forward.

But don't get me wrong, you will be eliminated because of your work history. Alison's points are valid and at the heart of the elimination process. This will happen unceremoniously and quietly. You just won't make it to the next step. What can you expect in this environment where supply (labor) exceeds demand (jobs)? Add to this the fact that HR and Legal are evermore wedged between the candidate and the hiring manager and the row of hurdles can be formidable indeed.

Your goal should be to remove these no-brainer elimination points. Start with gaps. Rid yourself of these thorns by not creating any more of them. This starts now! Your personal mandate must be to discontinue creating red flags. The way you do this is by staying focused on the present and delivering your service.

Travel well.
John Jeffrey Lundell

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