was a chant repeated at a Mental Health Association in N.Y.S. rally that I attended several years ago …and true whether we’re talking about our personal lives or workplace experiences! Just think about the qualities associated with good mental health: a sense of contentment, zest for living and the ability to laugh and have fun, ability to deal with stress and bounce back from adversity, a sense of meaning and purpose, flexibility to learn new things and adapt to change, ability to build and maintain fulfilling relationships and not least, self-confidence and self-esteem.
When I assist job seekers looking to get into/back into the workplace, I look for these qualities and examples that convey them. I recently met with a bright and talented young woman, who was not having luck finding a job. I proceeded as usual – my goal, to better understand her workplace experiences and what she enjoyed and did not on each of her positions (whether paid or unpaid). I do this to clarify each person’s unique strengths and possible challenges for the job interview (and in the workplace).
I learned quickly that she did not feel good about her last job. In fact, she refused to talk about it at all. Yes, it left a big blank in my understanding of her work history. But more importantly, I knew that the negative feelings tied to this experience would stand in her way of accessing new opportunities. I knew that – even if unspoken – this young woman’s negative feelings would be conveyed in an interview (or if not addressed, a gap to be accounted for.)
Sometimes, a work experience leaves us with a very sour taste…perhaps, we did not feel valued on-the-job, felt that our growth potential was stymied/we were not given opportunities to learn or try-out different roles and skills, we felt unsupported in our job or WORSE… we experienced workplace bullying or sexual harassment.
Whatever the cause, it makes it difficult to remember/recognize the positive elements of the job…what we in fact gained gain from the experience. Even if it’s hard to get beyond that bad taste, it’s important – on that job interview or with any “door opener” – to ACT AS IF!
THESE ARE OPPORTUNITIES to share all that we are most proud of…and really the chance to STRUT OUR STUFF! Share examples that demonstrate your ENTHUSIASM, ENERGY AND ABILITY TO CONTRIBUTE IN THIS NEW POSITION. Don’t let those negative experiences and feelings stand in your way!
Here are some examples! Tell the interviewer that the job was a great opportunity to use your skills and strengths in a way you never had before. Show your enthusiasm by talking about an interesting project that you developed or supported in some way. Talk about the fun or camaraderie that you felt with co-workers. Explain how much you enjoyed being in a role to help others (and the impact you had on others’ lives!)…
Once you are able to talk about the positive aspects of your work experiences, you will reinforce to yourself YOUR POSITIVES! My role as a career coach is to help you recognize your positives and convey them in the job interview (and even after landing the job)!