Some people have those nice orderly transitions in their professional careers; you look at their resume and you can see education in a particular field followed by a work history that draws on that education. Each new job on the resume comes across as a promotion, the length of service for employers is significant and when you look at the person’s work life as a whole, everything makes perfect sense.
There are others of course who on first glance, appear to have leapfrogged from one job to another. Their education sometimes supports the job they are in and at other times you can’t help but wonder what was going on that caused them to move from job to job, in and out of fields of training and education.
Now if you are in the second situation, you can and should anticipate in any future job application that interviewers and anyone in a position of attempting to help you is going to ask you to explain and possibly defend your employment history. Can you? Can you do it confidently so by the time you are done talking you have reassured the person that you are going to stick around if hired here in the present?
I’m a strong believer in taking what you’ve got and finding the positives in your situation instead of easily gravitating to the negatives. The challenge then becomes two-fold; find the pro instead of the con, and secondly sell it with conviction. You have to believe it yourself if you are ever going to persuade someone else to share your point of view.
Okay so let’s look at the positives. For starters, an employment history that spans different fields of work provides a great perspective for the person. It certainly allows you to have an appreciation for people who work in those sectors. So if you’ve worked in factories and in retail as an example, and are now looking at working in a job that requires people skills, you can talk about being able to identify with people from different walks of life because you’ve been there. You can carry on conversations with folks from both fields, share stories, understand their motivation.
Another plus is you’ve probably worked under different kinds of supervisors in you’ve worked in various fields; some were supportive and discussed options with you and others before coming to decisions, while others made decisions and expected workers to adhere to them. This makes you adaptable and can fit in with a minimum adjustment period. That’ll be an asset over the person who perhaps only knows one way of doing things or has been used to only one style of leadership and assumes all leaders work the same way, which they don’t.
Now I myself have worked in retail, non-profits, social services, been self-employed, worked for municipal and provincial governments, worked solo and as part of a team, made budgetary decisions and work for others who made those decisions, worked in large, medium and small organizations. What I’ve done makes me very versatile, allows me to bring a multitude of perspectives to conversations and helps me identify with people from all walks of life. This isn’t a liability or something to apologize for, but rather plays to my strengths. I’m resilient, adaptable, deal well with change and I survive and thrive.
Now re-read that paragraph above. Am I just spinning a yarn or do you think that I really feel confident about my work life? Check out my LinkedIn profile please and see how all that experience gets presented there. You’ll see not only what I’ve done but why I’ve done it, what I got from each job. You find a presentation imbedded in my summary section which will open up a timeline. First of all its demonstrating my ability to use such a tool, but it also shows someone who cares to see it the reasons for all the job and career shifts and changes.
Now the key thing for dealing with a varied work history is to both market and sell yourself with confidence. Viewing yourself as a product, you need to pitch your value to a perspective employer. If you don’t sell yourself with confidence, you’ll come across as less than genuine and honesty is a desired trait that every employer shares.
Your varied background isn’t a liability but rather a strength. You can readily adapt to changes in the workplace, work productively and effectively with a variety of people from various backgrounds. Your flexibility, skills at dealing with change show a great attitude in action. You’re an asset that an organization would be fortunate to have on their payroll.
So what is your real challenge? You challenge as I see it is to convince an interviewer that at this time you are ready and willing to make a longer-term commitment and are seeking an employer where you will provide value in return. This is really going to be a partnership between you and them.
You diverse background is what sets you apart and makes you the uniquely qualified candidate that they are looking for. Don’t apologize for your resume, celebrate it and be proud of it! You’ve got a lot to offer and are looking for a position where all that past experience can be utilized.
Now this is a person I want to hire!