If you find yourself “under-employed” in a position that you are over-qualified for now or in your past, one of the questions you may be asked is how that situation came about. “Why are you working as a clerk when you are applying for a management position?”
The worst possible scenario is to not have any explanation or answer to the inquiry. Thinking of your situation and how you feel about being in a lesser job is important to prepare before the interview.
There a couple of ways to look at this situation. You can think of yourself as a “loser” who couldn’t get any other job and you had to take whatever you could get.
Or, you can think of yourself as a “survivor.” You’re a person who knows how to deal with adversity and to adapt to a bad situation. In other words, “When life gives you lemons you know how to make lemonade.”
If you approach the interview feeling embarrassed that you are currently employed in a lower-level position you will come across as a “loser.” But, if you can hold your head high and feel good about the job that you are in due to circumstances beyond your control, you can appear to be a “survivor.” You’re out there working and making money in spite of a terrible job market.
Good for you!
When my client “Bill” came to me for coaching. He was embarrassed that he was in a position of supervising maintenance people in a hotel, when his diploma and experience were in project management. He was thinking of himself as a “loser.”
The first thing we worked on was his perspective. We made a list of the duties in his current job and found that many of the responsibilities he had in his hotel job were factors that most employers are seeking. He was a “Guest Services Supervisor” who was in charge of a staff of over 150 workers. That’s a lot of responsibility in any setting. We discussed all of the problems he dealt with on a day-by-day basis and how many skills he used to do a good job.
Working with the job posting and what the employer was seeking and then comparing that with what Bill had to offer, he was able to turn a negative into a positive. He made sure that the emphasis was on his accomplishments – not on where he had the experience. When we were finished, he felt very confident and proud of his accomplishments. Bill’s next interview went amazingly well:
“I thought I would let you know how my interview went. It went great! I followed your advice and talked about how my survival supervisor positions gave me valuable real life experience. My interviewer responded positively to my story and said that it was great that I learned things even though it wasn’t an ideal situation. My confidence was high for the rest of the interview and finished strong. I want to thank you for helping me see the value of my experiences and being proud about them, not embarrassed. It really changed my whole outlook on the interview and me personally.”
By realizing that any work is better than no work – even volunteer work – you can feel positive about having survived a bad time. To be adaptable and flexible are important traits to have in today’s ever-changing world of work.
Below are the top-five qualities employers look for in an employee:
- Ability to Communicate orally /Relate well with others – customer service
- Ability to Adapt and be Flexible to changing situations
- Ability to Evaluate information/Make Judgment Decisions/ Problem Solving
- Ability to demonstrate Honesty and Integrity
- Ability to Organize, Plan, and Prioritize
Most of these skills are “transferable” skills. That means these are the skills and experiences that you have that you could bring to any job – regardless of where you obtained the experience.
The attitude you have during the interview and how you are able to feel about holding a lower-level position will make the difference between making an impression or feeling embarrassed by your situation. The choice is yours.
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