March 1, 2017

How does your career history affect future job opportunities?

Recruiters can be a picky lot. They see that a potential employee has just come back from an 18-month globe-trotting career break and worry about their commitment to their career and to any future employers. Or they look at a candidate who has had four jobs in the past two years and instantly see a warning sign, assuming that the person is trouble in the workplace or again, has commitment issues.

However, neither globe trotting nor job hopping are necessarily detrimental to your employment prospects. Nor should concerns about your future employability hold you back from going for what you want at the time. So the time is right for you to see the world and you feel it might be now or never. Go for it. A great job has come up, but you have only been in your current one for six months and you worry about how that looks – if you think it will take your career in the way you want it to go, go for it. In both cases, the important thing is to manage the situation carefully and ensure recruiters view your recent career history in a positive light, rather than a negative one.

Some employers like to see that candidates are open to new experiences and won’t just sit tight in the same role as the years go by. Those enlightened recruiters may willingly give you the opportunity to explain your recent career and life choices. Other recruiters take a different view and will look for the negatives. Either way, if you want to be at least in with a chance, then it’s up to you to flag up the positives about your experiences. Give them reasons to invite you for interview and to give you that job, rather than reasons to reject your application.

Take travelling, for example. So, you have been in stable employment for seven years and have just taken a couple of years out to see the world. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, there is plenty right with it – it shows that you are prepared to take control of your own destiny, that you are able to take risks, that you are independent and that you are prepared to follow your dreams. How does that relate to the workplace and your employability? That is what you need to demonstrate to potential employers.

Highlight the positives, such as what you learnt and how you developed while on your travels. Did you learn a new language? If you did, put it on your CV. Consider applying for jobs in organisations or sectors where you could put your new linguistic skills to good use. Or organisations that have links to one or some of the countries you have visited. Employers will most likely be very keen on the fact that you are familiar with the language, with local cultures and sensitivities. Seek out those employers.

Think about any skills that you picked up or developed while travelling that are transferable to the workplace. Did you do some volunteering? Did you lead or work as part of a team? Show that you have used your time constructively and that you have developed yourself as an individual.

The trick is to think about your travel experiences from an employers’ point of view. They will probably like the fact that you have gone off and broadened your horizons, but only as long as you can show them that your horizons have been broadened. Show them what is relevant to them and what makes you look good. At the very least, it might be enough to make your CV stand out from the zillions of other CVs waiting to be scanned.

Job hopping can be a harder one to present in a positive light. However, there may well be good reasons behind your multiple job moves and if there are, spell them out. What you don’t want is for potential employers to assume that you have moved around for any of the following reasons:

– because of constant personality clashes, meaning that you find it hard to get on with colleagues and managers
– because you make bad career choices and/or are in the wrong career
– because you hate being in one place for long

So, why have you moved jobs a lot? Is it because you are early on in your career and have been gathering lots of new skills and experiences that you think are valuable? If so, say that loud and clear in your application. Is it that you have been headhunted? Say so. Maybe they have all been short term projects and you achieved what needed to be achieved. Again, make it clear.

Redundancy, company takeovers, relocation because of a partner’s job, children or simply to move to a new, desired location are all common and natural reasons for moving jobs. Don’t be afraid to say if any of them are behind your recent moves. It’s better to acknowledge that you have switched jobs a few times recently and account for why than to hope recruiters somehow won’t notice. They will notice.

The important thing that job hoppers need to do is to steer attention away from timescales. Instead, focus the recruiter’s attention on what you have achieved and what you have learnt. Recruiters always want a good ROI and if you can demonstrate that you will provide a good ROI for them, it will go a long way to allaying any concerns.

You, as the candidate, need to be ready to explain any and all of your career choices. Context can provide recruiters with the answers they need. Look at your career history from their perspective and tell them what they need to know, preferably before they ask.