Writing a resume is all about selling yourself and highlighting the best bits of your career. But what happens when you have a bad job under your belt, perhaps a short-term disaster you walked away from, or a role where your manager never let you do anything?
Don’t worry about that one bad job affecting your entire resume. These tips will help reassure you as you search for a better and more fulfilling job.
Obstacles and challenges help you learn – and get hired
What you perceive as a failure doesn’t have to be totally negative. Interviewers often ask about a challenge you’ve overcome, or a business situation you resolved, and your so-called bad job may have been a great testing ground for this.
If you put a positive spin on what you’ve learned (perhaps by writing a list or brainstorming) to analyse the positives that came out of a difficult period, you’ll be full of inspiration to make yourself more attractive to hiring managers.
When you started your bad job, it’s likely there may have been some early warning signs that this wouldn’t be a dream role: maybe new colleagues let slip that your position has a high turnover because of a nightmare boss, or there were signs that your contracted working hours were nowhere near the hours you’d actually be working. Though you’ve had a rough time, you’ll have learned to trust your gut more in the future.
A short-lived job could be skipped over altogether
You can research all you like, but you’ll never truly understand a company’s working culture until you’re in the workplace and on the team. It may only take a few weeks or months to decide you’re in the wrong job and, if you haven’t been there long – perhaps you’re still on a short probationary period – you could miss it out on your CV. This becomes even more appropriate if your short-lived job has little in common with the roles you’re now applying for.
As CBS News puts it, ‘no one has the time (or desire) to investigate if you ever had a job that you didn’t list… After all, resumes are marketing documents, not historical records.’ A short gap in employment can often be put down to job hunting or studying. However, they do suggest listing a job if you’re asked to record every single role you held in a specific period of time – not such an unusual request these days.
Everyone makes mistakes
Even major celebrities have found themselves in the wrong job sometimes. Anna Wintour, editor of US Vogue, was fired from her fashion editor job at Harper’s Bazaar after just nine months. Meanwhile, former Vanity Fair editor Tina Brown famously ran a less successful magazine, Talk, that floundered after two and a half years. Today, she’s remembered for her work at Tatler, Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, not for what happened with Talk.
Whilst Wintour recommends getting fired at least once in your career, we wouldn’t suggest going as far as that! But, at a time when nobody is expected to stay in a job for life, and job-hopping is the norm, even encouraged by experts, leaving a role early or without a glowing list of successes doesn’t have to define you as a person or a worker.
You can ‘try before you buy’ in the workplace
Internships, work experience and work shadowing all give you the chance to soak up the office atmosphere if you’re diving head-first into a new career. Job descriptions focus heavily on the hard skills needed for a particular role, but you may not have realised the kind of soft skills you’d need in your previous job. Or you may have thrown yourself into a workplace with a very small team, only to find you work better in larger offices that are more sociable.
If you’re interning or taking on work experience, you can make these realisations without burning any bridges, because you’re only on staff for a short time. What’s more, age, experience and background aren’t barriers to interning, as you’re there to learn, not to be an expert from the very beginning. What’s more, you often get to cover many different departments, giving a taste of the kind of roles that could suit you.
With any luck, you’ll now feel reinvigorated to get on with that job hunt, without letting one bad experience overshadow your achievements.