Looking to the future after recent setback

Deirdre May, Career Coach, Limerick office
Tel: 086 890 8400

Q: I have recently had a bad experience with an employer and felt I had no option but to resign. I felt I would not progress so I made the decision to leave. How can I explain this in an interview without looking like a quitter? (BT, email).
A: Almost everybody has career reverses or frustrations like the one you have described here. The fact that this happened recently means that this one looms larger in your thoughts right now, but you still can’t let it dominate your thinking, writes Deirdre May, CAREER COACH, Sli Nua Careers.
Things happen in the workplace. Not every ship sails plainly. Understand that while you can try to explain what happened here, they may still have their suspicions, but you can’t dwell upon them.
Avoid trying to rehash the entire story from this career posting. In fact, over-explaining could go against you.
Say something like “I worked hard there for a few years, and made some good progress and contributions in terms of [insert some examples here)] but, ultimately, I felt that I had reached the end of my time there. Rather than letting things go downhill, I decided to leave and I am now keen to move onto the next phase of my career.”
And, as quickly as you can, get talking about that new phase. Talk about the skills and knowledge you have developed and the ideas you have for this new role.
If they come back to your most recent setback, I wouldn’t elaborate too much. What you need to transmit is that you have dealt with this in your own head and that you are now keen to move on to the next phase. Your self-belief is not diminished by it and, of course, your skills and expertise are still in place.
Recent setbacks can have a disproportionate impact on our thinking as we prepare for interview. A candidate I know says the worst interview they ever did came when they explained/over-explained a setback in a subsequent interview. They realised they were doing more damage than good, but it was too late.
Put it in its place and move to the future. After a few interviews, you’ll get more comfortable doing this and you will also see this setback for what it is – one blip in a career. And you will also realise that many others have had a similar experience somewhere along the way.

Deirdre May is a Career Coach with Sli Nua Careers in Limerick.

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