The primary purpose of your resume is to get yourself an interview. It is worth bearing that in mind because it is very tempting to see that resume as just a history of your past experiences, and statements about your skills and aptitudes. Always bear in mind the important question: Why should an employer interview me above all the other candidates that would be applying? For that reason, the last thing that recruiter wants to see or hear about are your bad experiences.
If you have had a string of unpleasant experiences in work, the first thing to do is to identify any trends within them. This is not apportioning blame to you or the workplace. This first part is to actually see if there is a common thread running through the causes of the bad experiences. Having done that, the next thing to assess is whether the trend stems from your own personality and way of approach, from a lack of resources or a lack of knowledge/training. Then see what you actually learned about yourself, or way of doing things, with each experience. The key here is to emphasise how you positively remedied those bad experiences, rather than focusing on the experiences themselves. That does nothing for the new recruiter. However, how you were able to perform more effectively, regardless of the other person's input in the situation, would make you sound a more attractive bet. It is all about the focus of that resume in attracting a new employer, whether it is negative or positive.
Concentrating only on the positive things you LEARNED from those bad experiences, writing about them without being negative, without blaming anyone or dishing any dirt, is a skill which takes time to develop but can be done. For example, if you were fired from a job, after stating what the job was about, write your role and responsibility in it, the skills you gained from it and, most important, what you contributed to it. Then briefly mention that you had a disagreement on the execution or management of a project, or whatever it was, and you agreed with the company for you to leave because you felt that your talents, enthusiasm and capabilities would be much better served in a more affirming and reinforcing environment. However, you were very grateful to that company for the opportunity it gave you to develop more in your field and to enhance your skills in preparation for an even more challenging post.
This last part, the bit about thanks and gratitude when you have been fired, might sound strange to you. But if you treat your last employer with some respect, it will stand you in good stead with the new one because they will feel assured that you won't be slagging them off when you leave their employ. Most important, you take control of how you are perceived by resisting the victim mode and empowering yourself by turning a negative situation into a neutral one. You then come across as far more attractive to that employer than going with what seems like submissive cap in hand seeking their favour. If they then wish to question you further on that firing at the interview, you would continue to highlight a few negative bits, shoulder some of the blame, be a little self effacing, and stick to positivity.
Everyone will have a bad experience in a job at some time because the learning process can be a difficult one, especially when we lack confidence in ourselves and have a lot of fears relating to the intention of others. We don't always get on with people, perhaps through personality clashes, differences in perspectives or differences in approach. The secret of making the most of these experiences so that they do not hold you back lies in how you then incorporate them into your resume or dwell on them. The key thing is to look at the experience as a learning one and emphasise what you gained from it, which would be of value to the next job, while moving briskly onwards to more positive and affirming thoughts.
©Elaine Sihera (Ms CYPRAH) 2011
Emotional Health and People Management Consultant
"Respect and love begin with the self. If we have none, how can we give away any?"