We all have them – situations, that if openly discussed, may have a negative impact on our lives and/or careers.
Several years ago I was surprised by one myself. My aunt had been tracing the family tree on my mother's side when she came across information about a distant relative who had been hanged over three centuries ago after being convicted of murder. Wow! Although this unearthed family factoid (we believe it was a truth, but not quite sure) did not directly affect my life, it made me stop in my tracks and ponder the question: what else did I not know about my family?
When it comes to a job search, it's more likely that a personal situation a lot closer to home will present a potential roadblock to getting your next job. Following is a list of five possible barriers that may pop up for job seekers, barriers requiring your tact and skill to address in a job interview – if you want a job offer. One recommendation is to hire a professional career coach to help you present yourself in the best manner possible. Please share your comments below, especially if you've experienced these or any other job-busting situations.
Common Career Skeletons
1. Bad Credit Report: It's a sad fact, but today's employers routinely ask your permission to pull your credit report before offering you a job. For anyone who was laid off several months ago, chances are your credit report has taken a few hits. Since you will usually be interviewed before your credit report is pulled, the best action to take is to bring up this problem in the interview. Don't be ashamed – you've been trying to survive! Just offer at the end of the interview a very brief synopsis of the truth of why your report has been dinged. Many employers will be understanding about this.
2. Termination from Previous Job: If this termination was from your last job, you will need to address it more purposefully than if it was from a job way back in your work history. Try to keep from mentioning the situation until you are interviewed as you can soften the situation better in a face-to-face encounter. Briefly sum up what happened, assume the blame yourself (don't blame your old boss), and be ready to discuss what you've learned that will keep this from ever happening again. Once more, don't blame your past employer!
3. Conflict with Previous Boss: If you and your last boss just didn't get along, be ready to weave a story about that relationship into your interview conversation. Address the problem, what actions you took to resolve it, and whatever positive results came from those actions. Don't leave the story hanging in the air – be sure to offer the resolution. Even if the question doesn't arise, it's better to gently discuss it as there's a good chance your old boss will be contacted for a "reference" whether you name him/her or not on your reference list.
4. Criminal Record: Now this is a serious situation, not insurmountable, but very challenging. The whole truth, and nothing but the truth, is your only option here. As with most barriers to employment, put the emphasis on what you've learned through this experience and how it will positively shape your behavior going forward into the future. There are career coaches who specialize in working with people facing this roadblock. It's probably a good idea to seek professional career advice to maximize your chances for getting a job.
5. Non-visible Disability: It's easy for an employer to see if you're blind, deaf, or in a wheelchair. Many employers consider these "low-risk" disabilities when it comes to hiring. They feel they can make the necessary accommodations to support persons with these disabilities in a competitive work environment. However, if you have an emotional or mental illness, beginning stages of Parkinson's disease, or have been recently diagnosed with cancer, no one may know about it but you. You always have the choice of whether or not to disclose your disability and you can weigh the advantages vs. disadvantages to you in doing so. But if you have, say, ADHD and need any employer accommodations to perform the essential functions of your position, it's best to disclose your disability before accepting a job offer – probably in the second interview. Disability disclosure is a hugely personal thing. I suggest working with a career coach who specializes in the area of disabilities, such as Rosalind Joffe of Working with Chronic Illness, to get the support you need to get the job of your choice.
Landing a job is a huge job in itself in today's economy, even for those with no career skeletons. When you have special barriers, it can become a more daunting task. Just stay focused on your goal, adapt your job strategy to meet any special situations, and get help from a professional career coach. Employers hire self-confident candidates who can solve problems. Know your value and your strengths, and become an expert at demonstrating both. The rest will follow.
Wishing you career success in 2011!