So, what have you been doing to pass the time the past few years? Is it possible you have had a job where you were underemployed?
Let me start you out with the idea that you never have to apologize for working, even when you have been working at jobs that pay a LOT less than your previous earnings. There is this little problem about putting food on the table and keeping your kids in school that, like hanging in the morning, tends to focus the mind.
If you have been fortunate enough to find a full time job or even a string of temporary assignments, you are miles ahead of many of your peers. There are always some folks who haven’t had anything. During 1991-1992 when I was out of work, I hardly had a single day of paid employment. (Alas, there wasn’t an organization like The FENG back in those dark and gloomy days before the Internet.)
The problem you face in getting back to your “proper station in life” is explaining it to others. Like the sailor caught in a violent summer storm on Long Island Sound, (I know everyone likes my sailing analogies) you often find that when you return to harbor, those who have been fortunate enough to be on dry land have no clue what you have been through. Sure, YOU had a near death experience. They just turned on their windshield wipers or brought the beer inside from their lounge chair out by the pool.
Be prepared for the IDEA that the person on the other side of the desk honestly won’t understand what you have been through and don’t be outraged by it. Just because you have been out in the cold cruel world doesn’t mean they have.
Okay, now for the positives of your experience. The biggest complaint heard about senior executives is that they aren’t hands on enough. If you have been working at a lower level job, my guess is that you can now address this issue in spades. (I not only made the coffee and my own copies of documents, I also had to do my own spreadsheets!) Most of our members tend to move from large companies to smaller ones. Having the humility to do what you have to do to keep the shop moving is essential to your success.
Additionally, is it possible you have learned a few new skills? Have you had any low paying assignments doing hands on work say in Excel so you are knowledgeable and an expert? (Remember, you don’t need to mention how much per hour you were getting paid. The “story” is that you were doing the work.)
Did you head into your current job after working for one company for a significant number of years? If you have been doing anything, you can now more easily talk about your “transferable skills,” and you can talk about how adaptable you are. The XYZ Corporation way is not the only thing you know. Perhaps you have even experienced SEVERAL different cultures since you left the fold.
As I learned in the Advertising business, it is all in the spin you put on your stories. And, if you get to tell your story first it can easily become the message that is remembered.
As financial folks, we all need to keep in mind that we are generally speaking terrible poker players. Others can read our true feelings because they are written all over our face. Develop the “true” story about your experiences over the past few years and tell it to yourself and others often enough so even YOU believe it.
And, even if this editorial helps you get that dream job, I hope you will remember the truth about our careers. All jobs are temporary. When you are working, you are just between searches. Stay connected to The FENG and keep up your networking.