Changing Careers or Job History Unrelated to Your Current Job Objective
Chances are this issue isn't as important as you may assume. Sure, the interviewer is curious and wants to get to know you better, but if your past experience were a real barrier, you wouldn't have been invited for an interview in the first place. Stick to a planned schedule of emphasizing your skills and how they relate to the job you are discussing. For instance, a teacher who wants to become a real estate sales agent could point to her hobby of investing in and fixing up old houses. She could cite superior communication skills and an ability to motivate students in the classroom.
Look up the job descriptions of your old jobs and the ones you want now, and find skills that are common to both. Then emphasize those skills in your interviews. The work you did in chapter 2 will also help you document the skills and other strengths you have to support your current job objective.
Employers are often concerned that someone who has recently moved to an area does not have roots there and may soon leave. If you are new to the area, make sure the employer knows you are there to stay. Provide a simple statement that presents you as a stable member of the community rather than someone with a more transient lifestyle. It may be helpful to mention any family or friends who may live nearby or other reasons you plan to stay in the area.
Employers who have not had military experience themselves often have misconceptions about those with military experience. The truth is that military people are just like everyone else, except that they are perhaps just a bit more responsible than the average person. Some of the stereotypes of military people can work in your favor; some don't.
Here are some common problem areas and suggestions for dealing with these preconceptions in a positive way:
Employers want people who can get along with others. Some people assume military personnel are overly aggressive. Not true, of course, but you can easily handle this stereotype by being friendly. If
you think this may be an issue, emphasize community service you have done, the importance of family and friends to you, and things you have done in and outside of the military that helped others.
Employers need people who work well in teams and solve problems. Another common misconception is that military personnel are too likely to follow orders rather than be creative. More and more jobs require the ability to work as part of a self-directed team that is expected to solve problems with creative input from each member. The truth is that the military has been training with team cooperation and creative problem solving for many years. To overcome any negative stereotypes, you simply need to emphasize your teambuilding and problem-solving skills and experiences.
Employers may wonder why you left or assume that you don't have "civilian" skills. Most people don't realize how large the military is and that each year more than 300,000 people leave it. Be sure to bring up why you left the military to put the interviewer's mind at rest that it had nothing to do with the concept of being fired. In most cases, ex-military people have served their country well, have benefited from excellent and expensive training, are more educated and technologically trained than the average person their age, and have had far more management experience or other responsibility than the average job seeker. The fact is that ex-military are among the most talented and dedicated people available; they are people who have worked hard and have a proven track record for getting difficult things done. Your responsibility in the interview is to make sure the employer knows these things about you.
Use civilian dress and language. To reinforce your abilities as a civilian worker, avoid wearing military tie pins, rings, or other military jewelry or indicators. Completely avoid using any military jargon and replace it with terms that civilians use. Emphasize job-related and other skills you have that are needed in the civilian jobs you seek. The Web site at careerOINK.com has crosswalks from military to civilian jobs. The descriptions list the skills needed in these jobs. Emphasize these skills and give examples of when you used them and any results you obtained. Do emphasize that your military experience developed qualities that are important to all employers, including discipline, responsibility, and dependability.
The Turtling Technique
Like a turtle on its back, a problem is a problem only if you leave it that way. By turning it over ("turtling" is what I have come to call this), you can often turn a perceived disadvantage into an advantage. Take a look at these examples to understand what I mean:
Too old: "I am a very stable worker requiring very little training. I have been dependable all my life, and I am at a point in my career where I don't plan on changing jobs. I still have 10 years of working until I plan on retiring. How long has the average young person stayed here?"
Too young: "I don't have any bad work habits to break, so I can be quickly trained to do things the way you want. I plan on working hard to get established. I'll also work for less money than a more experienced worker."
You can use the Turtling Technique on most problem questions to turn what some may see as a negative into, in your case, a positive.