How to Make a Good Start from a Bad Ending

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good startA lot of people can empathize with others who have worked a job that they hated. It’s one of the realities of the workplace: not all jobs are for everyone and some jobs are for no one. But even though many may empathize with victims of a bad job or boss, regardless of the reason you left, there are ways to transform that experience into a positive reflection of you as an employee (and venting is not one of them). Most job applications and interviews delve into your working past and want to know why you are leaving, or have left, your most recent place of employment. Having prepared and practiced answers to these probing questions is the first step in changing a negative experience into an advantage.

The fundamental virtue upon which to base your answers to such questions is honesty; tell the truth. Whether you were fired or simply lacked chemistry with your employer, it is vital to be honest when explaining your departure. Lies are easy to spot and can irrevocably tarnish your credibility with the interviewer.

As with any interview strategy, focus on your strengths. Talking about what you are good at and what you want out of a job, related to how your previous job failed to challenge or meet those objectives, not only shows your flexibility as a worker but also expresses the traits you will bring to your new position. In addition, be passionate in your presentation.  Express your feelings on how the new position will satisfy those passions and utilize your talents to the full.

There are also a few things to never do when relating a past job experience to a potential employer. These behaviors include trash talking, complaining, and showing desperation. Whatever you do, do not berate your previous boss, coworkers, or anyone from your previous employers. This is poor behavior because, not only do you not know the relationship between the interviewer and your previous employer, but also because the interviewer will interpret your actions regarding your previous employer as foresight into you future actions toward your new company and boss.

No matter how maligned your past or current job has become to you, never complain about it to your interviewer. Venting and complaining about your previous experiences affects your body language, tone of voice, and emotional frame of mind. Interviewers want to see confidence, self-control, and professionalism from their candidates, not angry or resentful complaining. The simple fact that you are seeking a change in employment is confirmation enough that you want out of your current position.

Finally, don’t let your despair and desperation to find another job, any job, to replace your current one seep into your presentation. As with the expression of anger and discontent towards a previous job, a show of desperation shifts your disposition away from the confident, enthusiastic, and positive image employers want to see.

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Joshua Bjerke, from Savannah, Georgia, focuses on articles involving the labor force, economy, and HR topics including new technology and workplace news. Joshua has a B.A. in Political Science with a Minor in International Studies and is currently pursuing his M.A. in International Security.