Welcome to Consult a Coach, our regular careers clinic for Bazaar readers. Send us your work dilemma, and we’ll ask our career agony aunt – the industry professional, executive coach and motivational speaker Jo Glynn-Smith – to answer it.
Here, Jo advises a reader on how to navigate rejection and optimise her CV after a career break.
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I had to take a career break as I was suffering from physical and mental burnout. I’m now trying to get back into work, but in a different industry. I have over 15 years of work experience, but I have been rejected for everything I have applied for – even entry-level admin positions.
How do I navigate this rejection, and encourage recruiters to give me a chance? Is it better to lie on my CV and omit that I took a career break?
Thanks for writing in and I’m sorry to hear about your experience. It makes sense that you are feeling disheartened, but don’t despair – we're going to go through some practical steps that you can take to help increase your chances.
You mentioned that you don’t want to go back into the industry you left, which I can understand if the pressure led you to burn out. You definitely don’t need to lie on your CV, but you may need to restructure or reword your experience to emphasise the relevant skills that could be adapted to a different industry. Most recruiters are looking for candidates using key words related to their roles, so you’ll have to approach your search with cunning to give yourself the best chance. Here’s how...
1/ Do your research
Select a few roles that appeal to you and analyse the required skills and experience in the job description. How aligned is your experience to these roles? What experience gaps are there that may need filling? What quick training could you do to fill these if needs be?
2/ Look back as well as forward
Go through your past roles and list the skills and the strengths you used in each – now, highlight the most transferable of these, and see if they match whichever roles you are now applying for. Once you have a list of key skills, rewrite your CV to spotlight these in a way that makes them stand out to your potential new employer.
3/ Sell yourself with an 'About' section
Ensure that you always include an ‘About’ section at the beginning of your CV. This should represent how well suited you are to the roles you are looking for, rather than the ones you have left behind. It should include a more general description of the skills and strengths you have offer, and could also describe the lessons your past job taught you – and how the learnings could be applied to your new career path.
4/ Update your online presence
Most searches for jobs and employees happen on LinkedIn. Once you feel confident that your CV is as good as it can be, edit your LinkedIn profile to match. Your title and ‘About’ section are the most important factors here, and should include key search words that match the jobs that interest you. You should also make sure your photo is up to date and professional.
5/ Edit where necessary
You don't need to lie, but you do need to curate your image. Don’t list every job you’ve had since university on either your CV or LinkedIn profile: the most relevant and interesting roles that you could discuss in an interview will suffice. It’s also a good idea to list ‘key successes’ under each role, rather describing your whole job in detail and at length, which can be quite boring. Focus on results, not just day-to-day responsibilities.
6/ Use your network
Speak to friends and colleagues – the people who actually know you and can shout about what you are capable of. You will be connected, even distantly, to someone who is doing something that may interest you, so set up a call and ask for their advice without expectation. People are more helpful than you think, especially when they are sharing their experience – so be brave, and go for it.
Jo Glynn-Smith is a transformation coach, speaker and personal-brand expert from London who works with leaders, entrepreneurs and businesses to help maximise their team or individual potential. Before becoming a coach, she spent most of her career in the fashion industry working at the highest level with some of the biggest global brands. You can follow Jo for more coaching tips and advice on Instagram (@jojoglynnsmith) or visit her website, joglynnsmith.com.
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