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The Now, The New & The Next in Careers

Handling a Gap between Your Education and Related Job Search

14 Mar 2011 7:24 PM | Anonymous

By Stephanie Clark

It seems to me that random thoughts float in the air, ready to be absorbed by random people. Such was the case one week when I had two clients, both of whom had completed their degrees and then continued to tend bar! Furthermore, both hung onto bar tending with the same rationale: to pay down a school loan. Even though both had chosen a similar strategy to deal with debt, that’s where the similarity ended. One bar tended, worked for his dad and then eventually got into B2B sales; the other bar tended and took care of her grandmother who later passed away. Both are now intent on returning in some fashion to their chosen interests: the fellow to an interest in the medical field and the young lady to event planning. Both have a similar interview quandary: How to respond to the inevitable interview question about their career path’s divergence from university studies? Truthfully of course! What other option is there?

The one, who has been working for about a decade since completing his post-secondary education, can honestly say that he found the school-related debt load to be psychologically difficult, and so he elected to continue earning in an established area of success to pay it off. He can then mitigate any potential obstacles that might cause by continuing to share how that led him into sales, a field in which he has had great success (and share a few successes, chosen for maximum impact and impression), and which has led him to return to his specialty and enter the field of medical devices sales. The other can honestly share that she found her educational debt load to cause her such trepidation that she continued with her bar tending, and at the same time she stepped up to the plate to help her family with their beloved Nona’s illness and passing. Two years later, debt paid and no family responsibilities, she is eager to resume her original intent and launch her career in event planning. To overcome any lingering questions, she should share how she is now volunteering with a major local event committee, as a positive step towards her goal.

Some interviewers won’t like the situations and that’s fine; there’s precious little you can do to sway these. Others will appreciate the honesty, find the refocused energy appealing, and admire the personalities. It’s best to work for a company that supports your values, and best to let those others go.  Avoid using words that are wimpy and apologetic, such as “just,” “only,” “not much,” or “limited.” Find ways to share your story with words such as “exceeding,” “considerable,” “extensive,” and “resilient.” Be proud of your chosen path and don’t let anyone undermine your focus, pride and confidence!

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