What to do about a problem in your past

April 20, 2010 at 11:16 am Leave a comment

Sometimes, after what seemed to be good interviews and a good connection with an organization, you don’t get a job that appeared to be a nice fit with your skills and experience. That may have a lot more to do with your past than your present. Especially if you’ve missed out on several jobs recently in which hiring managers cooled all of a sudden, it’s time to be honest with yourself about whether there is a black mark on your record that is setting up a roadblock in your career path.

Some of these past problems may have been financial — a bankruptcy or foreclosure can show up in a credit check (and these are being performed more often these days) — and can complicate the process. A former boss, even if they are not a reference you list, could be subtly or not-so-subtly providing negative information about you to employers. Or, if you were fired or dismissed from a job under less-than-ideal circumstances, that information can be getting back to employers now, even if it occurred years ago.

Washington, for a big city, remains a pretty small town in certain ways — word gets around here quickly.  Therefore, the advice that hiring experts give is that when you have a problem or in your past — or suspect that you do — to address it openly and at the appropriate time in the hiring process. Here are some tips:

*Acknowledge the problem once it is obvious that it may be a red flag for your candidacy for a position. In most cases, you won’t want to tell the hiring manager upon your first meeting or during an interview that your house was foreclosed upon several years ago or that you resigned a position because you were about to be fired. Yet if there is just one last step before you’re likely to be made an offer, and that step is a credit check in which the foreclosure will come up or they’ll be calling your former employer to find out why you resigned, then it’s time to ‘fess up. Address the situation specifically and unapologetically, and don’t provide extra information. (You don’t want to ramble and look guilty, this is not a courtroom, after all.) For instance, if you’re discussing a foreclosure, you could say: “I understand that XYZ Communications conducts credit checks of all prospective employees. I want to tell you that a credit check will likely show that several years ago, when I ran into some financial difficulty because of a personal situation, I lost my house to foreclosure. I have worked hard to dig myself out of this financial hole, but I realize that a foreclosure follows someone around for years. I wanted you to know about this before you saw it in the credit check.” The hiring manager may ask you further questions,  which you should answer in a straightforward fashion. And they likely will be impressed with your directness and honesty.

*Consider your past problems in applying for future positions. For instance, if you have had serious financial difficulties in the past, positions that require financial acumen and trustworthiness — such as those in accounting — would appear not to be worth your while to pursue. If a journalist has had one or more accusations of plagiarism, even if they were ultimately determined to be unfounded, this could complicate a job search for a reporting position and may not be worth the trouble; perhaps it is time to transition to another field. Think hard about these problems early  in a new job search so that you don’t spend a lot of time and energy going down paths that will ultimately prove fruitless.

*Work to repair the problem and present this to prospective employers. If you have a former well-connected boss who, even though he’s not on your reference list, has a penchant for telling hiring managers that you weren’t a good manager a few years ago, for instance, tell the hiring manager about the steps you have taken in recent years to develop good managerial skills. This is where your real references can help — prepare them to refute these issues and this can go a long way toward de-emphasizing these past problems.

*Consider confronting those who are proving problematic for you and try to get them to back down. For instance, with the former boss who likes to throw his weight around and say that you weren’t a good manager when he worked with you, think about calling him (or even inviting him to coffee, he’s less likely to spread bad tales about you if you’ve charmed him a bit) and explaining how you’ve worked hard to become a good manager and it isn’t doing anyone any good for him to bring up problems that you’ve worked past. You might have a current reference who believes you were a good manager get in touch with him as well and ask him to back down. Sometimes this kind of “affirmative” confrontation can put the problem in the past — where it belongs.

*It’s good to have some good news to pass along early in the week — Scott Wong, a reporter at the Arizona Republic in Phoenix, will be joining Arlington-based POLITICO’s congressional reporting team on May 24 as a staff writer. Scott most recently has been covering Phoenix City Hall for the Republic, and before that covered the Arizona state Capitol. Congratulations and much success to Scott, a dcworks supporter, in his new position! It’s nice to see that some out-of-towners are breaking into the D.C. market, and it’s another sign that legislative and congressional reporting experience can open plenty of doors!

*And here’s a variety of leads to pursue or pass along today:

*The American Clean Skies Foundation in D.C. has an opening for an executive editor of  Clean Skies News, a non-profit news service:

Executive Editor
American Clean Skies Foundation – Washington, DC
Executive Editor sought by Clean Skies News, an independent Washington D.C.-based non-profit news service, to help launch nationally syndicated energy TV show…
From ScienceCareers.org

*LexisNexis in D.C. is looking for a senior director of privacy and communications:
Sr Dir Privacy & Communication – LEX002UR – Full Time
LexisNexis – Washington, DC
Senior Director Privacy and Communications, has primary responsibility for communication internally and… Strong written and verbal communication, industry…
From Jobmagic

*For those with design talents, this could be an interesting position; Peer Insight in D.C. has an opening for an “innovation strategist” (intriguing title!) in design research and visual communications:
Innovation Strategist: Design Research & Visual Communications
Peer Insight – Washington, DC
Job Duties and Responsibilities Glean original insights from client interviews phone based and face to face Perform in depth qualitative research with consumers…
From LinkedIn.com

*Capitol News Connection in D.C. is looking for a political reporter:

Capitol News Connection

Political Reporter

Location: Washington, D.C.

Capitol News Connection is seeking an experienced newspaper political reporter to cover Congressional and federal agency activities in Washington. The capital-based news service provides daily audio and text reports to NPR-affiliated radio stations and some newspapers across the country. Candidate must know his or her way around the federal bureaucracy and understand how to ferret out its behind-the-scenes stories. Email resume and links to published work to Hoag Levins at HLevins@CNCnews.org. Put “Capitol Reporter Job” in the subject field. No calls.

*Dow Jones Newswires has an opening in D.C. for an international trade and finance reporter:

Dow Jones Newswires


Location: Washington, DC

The Newswires Washington bureau is seeking an international trade and finance reporter.

This position would report in detail about foreign exchange, trade and international finance issues that are a priority for Newswires and the WSJ alike. The reporter would also handle indicators and be available to handle Treasury and Fed news as a backup. The candidate would work with an existing beat reporter to divide coverage on International Monetary Fund-World Bank and trade news. The candidate will make it a priority to break news and develop sources with top officials in Treasury, IMF, the U.S. Trade Representative office, and relevant congressional committees.

Please attach your resume and five clips to your online application.

To apply, go to http://www.dowjones.com, mouse over “careers” and click “Search for Jobs.” Search for job number 000100790.  Please attach a resume and 3-5 clips of your published work to your application.

*And to wrap up today’s leads, Teach For America has several openings in D.C. — including director of government affairs and director of communications on the public affairs team — that could be a good fit for transitioning journalists:

Teach For America Opportunities

Teach For America is the national corps of outstanding college graduates and professionals who commit two years to teach in public schools in the nation’s lowest income communities and become lifelong leaders in expanding educational opportunity.  We seek talented individuals of all backgrounds, with a strong record of achievement in their professional areas, to join our staff and play a critical role in enabling us to reach our ambitious goals.  Visit www.teachforamerica.org/careers for a full list of open positions and more information.

Director, Government Affairs, Public Affairs Team

Teach For America seeks a director of government affairs to work with the vice president of government affairs to initiate, develop and successfully implement Teach For America’s legislative and funding strategies with Congress and the Administration. The director will be responsible for effectively advocating for Teach For America on Capitol Hill and with grassroots constituents, including alumni, funders and regional board members. A successful candidate will possess exemplary oral and written communication and relationship building skills, and have at least three years of experience working on Capitol Hill.

Director, Communications, Public Affairs Team

Teach For America is searching for a director of regional communications to lead our media strategy in eight to ten regions. The director will work closely with Teach For America’s executive directors to develop and execute regional strategic plans that are aligned with organizational priorities, and will manage portfolios of critical regional relationships with print, broadcast, radio, and online journalists as well as district PR contacts. This position will also prepare Teach For America staff and corps members for media opportunities and will develop and implement creative story ideas that support regional and national communications objectives. This is a great opportunity for an excellent strategic thinker with the ability to build and manage relationships with external parties and internal team leaders.

Managing Director, National Communications, Public Affairs Team

We are searching for a managing director of national communications to create and execute media campaigns nationally that further Teach For America’s organizational goals, build and maintain relationships with national print, broadcast, radio, and online journalists, and manage the team’s communications manager.  The managing director will drive Teach For America’s response to time-sensitive inquiries from national reporters, often serving as the organization’s spokesperson.  The ideal candidate has communications, public relations, or journalism experience, thrives in a fast-paced, high-volume, deadline-driven environment with a sense of possibility, and has five years of professional experience.

Happy hunting!



Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

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