Thwart negative thoughts, avoid ambiguity

By Samantha Nolan Published: November 6, 2009
Dear Sam: I resigned from a high-profile job for personal reasons. Is it okay to generically tell prospective employers that I resigned for personal reasons and not go into detail about the reasons for my resignation? — Jenny

Dear Jenny: Yes, you could tell a prospective employer that you resigned for personal reasons, but realize that this will leave them wondering if these “personal reasons” are going to present themselves as issues if they should choose to employ your services. I’d suggest an answer not so vague, if at all possible, to ensure the prospective employer feels confident you will be able to dedicate yourself to the company’s needs while at work.

The key to explaining the reason for leaving a past employer is to put a positive spin on the situation. Make sure whatever you say never puts you or your past employer in a negative light, ensuring your nonverbal cues are matching your verbal account of what happened. And, of course, be sure your résumé is really promoting your value—through full exploration of past accomplishments, particularly with the employer in question—so the fact you resigned from your last role does not play the decisive role in whether or not you progress through the hiring process.

Dear Sam: I read your column every week and find it very helpful. As an adult student about to complete a bachelor’s degree, I am looking for an internship for early next year. Would you suggest the same résumé for internship applications as for job applications? How can educational accomplishments be highlighted without sounding “braggy”—a good GPA, for example? — LouAnn

Dear LouAnn: Yes, you would develop the same type of résumé for an internship application as for a professional opportunity. Realize that your résumé is your brochure for your product—YOU!—so it must be a self-promotion tool. Understand, however, that it should also be an honest representation of your candidacy, promoting what you have to offer that may differentiate you from other candidates. So if you have a GPA above a 3.5, then you would want to include it on your résumé. To do this, you would place your GPA in your education section as well as possibly note that you graduated cum laude. Other academic achievements can be presented in an Academic Highlights section where you could present such items as scholarships, special projects, class rankings, etc. Don’t underrepresent yourself on your résumé, as I can guarantee you that some of your competitors are using their résumés as true marketing documents, and when done so effectively, someone who isn’t marketing the best they have to offer doesn’t stand a chance in the screening process. Best to you.

Dear Sam: I have been employed with the same government agency for 16+ years. The last 7 years, I have also worked a part-time job as a gas station cashier. I am not getting any younger, and needless to say, I am very tired. The gas station is going to be cutting back on hours, since I am the oldest, and only able to work a few hours a week, guess who is being cut?

I am looking for a home-based part-time job. At my present government job, I am an executive legal assistant where I demonstrate my proficient typing skills. How can one go about looking for a legitimate part-time, work-from-home job? I have briefly scanned the internet but I can't seem to find "legitimate" jobs.

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