Everyone has interesting stories to tell. But HOW you tell your story can make all the difference in the world. Think about how you want others to view you, and also about how you can make the best out of a less-than-ideal situation. Here’s an example of two different ways a candidate can put a spin on a prior work experience.
When I took the job with “Company X”, I immediately found myself in the middle of a political battle between two divisions, the one that I joined and a rival. These two groups were fighting for control over a core business in this company and it was a very unpleasant start with the company. Our group eventually won the competition and then spent the next two years constantly working with the rival team, trying to integrate and adapt their complex technology into the final product.
In the end, after all of these battles and compromises, the final product was unsuccessful. The industry itself suffered a downturn after the “dot com bust” and my workplace atmosphere declined as well. For three years I dealt with management changes, layoffs, and a depressing work environment. I decided I had to leave and seek a more dynamic and positive opportunity.
When I joined “Company X” the company was in the middle of choosing whether to go with one group’s technologies and approach to a problem or that of a rival team. There was an open opportunity for someone to lead the decision-making process and merge the two departments into one cohesive team.
Since I was new to the program, I was able to take a more neutral role between the teams, urging them to take small steps and provide small deliverables so that we could merge the two approaches and see if it could really work. Within two weeks we were able to see that it was not going to work easily. This led us into a two-year-long exploration of major technologies and innovation, as well as collaboration with a Canadian team. In the end, the new product and the whole infrastructure were created and used across one of the major divisions of the Company X.
After the “dot com bust” there were many changes in the company, including layoffs and re-organizations. These changes also opened up new opportunities, and I was able to work with groups in France, HCI groups, and graphic designers as well as actively participate in usability studies. This exposed me to new ways of thinking and allowed me to seek broader experiences than I would have had in a more prosperous economic climate.
While both of these stories are true, and in fact are really the same story, they send very different messages. Which message would you prefer?
During an interview you don’t want to send out any negative hooks or appear to be a complainer. Put a positive and constructive spin on your stories and not only will you seem like a more upbeat person, but you will also show your ability to make the most of any opportunity that presents itself to you and come across as a creative and optimistic person.