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4 Ways to Make a Negative Job Experience Work For You in an Interview

4 Ways to Make a Negative Job Experience Work For You in an Interview

Interviews are the perfect opportunity to boast about your past promotions, raises, and achievements. If you have a strong work history that shows steady growth, congratulations, you can stop reading now! Not really, because the truth is, everyone has something they hope the interviewer won’t ask them about.

Perhaps you were fired from a job or you didn’t always hit your goals. Maybe you switched jobs frequently or were unemployed for an extended period of time. Or, like a lot of people, maybe you are a new college graduate and have no work experience at all. Whatever it is that makes your work history less than perfect, these four tips are the perfect hack to make your negative work experience become your most valuable asset.

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1. Determine what you learned

Before entering into the interview process, take some time to reflect on your negative job experience. Be honest with yourself about your part in the way it turned out. Writing it down can also help. Dwelling on the past will not change anything, but, learning from it will make your future much better. What one or two major lessons did you learn when things did not turn out the way you’d hoped?

When asked about getting fired or changing jobs frequently in the past, lead your answer with, “What I learned from that experience is…” For example, if you didn’t hit your quarterly sales goals four quarters in a row, you might say to the interviewer, “What I learned from that experience is how important it is to nurture each client relationship personally”. By leading your answer with what you learned, you are showing growth and determination.

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2. Establish what you would have done differently

This tip is similar to determining what you learned, but it goes a step further. Rather than just determining what you’ve learned, think about what you would do differently if you had to repeat the exact same scenario. Would you have put in extra hours to meet your goal? Would you have asked your boss what you could have done earlier to save your job? New college graduates, would you have taken better advantage of internships or summer employment when you were a student?

In the interview, tack on what you would have done differently to your previous response about what you learned. So you would say, “What I learned from this experience is how important it is to nurture each client relationship personally. If I could have a do-over, I would take the time to introduce myself to each client and check in with them every week about new ways to work together”. Show the interviewer that you are a go-getter, determined to succeed.

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3. Own it

Confidence is key to proving your worth to a potential employer. Now that you’ve learned how to turn your career history into a lesson learned, you should feel confident about the value you are capable of bringing to the workforce. Oftentimes, the best experts are those who have learned from their own mistakes or risen from hard times. Switching up your resume format can also help you put your best foot forward.

Now, you certainly don’t need to tell the interviewer about the experience if they don’t ask, but if you are asked, respond honestly and confidently to the question. Humility is always relatable and honorable in a person. Plus, showing that you don’t shy away from tough discussions will demonstrate a great professional quality in you.

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4. Start a new chapter

Make it clear to the interviewer that you aren’t defined by your work faux pas. Respond truthfully and clearly to the question if it is asked, then move the interview along. Saying something like, “I’m excited about the opportunity to start anew because that experience has made me a much stronger asset to the workforce”.

Or, if you’re a college graduate, you could say, “I’m looking forward to taking all the knowledge I’ve learned and finally using it to make an impact”. Your positivity and passion will outweigh whatever happened in your past.

Featured photo credit: Alejandro Escamilla via images.unsplash.com

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Published on November 12, 2020

5 Signs You Work in a Toxic Environment (And What To Do)

5 Signs You Work in a Toxic Environment (And What To Do)

What’s the most draining, miserable job you’ve ever had? Maybe you had a supervisor with unrealistic demands about your work output and schedule. Or perhaps, you worked under a bullying boss who frequently lost his temper with you and your colleagues, creating a toxic work environment.

Chances are, though, your terrible job experience was more all-encompassing than a negative experience with just one person. That’s because, in general, toxicity at work breeds an entire culture. Research shows abusive behavior by leaders can and often quickly spread through an entire organization.[1]

Unfortunately, working in a toxic environment doesn’t just make it miserable to show up to the office (or a Zoom meeting). This type of culture can have lasting negative effects, taking a toll on mental and physical health and even affecting workers’ personal lives and relationships.[2]

While it’s often all-encompassing, toxic culture isn’t always as blatant or clear-cut as abuse. Some of the evidence is more subtle—but it still warrants concern and action.

Have a feeling that your workplace is a toxic environment? Here are 5 surefire signs to look for.

1. People Often Say (or Imply) “That’s Not My Job”

When I first launched my company, I had a very small team. And back then, we all wore a lot of hats, simply because we had to. My colleagues and I worked tirelessly together to build, troubleshoot, and market our product, and nobody complained (at least most of the time).

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Because we were all in it together, with the same shared vision in mind, cooperation mattered so much more than job titles. Unfortunately, it’s not always that way.

In some workplaces, people adhere to their job descriptions to a fault:

  • Need help with an accounting problem? Sorry, that’s not my job.
  • Oh, you spilled your coffee in the break room? Too bad, I’m working.
  • Can’t figure out the new software? Ask IT.

While everyone has their own skillset—and time is often at a premium—cooperation is important in any workplace. An “it’s not my job” attitude is a sign of a toxic environment because it’s inherently selfish. It implies “I only care about me and what I have to get done” and that people aren’t concerned about the collective good or overall vision.[3] That type of perspective is not only bound to drain individual relationships; it also drains overall morale and productivity.

2. There’s a Lack of Diversity

Diversity is a vital part of a healthy work environment. We need the opinions and ideas of people who don’t see the world like us to move ahead. So, when leaders don’t prioritize diversity—or worse, they actively avoid it—I’m always suspicious about their character and values.

Limiting your workforce to one type of person is bound to prevent organizations from growing healthily. But even if your work environment is diverse in general, the management might prevent diverse individuals from rising to leadership positions, which only misses the point of having a diverse work environment in the first place.

Look around you. Who’s in leadership at your company? Who gets promotions and rewards most often? If the same type of people gets ahead while other individuals consistently get left behind, you might be working in a toxic environment.

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However it manifests in your workplace, keep in mind that a lack of diversity is a tell-tale sign that “bias is rampant and the wrong things are valued.”[4]

3. Feedback Isn’t Allowed

Just as individual growth hinges on being open to criticism, an organization’s well-being depends on workers’ ability to air their concerns and ideas. If management actively stifles feedback from employees, you’re probably working in a toxic environment.

But that definitely doesn’t mean nobody will air their feelings. One of the telltale signs of toxic leadership is when employees vent on the sidelines, out of management’s earshot. When I worked in a toxic environment, coworkers would often complain about higher-ups and company policies during work in private chats or after work hours.

It’s normal to get frustrated at work. That’s just a part of having a job. What isn’t normal is when dissent isn’t a part of or discouraged in the workplace. A workplace culture that suppresses constructive feedback will not be successful in the long run. It’s a sign that leadership isn’t open to new ideas, and that they’re more concerned about their own well-being than the health of the organization as a whole.

4. Quantifiable Measures Take Priority

Sales numbers, timelines, bottom lines—these metrics are, of course, important signs of how things are going in any business. But great leaders know that true success isn’t always measurable or quantifiable. More meaningful factors like workplace satisfaction, teamwork, and personal growth all contribute to and sustain these metrics.

Numbers don’t always tell the whole story, and they shouldn’t be the only concern. Measure-taking should always take a backseat to meaning-making—working together to contribute to a vision that improves people’s lives. If your workplace zones in on quantifiable measures of success, it’s probably not prioritizing what truly matters. And it’s probably also instilling a fear of failure among employees, which paralyzes employees instead of motivating them.

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5. The Policies and Rules Are Inconsistent

Every organization has its own set of unique policies and procedures. But often, unhealthy workplaces have inconsistent, unspoken “rules” that apply differently to different people. When one person gets in trouble for the same type of behavior that promotes another person, workers will feel like management plays favorites—which isn’t just unethical but also a quick way to drain morale and fuel tension in the office.[5] It only shows how incompetent the leadership is and indicates a toxic workplace.

For example, maybe there’s no “set” rule about work hours, but your manager expects certain people or departments to show up at 8 am while other individuals tend to roll in at 9 or 10 am with no real consequences. If that’s the case, then it’s likely that your organization’s leadership is more concerned with controlling people and exerting power rather than the overall good of their employees.

How to Deal With a Toxic Work Environment

The first thing to know if you’re stuck in a toxic work environment is that you’re not stuck. While it’s ultimately the company’s responsibility to make positive changes that prevent harmful actions to employees, you also have an opportunity to speak up about your concerns—or, if necessary, depart the role altogether.

If you suspect that you’re working in a toxic environment, think about how you can advocate for yourself. Start by raising your grievances about the culture in an appropriate setting, like a scheduled, one-on-one meeting with your supervisor.

Can’t imagine sitting down with your supervisor to air those problems on your own? Form some solidarity with like-minded colleagues. Approaching management might feel less overwhelming when you have a “team” who shares your views.

It doesn’t have to be an overtly confrontational discussion. Do your best to frame your concerns in a positive way by sharing with your supervisor that you want to be more productive at work, but certain problems sometimes get in the way.

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Final Thoughts

If your supervisor truly cares about the well-being of the organization, they will take your concerns seriously and actively take part in changing the toxic work environment into something more conducive to productivity.

If not, then it might be time to consider the cost of the job on your well-being and personal life. Is it worth staying just for your resume’s sake? Or could you consider a “bridge” job that allows you to exhale for a bit, even if it doesn’t “move you ahead” the way you planned?

It might not be the ideal situation, but your mental health and well-being are too important to ignore. And when you have the opportunity to refuel, you’ll be a far more valuable asset at whatever amazing job you land next.

More Tips on Dealing With a Toxic Work Environment

Featured photo credit: Campaign Creators via unsplash.com

Reference

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