Job hunting is a challenge even in the best scenarios. If you’re looking for a change of scenery or a better/new position and salary, the task is daunting, no matter how prepared you are. However, this stress becomes even more magnified if you’re leaving a company that’s dealing with bad publicity. How do you separate yourself and your talents from a company in public turmoil?
Don’t Take It Personally
While your current employer is managing the fallout of the bad publicity, focus on your own good leadership skills, and the assets you can provide to a new company. While you are linked to this bad name, don’t let the reputation define you. Good executives come out of bad situations. As you examine your resume, do as you would do in normal circumstances: highlight the good, and present yourself as your own candidate, not as a representative of a negative situation.
Determine How Close You Are to the Damage
As an executive, how far removed were you from the source of negative publicity? If the fault came from people reporting to you, list the steps you took to fix the problem, or at least how you went about damage control. If the problems were caused by executives above you, determine and analyze the steps you would’ve taken to avoid the same mistakes they made. This will provide you with an excellent range of talking points when the inevitable question is posed about overcoming obstacles. While it might be uncomfortable to acknowledge how close you were to the negative aspects, it gives you a chance to show how you perform under pressure, and provides you a list of ways you can tackle serious issues within the role for which you’re applying.
Business as Usual
You’ll likely be worried about the negative associations, but proceed with your job hunt as if it doesn’t exist, but be extra-prepared. Make sure you know everything possible about the potential companies and their roles. Outline your goals, your corporate values, and your mission for a new role.
While your previous experience, and the troubling associations will be there, the old adage is true: you can only control what you can control. In this case, doing your homework on the potential interviews and outlining your values as an executive is in your control.
This is also where your network can be extremely valuable. Look at your connections, especially the people who know your skills and work ethic apart from your current/previous company. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, to inquire with your network about potential openings and landing spots. These connections will be able to vouch for your value, even in the face of negative publicity. They will present you as the good executive you are, not the link to a company in turmoil.
Create Distance, but Don’t Badmouth Your Former Company
Once you’ve secured an interview with another company, your former company’s less-than-stellar reputation may be in the media, or well-known within your given business. In the name of distancing yourself, and even in the way of small-talk during the interview, you may be tempted to critique your former associates, or the company as a whole. Even if your former company is in tatters, resist this urge; be the professional you are.
Absolutely acknowledge your previous employer’s missteps, but keep the focus on the positive work you did while you were there. Highlight your executive skill set, and if you overcame obstacles directly related to the company’s bad publicity, don’t gloat or scoff. Your potential new employer will wonder what you’d say about them in similar circumstances. Remember: interviews should absolutely be about positives, not negatives.
Let the Interview Take Shape, and Know Your Worth
Ultimately, the job interview will be what it should be: a prospective executive in conversation with an interested company. You’ll be presented with the potential opportunity, and you’ll present yourself as a qualified candidate. Details will be discussed, obstacles and negotiations will be navigated, and your emphasis on your own qualities will outweigh the negative atmosphere from which you’re leaving.
If your interviewer is too focused on your previous company, don’t be afraid to steer the conversation back to the interview, and ultimately, on yourself as your own candidate. If they’re concerned about the negative publicity, stay focused on the attractive work you did while in their employ. Do your part to keep the interview rooted in the future, not the past.
Continue to practice positive etiquette. Thank the interviewer for their time. Send a thank-you note for the interview. Use common courtesy and goodwill to elevate yourself as a candidate, and your reputation will be positive, despite the previous environment.
Just because you’re linked to negative publicity doesn’t mean you’re worth less than you expect. Be courteous, be aware of the cloud over your current position, but with a wholly prepared resume and interview, you’ll set yourself up as a worthy candidate who will succeed in brighter pastures.
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