Problems at work? Need advice? Our agony uncle – and readers – have the answer
Can I tell interviewers my redundancy is a six-month sabbatical?
I was made redundant at the end of December, the second time I’ve been redundant in five years. Previously, it took me a few months to find a new job, which I looked for incessantly. I was so desperate that I took one where I really didn’t fit in and stuck with it until I was laid off after three years. I’m an architect (in my mid 40s) and I believe the practice that I chose was detrimental to my career development, but with the downturn in the construction industry I was just relieved to be back in work.
This time, I’d like to use the time I’m off work more constructively by upgrading my CAD and design skills, and getting to grips with changes in the industry within areas where I want my career to develop. This will take some time, but I’m already happier than I was at my previous employer.
I’ve enough cash to keep me going for six months – a realistic period to find work and, coincidentally, the length of a good sabbatical. So should I tell a future employer, during an interview, that I’m currently on sabbatical? I feel this empowers me more psychologically as it implies I’ve made the decision to make changes in my career, as opposed to being a victim of redundancy and its negative connotations.
It’s rarely a good idea to be economical with the truth during interviews. You probably feel uncomfortable, your discomfort probably shows; and particularly in the relatively small world of architecture, the chances of your evasion becoming known are dangerously high. What’s more, in your case, I don’t think it would even gain you a single advantage point.
The truth makes a convincing story. You were in a job that you knew wasn’t right for you. You stuck it for three years – and probably should have chucked it earlier. When you were made redundant, you were, at first, pretty disheartened, but then made an important decision. You weren’t going to start job hunting immediately – you were going to invest your time and your savings upgrading your CAD and design skills, and getting to grips with changes in the industry in areas where you wanted your career to develop. By being made redundant you had, in fact, been liberated. You had often wondered about a sabbatical; now you had been prompted to do exactly that.
Most potential employers would find that both convincing – because it’s human and true – and quite impressive. To judge from my postbox, it’s a surprisingly common second-stage reaction to involuntary redundancy.
Adopting that approach should empower you just as much psychologically as lying about the sabbatical – and with none of the disadvantages.
• Redundancy is nothing to be ashamed of these days – just a sign of the times. You should state your redundancy but also really try and push the positive outcome of it – it’s given you time to retrain and focus on what you really want to do with your working life. atothej
• I would say that, having been made redundant, I decided to see this “free period” as a sort of welcome sabbatical – a time for recharging my batteries, reflection and study – so that I can bounce back into a new position as an experienced but fresh contributor. illico
Torn between two jobs: high pay versus long-term prospects
For just over a year I have been working in a small marketing company, with an admin role that I hate. While looking around for new opportunities, I used two recruitment agencies. As a result, I have been offered a role in media auditing at an international media agency, but another large agency wants me to have a telephone interview for a role in search engine optimisation (SEO).
I am not sure about what to do in the long term. The media auditing seems really exciting and challenging, as well as having a high starting salary. But it does have elements I wouldn’t enjoy, such as long hours, travelling and liaising with clients directly. Also, there appears to be fewer opportunities in media auditing, making it harder to progress.
I am attracted to the SEO role as I have worked in this field before. Not only did I really enjoy it, I also gained the skills needed to be successful in this field. Also, there are more opportunities in SEO, as it is not just large agencies that recruit SEO specialists. Small agencies and clients also recruit in this area. I am unsure as to whether I should try and get back into SEO or take the role of a media auditor.
You’ve just spent a year doing a job you’ve hated. Now you’re getting out, and quite right, too. But do the same thing again and your CV will begin to look a little dodgy.
You have a choice: between a definite offer to do a job that seems challenging and exciting and is highly paid but with which you’re neither familiar nor immediately comfortable; and a job you may not get but is one you’ve already found enjoyable and in which you’ve already found success.
My warning bells ring when you say you would not enjoy liaising directly with clients in the media auditing role. The hours and the travel you could learn to live with; but client liaison is likely to be crucial, so if you’re not temperamentally suited for it, this could cloud your working day. Your clients would undoubtedly sense your unease; your career assessments would be, in part, based on client evaluations; and I can see your employers beginning to raise doubts about your suitability.
All this may be painting an over-alarmist picture; but even if you weren’t already regretting your last job, I think I’d still steer you away from media auditing. You need a role with which you’re already familiar and can approach with well-founded confidence.
I know the SEO job is not yours – and it may not be. But my advice is that you should go for it with all the determination and enthusiasm of which you’re capable. And if you fail to land it, think twice before you see the media audit job (if it’s still open) as the obvious fallback option.
• If excitement, challenge and a high salary are what floats your boat, then the media auditing role would be a good move. The SEO job is the one that seems to have most going for it though. It’s also one of the few job roles left that have long[ish] prospects – and this needs to be considered if you are thinking of settling down, buying a house and starting a family in the fullness of time. fairshares
• Do the job you enjoy and you’ll find a way to balance your budget against the lower salary. There’s no point earning megabucks if you’re miserable as you’ll no doubt know with your current job. fwoggie
For Jeremy’s and readers’ advice on a work issue, send a brief email to email@example.com. Please note that he is unable to answer questions of a legal nature or reply personally.