There I was working in a job for which I had no formal qualifications and no prior career experience, being paid MORE than I was being paid as a fully qualified Vet with a 6 year university degree and 11 years work experience. Someone was going to catch me out at some stage! How long would this last?
Somehow I made the (rather large) leap from “preg testing” cows in long orange gloves and vaccinating cats to leading groups of women to take collective action on climate change and support each other through the crippling drought in Victoria. This is my story.
I’m sure you’ve all seen a job advertisement that piques your interest and you briefly think “I wonder if I could do that?” but quickly dismiss the thought and never go there again. Well, that’s what happened to me, but then the same ad kept appearing in my “in box”, then arrived in my letter box (in a newsletter) and was finally forwarded to me by a friend it was like “A SIGN”!
I’ve talked before about being at a career crisis point, feeling exhausted and disillusioned with my current job and struggling to plan a way forward. I felt like I needed a holiday, and this job looked like fun. It was only for a year…. a year-long, fun job felt like a real option. Earn money, meet new people, learn new things. Perfect! I didn’t feel like I had much chance of getting the job, but the thought of trying gave me a sense of hope and excitement.
So I decided to apply for the job. WHAT WAS I THINKING??? I asked myself that question a few times through the process- it was a truly scary thing to put myself “out there” in this way. So I did what I always do when I am scared- I got organised and prepared. After all, if I was to stand any chance of getting the job, I would have to demonstrate the skills and experience I had to offer in the role, and that was going to really take some doing.
Firstly, I set about working out what skills I had gained in all the paid and voluntary positions I had held over the years. I had developed a new range of skills through a recent role on a community steering committee, so I hoped this would help strengthen my application. Teamwork, attention to detail, community development principles, excellent verbal and written communication skill- the list went on. For every skill and personal attribute that was listed in the position description, I had to think of an example of how I had displayed this in a role I had undertaken. I just ignored the bit about them preferring the person to have a tertiary degree in community development. I couldn’t conjure up anything to match that requirement!
I had to learn how to write a résumé that demonstrated my skills to this potential new employer. Google was a great help! I completely rewrote my résumé to reflect the full extent of my experiences- paid and unpaid roles, committees memberships, conferences attended, projects completed, media releases written… the list goes on. I had to really dig deep and analyse what my capabilities were. It was confronting and exciting, all at the same time!
Addressing the key selection criteria was another skill I had to learn. Once again- the internet provided most of the answers, and a good friend helped with the fine tuning. Blowing my own trumpet felt strange and fanciful but I knew I had to do it to even have a chance of an interview. Finding referees wasn’t too difficult- I had built some good relationships through my volunteer work. I submitted my application with 1 hour to spare. The application had taken me more than 15 hours to prepare, over many days!
Stunningly, I got called in for an interview, and the panic set in. I had never really participated in a formal interview and had NO IDEA what to expect. My friend and mentor put me through a mock interview- I giggled with embarrassment through the whole thing. This was going to be WAY harder than I thought. “Describe a situation where…” “Tell us about a time when…” This was like nothing I had ever experienced. Thank goodness for the mock interview- it was really close to reality and I was grateful to have giggled through the mock interview as it saved me from looking like a fool in the real thing.
I bought a new outfit for the interview. Something smart but not overdone. I chose dark coloured tailored pants and a multicoloured shirt in muted tones. Flat shoes. I didn’t want to feel uncomfortable. In hindsight, I was under dressed but I felt overdressed at the time! However, I was neat and dressed in good taste, which was the main thing. No tie died shirts or tassels for me! Next time, I would wear a jacket, but I didn’t own anything suitable at the time.
As I sat nervously waiting for my interview, I thought I overheard a couple of snippets from the interview panel…..”She… just wasn’t… enthusiastic enough.” They were talking about the previous interviewee. I felt a like a light had gone on! “I can DO enthusiastic! I AM enthusiastic. If I can demonstrate this, they will at least like me a bit more than the last person” I told myself. I had somewhere to start!
And so it was. There were 3 interviewers in the room. I could answer most of the questions confidently despite my nerves. When I got lost in the interview, I stopped and asked them to repeat the question. When I wasn’t sure about something, I asked. I made eye contact with all 3 people. When given the opportunity to ask questions at the end of the interview I asked “How will you know that the project has been a success?” They looked at each other, and scrambled for an answer. I knew it was a good and fair question. It was all over before I knew it and I had actually enjoyed the experience. I had been nervous, but I had survived. Afterwards, I thought of a thousand things I would do differently next time, but then reminded myself that I had done my best.
A few days later, they offered me the job. 30 applicants, 8 people interviewed. They chose ME! Wooo Hoooh! I could hardly believe it. I knew the next year would be strange and challenging and exciting and fun. After all, I had nothing to lose. More money, new challenges, new people. After a year I would return to my “real” job as a vet, but in the meantime, this was the “holiday” or change that I needed.
I felt like a fraud for a really long time- an imposter, a cheat. A vet at a desk in an office with lovely people in nice clothes, asking MY opinion. What I learnt in time, was that those 3 people on the interview panel CHOSE ME for a reason. They were impressed with my skills, and could see my potential. They didn’t see me as “a chance” or “experiment”. They saw me as an equal and a valuable addition to their team. It took me a long time to see in myself what they saw in me. But that is a story for another time!
I am pleased to be teaming up with my long time friend, career and life coach Dana Hughes of Dana Hughes Career and Training to present a workshop called “Relaunch Your Career”. And, you guessed it, one of the things we will talk about is identifying your transferable skills and taking the next steps! Dana is an amazingly warm and insightful human being who will take us on a journey of reflection and discovery and help you plan for a better future.
Relaunch Your Career is on Saturday 21 June 2014 at the beautiful Knockwood Estate in Mossvale Park, Berrys Creek, South Gippsland, Victoria. We will share great local food and enjoy the support and camaraderie that will develop during the day. I hope to see you there.