Q: Ive been out of the (paid) workforce for a few years, for medical reasons, although I did some volunteer work in my community during that time. I also started a small business based on a hobby of mine. Now Im ready to go back to work full time, and Ive got appointments for two job interviews. What should I say when asked what Ive been doing since my last real job?
A: An interviewer who asks you what youve been doing lately is really asking, What skills have you acquired recently that we might be able to use here? In other words, where you were is less important than what you learned. Your volunteer work probably gave you some experience and insights that you didnt have before, and starting a business (even a small home-based one) is nothing if not educational. So sit down and analyze what you got out of those two activities——whether it was organizing a fundraising drive, learning how to market a product and deal with difficult customers, or whatever you think might be relevant to the positions youre now seeking. You may be surprised at just how much you did learn during your time away from full-time work, and many skills these days are far more portable than most people think.
Q: Which do you think is better, working for only one manager or reporting to several different people? I work for a PR agency and have been reporting to a different manager for each of three accounts. Now our managing director wants each of us junior people to work with only one manager (to build loyalty, he says). Im just starting my career, and Id like to get exposure to many different management styles, rather than knowing how only one person approaches different situations and problems. Do you agree?
A: I do, as it happens, although I doubt your managing director is overly interested in my opinion. Not only early in a career, but all the way through, it can be extremely valuable to have lots of role models to draw upon (including really bad bosses, who can teach you a thing or two about how not to manage). However, if youre now to be limited to one boss, you might consider seeking out exposure to lots of different styles and methods by getting involved in a trade association or professional group.