I’m very fortunate to meet a lot of jobseekers, career changers and professionals through my LinkedIn training either online, one to one, through workshops or talks. And I am also lucky to hear their personal stories. In the last few months I’ve been meeting a lot of women in particular who are trying to return to the workplace, and I can’t help but notice that regardless of location in Ireland, similar common themes are emerging from their stories.
‘You would be bored in this role’
I remember one woman I met had been a senior project manager before she took a career break. She had worked for a multinational and eventually decided to take a break and focused on her family. And now, a few years later, she’s ready to return to work, but definitely not in a role like her previous one. And she is quite clear about this.
She applied for an office manager job in quite a big SME close to where she lives. She liked this company, heard good things about it, liked the role as she could use her organisational skills but also hoped not be demented with stress (as in her previous job) while working with good people, doing a good job for a decent salary in return.
Sounds like a normal expectation, doesn’t it?
And she was delighted when she got called for interview.
She was nervous initially but gradually eased into the interview and felt it was going well. As the interview was wrapping up, the interviewer said, “Look, to be honest, you’d be bored in this role. But thanks for coming in to see us”.
She was stunned, annoyed and speechless.
She wanted to say a few choice words in return to this statement but instead explained that she really wanted the role and knew exactly what it had entailed and had made a conscious decision to apply for it.
But they still insisted that she would be bored in the role.
“How do they know what my boredom threshold is?”, she asked me. “How do they get to decide what I would find boring or not?”
I agreed with her.
“They had my CV. They knew my experience in advance. So why call me in for interview and make me go through the whole process, talk through each previous role, only to tell me that they had decided that I would be bored? Talk about a waste of everyone’s time.”
I agreed with her some more.
So perhaps, the next time you feel like saying to someone in an interview, “I think you would be bored in this role”, please don’t.
Instead, ask yourself why you called them in for interview in the first place. What was on their CV that impressed you and what made you think that they would be the right fit for the job.
You can still reference the fact that their previous roles were more senior. But when you ask them why they have applied for this role, please listen to their answers and their reasons for applying.
And perhaps you don’t know what someone’s boredom threshold is.
Money and independence
Another thing that I hear from some women, but said very quietly, is that they want to have their financial independence back, by having their own money again through earning their own wage.
It’s something that had never even occurred to me before - how it must feel to go from earning big bucks and getting your own wage every month to relying on your husband / partner for money? Some have even said that it almost feels like getting an ‘allowance’ each week.
From what I hear, this is a significant motivating factor in deciding to return to work.
But it also feels like this element of women leaving the workplace, or indeed, it being a critical driver for a lot of women in returning to the workplace, is not openly discussed? Perhaps we just don’t talk about money or financial matters at all in public?
However, there are also the issues of being paid enough to cover childcare costs and the gender pay gap – but those are topics for another day!
Stepping down a level
It also seems that there is an obsession with not allowing anyone to ‘step down a level’ or believing that anyone would even want to step down a level? This is another common but subtle shut-down that comes up again and again in interviews. But contrary to what companies seem to think, there are many valid and well thought out reasons why someone would to step down a level.
From my insights and conversations, some reasons are as follows:
And two other common themes that crop up again and again, but they feel like they can never say this in interview:
However, it’s not all doom and gloom! There are successful stories. Women do return to the workplace and win at getting a job.
You could be the lucky one and get referred through your network and land a great role immediately – and well done!
But, for most, patience is key, and job offers eventually come along after months and months of going through ‘Interview Hell’. It’s like a bizarre form of the Hunger Games really, you must go through it to truly understand. But you will be so much more resilient after the whole process and it will stand to you.
I know that might not seem like much right now but dig deep and keep on going.
In a ‘How I Built This’ podcast (go to 38:48) with James Dyson (of Dyson vacuum cleaners and other products), he talks about how he used to do long distance running in college. And the thing with long distance running is that while it takes a serious amount of training and great stamina, when you are feeling tired, that is precisely the moment that you should accelerate, because others are feeling the same and they will quit. So it is at that point that you put in extra effort, and that’s when you start winning and success is just around the corner. I think of this from time to time when I feel like giving up and it spurs me on.
Keep going. You will get there.
Who wins the War for Talent?
So in this era of ‘The War for Talent’, where companies are working hard to retain current staff but are ramping up their employer brand to attract new talent, who wins in the recruitment game?
Is it graduates with 2 – 4 years experience? Get them in young, train them up and then wait for them to burn out?
Keep saying no to qualified, intelligent, ambitious and hard-working women who want to return to the workplace, do good work and earn their own money again while driving a company’s productivity and profits upwards?
So what are these women to do?
They cannot win, because if they do, they’ll just be bored.
Huge thanks to the great women that I have met and who have shared their stories with me. As promised, I hope I have adequately reflected what you feel you cannot say in interview!