It’s challenging to look for work, no matter what your situation is. Here are some additional factors to consider if you’re a new grad, have been laid off recently, or are a parent returning to the workforce after a substantial time off:
Fit and flexibility. Moms and dads often need a work culture with some flexibility. Will you sound like a potential problem employee if during the interview you ask questions about on-site childcare or company policies regarding telecommuting and flexible hours? How can you show that you are right for the job if you are up against a younger worker with fewer responsibilities? Some workplaces won’t be good matches, and you need to find that out, but not during the first interview.
Culture shock. New grads and career switchers may not be accustomed to the culture of an unfamiliar workplace. Corporate offices have etiquette and protocols. One thing these kinds of employers are looking for is whether or not they can put you in front of a client. Polish and professionalism in your dress, mannerisms, and word choice will go a long way toward communicating that you are indeed fit for the job.
Networking. We all actively network all the time, whether we know it or not. Your network is actually larger than you think. If you’re a mom or dad, your parent network is stronger than you know. I found one of my best clients through my kids’ kindergarten. Just because you no longer work at a company doesn’t mean you don’t have a network.
Awkwardly qualified. You might be considering jobs for which you are overqualified in some ways and underqualified in others. In a certain sense, you’re asking the company to take a leap of faith in hiring you. They might fear that you’re not serious, that you’re just trying something out, that you don’t really want to take a pay cut. When you are facing an unconventional fit, it is critical to keep in mind that confidence is as important as competence.
The truth is that there are no hard and fast rules for getting an interview right, but there are extremely helpful guidelines for it. Just remember: confidence, competence and compatibility. If you keep these three C’s in mind, you’ll go far. Authenticity is also something I strongly advise, so put your best – and most authentic – foot forward.