f you know me well, you may know that there are a few roles that are not on my LinkedIn Profile. I had a rule, any project that lasted less than a year, I usually omitted, and anything less than a month I left out.
Yes, I hear some of you say, but if something lasts for months, are you just going to leave a hole in your resume?
A lot of my education is missing. I started a degree, took a few courses, and dropped out. I didn’t want to list it because I didn’t want to talk about it and answer that inevitable question – why did you quit?
Why did you quit?
Yes, I started a PGCE, and dropped it. And suddenly, the questions kept coming. My driving instructor refused to give me more classes. Older relatives yelled at me. This only made me regret applying for the PGCE in the first place.
But why didn’t I just answer the question? Well, I wouldn’t be honest if I gave a simple answer. First of all, There wasn’t a single reason.
Sure, I could try to blame a bad boss, an unsupportive person in my personal life, an extra responsibility, an illness, or find some other scapegoat. Blaming would be an easy way out. But really, it was a case of the straw that broke the camel’s back. I can point to that straw, that moment when I made my decision, but it was just a small thing compared to some of the other pressures I felt.
So, why didn’t I just say that I was overwhelmed? That all these little things, and perhaps some big things, got me down, and I collapsed under the weight of so much pressure? Because I got over it.
Almost ten years later, I was running my own business and interviewing people for the position of sound engineer. Or maybe it was assistant audio technician, I forget the exact job title.
If I could go back in time, I would have found a way to hire multiple applicants. One applicant stood out, and I might regret not hiring him for something. (Recruiters often make mistakes. I was one of the recruiters who made them.)
I asked him about a gap on his CV. Here, a man younger than I was, gave the best answer ever. “I was young.”
This is the main reason I do not like the question, “Why did you quit that job.” The answer that was true of me then would not be true of me today.
As we get older, our muscles change. Our relationships change. What may have been too difficult for me to deal with 20 years ago is a cinch today. Things I didn’t like back then I have since learned to appreciate. I was once a toddler unable to walk across the room, but now I can run a marathon.
To me today, a much more interesting question is, how did you overcome the difficulties that you once faced? Why are you stronger today? How have you shaped your life to be able to deal with the challenges ahead? What has made you interested in work you once found boring or pointless?
I remember that when my grandfather died, my grandmother went to university and became a professional nurse. She had served in the war but needed a certificate to work.
Then, when she retired, she learned a new language. And other skills in order to help her friends. Perhaps you can’t teach old dogs new tricks, but Grandma was never a dog.
That example was the first muscle that helped rebuild and strengthen the camel’s back. And the camel keeps getting stronger.
Now, of course, if someone tries to overwhelm the camel, the camel might spit. He doesn’t want his back broken again.