Recently I got a call from a very good friend who is in full time employment and also runs her own business. She has an opportunity to apply for another job which is exciting. She is however worried about a period on her CV in which she was solely running her own business. She asked if she could tell a ‘small lie’ on her CV. Could she replace the years she was running her own business with something else? I was surprised and asked her ‘why would you do that when it’s one of the biggest things that stands you out as a candidate?’

Note this, she was not in between jobs in that period; she quit her job to run her own business – which by the way was a huge success. And after a while, she decided to combine her business with a job opportunity – which is very OK. In fact, not only had she had very good experience as an employee, while she ran her own business she had an even richer experience. Her work ethics were admirable and she was excellent as a business leader. 

As I reflected on what I knew about her (from my perspective as someone who recruits), I thought ‘wait a minute, it will be a privilege for this company to have you! You are already a rockstar!’ I really hoped she was able to see herself as the rockstar she was. And then again, I don’t blame her for not seeing it right away. Sometimes when we are searching for job opportunities, we want to be able to say we have had the exact experience they are seeking. We assume that this is what all recruiters want. However, there are always past experiences we can apply to new jobs. Let me share an example.

While I was in corporate, I worked in the Human Resources Department of a hotel and my company regularly recruited National Service Persons (NSP). It was always interesting to see how these university and polytechnic graduates responded when asked to work as waiters, housekeepers, etc. In my final year with the company, we had one NSP who was different. At the restaurant where he served, he was so pleasant, always asking questions and willing to learn. Sometimes he would serve his mates from KNUST and still had that pleasant smile on. 

I really liked his attitude and occasionally when we needed help in Human Resources, I would ask for him. Then our Human Resources Officer resigned and so we had him switch to our department. He was such a joy to work with. Within 2 months, I also had to leave the company. In the very week I left, a former colleague who headed another hotel asked me to help him recruit a Human Resources Manager. Without blinking, I recommended this young man who was still a National Service Person. He got the job! Fast forward, he did a sterling job in that role for 3 years and moved on to another hotel. As I write this, he has already won 3 prestigious awards in human resources.

Note this; he had no previous experience in Human Resources in a corporate setting. What did he have? I found out later that he had a wide range of experiences while he was still a student. He had his own retail business and also interned in small businesses including a beauty salon and an auto mechanic shop. No wonder he was different. This young man was smart enough to apply his varied experiences to any new setting he found himself. In addition, his curiosity, willingness to learn and positive attitude just opened doors for him. Whether he felt he was good enough or not did not matter, he just kept going. I am just so proud of him. He is a rockstar!

What am I saying here? We have all had varied experiences, most of which can be applied to new environments. When pitching for new opportunities, our responsibility is to package these experiences in a way that shows the recruiters that we are capable. For instance, years ago a friend asked me how she could prove to recruiters that she had leadership experience. I immediately recalled something I admired about her; both her parents lived abroad and she single-handedly managed her home including taking care of her younger siblings. For me, if she could run a home successfully at her age, she could be entrusted with managing people at the workplace. 

Dear Reader, there is really no need to tell ‘small lies’. Everything you’ve learned and been through has been preparing you for your next opportunity. It’s your story and it stands you out. Know this; you are already a rockstar and your new employer will be privileged to have you. Now go show them!

Ama xx

PS: Do you need to unpack a personal life, work or business situation in order to move forward? I have cleared my calendar to have 30-minute coaching conversations. If this is what you need, call/WhatsApp +233 246 25 2330 or book here