In the last few months I’ve been meeting a lot of women who are trying to return to the workplace, and I can’t help but notice that, regardless of location in Ireland, common themes are emerging from their stories.
‘You would be bored in this role’.
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 focus 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 that.
She applied for an office manager job in a big SME close to where she lives. She liked the 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 with her previous job), whilst working with good people, doing a good job, for a decent salary in return.
Sounds like a normal expectation, doesn’t it?
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.
Why do they get to decide what I would find boring or not?
She wanted to say a few choice words in return but instead explained that she really wanted the role and knew exactly what it 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. “Why do they get to decide what I would find boring or not?”
I agreed with her.
“They had my C.V. 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.
When you ask them why they have applied for this role, please listen to their answers and their reasons for applying
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 C.V. 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.
How must it feel to go from earning big bucks and getting your own wage every month to relying on your husband / partner for money?
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 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.
It also feels like this element of women leaving the workplace (and the fact that it is 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?
Contrary to what companies seem to think, there are many valid and well thought out reasons why someone would want to step down a level.
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 want to step down a level.
From my insights and conversations, some reasons are as follows:
- Firstly, the interviewee knows exactly what the job entails. They’ve read the job description and have made a conscious decision to apply for that role even if it is to ‘step down a level’.
- Some of them don’t want to manage a team ever again. Been there, done that, never again please.
- Some want to enjoy their job, without the ridiculous pressure that they had previously, and have made a conscious decision to ‘step down a level’ because they know what it’s like at the top and don’t want to go back there again – they value their health!
- They want to earn again, work with good people, do a job they like, while being able to leave the office on time and manage their work / life balance.
Two other common themes that crop up again and again, (but people feel like they can never mention them in an interview):
- They would be loyal in return for flexible work and being able to work from home occasionally.
- And yes, they might be still of ‘childbearing’ age, but they have no plans to have any more children and you don’t need to worry about them going on maternity leave.
It’s like a bizarre form of the Hunger Games really. But you will be so much more resilient after the whole process and it will stand to you.
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 if so, 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.
When you are feeling tired, that is precisely the moment that you should accelerate, because others are feeling the same and they will quit.
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.
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.
It is at that point that you put in extra effort, and that’s when you start winning and success will be 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.
About the Author
Louise Bunyan, Director of SmartFox.ie, is an award-winning digital marketing consultant, social media trainer, speaker and writer based in Co. Cork with over 15 years’ experience in communications and digital marketing.
Winner of Best Marketing and Communications Blog and a LinkedIn training specialist, Louise and SmartFox Training are on a mission to empower everyone, through in-house corporate training and open workshops, in how to harness the power of digital marketing to drive their own goals.
Find out more at www.smartfox.ie