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Landing a new role after job loss and surgery

Q: My situation seems complicated to me, let alone an employer! I left a position as a legal secretary in 2008 for an office manager position. That position did not work out and I was let go after about four weeks. From November 2008 to the present, I have been unemployed. However, in December of 2010 I underwent surgery which necessitated a long recovery period that I hope will end very soon. My most recent salary was $65,000 and I was at a fairly high level administratively. Do you have any advice on how I can address these issues concisely in an interview? Also, what approach should I take regarding my illness? Should I seek a position at the same level that I left? Thank you for your help.

A: Your situation is indeed a bit complicated but can be presented in a credible and positive way. Remember to focus on the positives and minimize the negatives.

First, let’s mention the positives. Think about your professional background and where you have enjoyed success. You don’t need to give a lot of detail regarding your surgery. Instead focus on the present - you are ready, willing and able to return to the workforce.

You have been unemployed for a prolonged period of time. This period of unemployment will no doubt raise a yellow flag for a potential employer. Of course, your surgery was a factor. The economy is also likely a factor. However, the focus should be on what you can deliver to the employer.

Regarding your compensation requirements, you are in the same boat as many others right now. Some of my colleagues call this the “new normal.” Many employees were earning very competitive wages in 2006 and 2007. Then 2008 hit and there has been a correction in terms of compensation. I think you may need to be flexible. Look at any offer you may receive in a holistic way. Don’t just focus on the base salary. The benefits, the commute, the work environment, the company’s mission and the work responsibilities are all important. Also, don’t overlook temporary and/or contract roles. These roles often convert into full-time roles.

Your elevator pitch might sound like this:

I worked for Smith, Brown and Jones, LLP for almost 10 years. I worked for three partners. It was a challenging and exciting role. In 2008, the law firm suffered because of the economy. I left the firm for an office manager role at ABC, Inc. Unfortunately this role was not a good fit. In December, 2010, I had some surgery. I used much of 2011 to recover. I received a “clean bill of health” from my doctor and am ready and eager to return to the working world.

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