Skills: "Whatever the opposite of the Midas Touch is"
October 10, 2018 5:36 AM   Subscribe

For the past three years, I've been working in the weak link of an otherwise thriving organization. It's time for me to move on, but what the hell do I put on my resume?

For the past three years, I've worked for a national nonprofit organization. When I was hired, I was based in a regional office and my work was focused there. In the first two years (through no fault of mine) we lost 80% of our local service contracts, resulting in a 20+% hit to the organization overall and leading to my manager's termination and the eventual closing of the regional office (although we still do work in the region).

After an organization-wide restructuring during which I had three managers over the course of a calendar year, my work expanded to communities outside my region, but I've largely been given projects to support that are on their last legs.

The strange thing is, I'm well-liked in the organization and I've had no performance issues raised. It all seems to be chalked up to a series of unfortunate events within the organization, and in my community of residence as well. (At least, that's what people say to my face.) However, I'm not blind to the fact that my teammates seem to be getting plum assignments while I continue to shovel out the stable. (There's no pony in here so far.)

As I look to move on, I have no idea how to articulate the past three years on my resume. "I kept smiling as I bailed out the lifeboat" doesn't seem like it will play very well - although everyone says they love to hire resilient people, right? I'm cognizant that no prospective employer is going to want to hear my sad story or excuses for why I don't have more accomplishments to show for the past three years.

Can you help me think through how to put the best shine on what feels like an extremely dull phase of my career?
posted by Sweetie Darling to Work & Money (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You have a ton of accomplishments - You've taken on important legacy projects, gained knowledge in them, and kept them moving smoothly to ensure a clean transition so they could be sunset properly. You also expanded your work to new communities as you did this. That's not a bad set of accomplishments at all!

Meanwhile, your organization's not doing so hot, and you'd like to work on something new, not something being closed down.

Any sane hiring manager knows that the accomplishments of an individual are not the same as those of their organization. And "I'm not afraid of crazy bullshit, look at all this stuff I dealt with and I'm still smiling about it" is a fine quality to display in an interview.
posted by Tomorrowful at 6:19 AM on October 10, 2018 [9 favorites]

It sounds to me like you experienced significant growth through this period (or at least, this is how I would make it sound). You began focusing on regional issues and then your role expanded to focus on similar issues throughout the nation -- you were called on the apply your expertise about X thing in Y region to X' thing in A, B and C regions. You had the opportunity to focus on diverse projects that ranged from thing 1 to thing 2, and you learned P, D and Q. You are looking for a new position because you really want to focus on [thing that the position you are interviewing for requires].
posted by OrangeDisk at 6:21 AM on October 10, 2018 [2 favorites]

Though I hire in a different industry, I gain a lot more insight about someone when they've done the dirty work and weathered storms and rolled with changes while continuing to do good work.
posted by kokaku at 8:52 AM on October 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

I have a hunch the reason you keep getting tasked with thankless jobs is because you are regarded as capable, diligent, conscientious, and reliable. Your higher ups know you will see things through and that's why they choose you for these projects, which are not appealing or glamorous but need to be done. You are not some someone who needs glory or the lure of some exciting, high profile plum assignment to do your job well. So reliable old Sweetie Darling gets assigned the low profile but important, Augean Stable type jobs others don't want to do.

Is that fair? No. But I have witnessed it (and experienced it) myself.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 9:11 AM on October 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you all - this was really helpful. I still think some of this is hard to convey on a resume, but you've given me lots of positive prompts for those "tell me about a time when you ____" interview questions.

And, life is interesting - I found out today that my manager is leaving and I'm being considered to move up to his position! I'm hopeful that I can be appointed without a formal search, and I'm also keeping an eye out for other opportunities while I wait for this to settle out.

I really appreciate you all taking time to give me a fresh perspective on my situation!
posted by Sweetie Darling at 4:11 PM on October 17, 2018

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