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Ask Cathy
Can I overcome bad decisions in my past?

Q. Dear Cathy,

I admit I have made some bad decisions. I have not worked and studied like I should have in the past, but now I'm ready to get serious.

Do employers really check into what you did in high school, or when you were just a teen in the college years? How do I overcome my not-so-bright past?

I am now twenty-five years old.

Older & Wiser

Dear Wiser,

For many young and inexperienced recent college graduates, employers often look at a potential employee's college activity. Twenty-five year-olds usually lack a sufficient work history to demonstrate work ethic and competency.

However, there is another side to the coin. I gained an interesting philosophy whilst working in London for fifteen years. I employed several young people through the years, and found I did not have great luck with employees who had a perfect past. People who had a perfect past, earned perfect grades and came from perfect homes were not necessarily great members of my business teams.

I found that people who suffered with a bit of a tough time, and eventually became serious, challenged themselves to rise beyond their previous habits. In fact, these people often became better employees than those with a perfect past.

These people became valued members of my organization because they were determined to prove themselves to me and their co-workers and put forth a great deal of effort to rise above their previous errors. They chose to become winners, rather than falling into the winner's circle due to good fortune.

There are plenty of employers who are willing to overlook a difficult history, if they are provided with an eloquent explanation and the employee demonstrates incredible work ethic in the office.

As an employer, I would be intrigued if a person in your situation offered to fill a job opening by working for free for three months, and proving him or herself as a worthy candidate for the position.

Although I am an advocate for higher education, I would be willing to see beyond a dark past if a potential employee was willing to demonstrate his or her knowledge, skills and abilities.

With blessings for your future,

Listen to an audio podcast version of this Ask Cathy question and answer from the GreatLakesGeek show.

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