How Can I Refer To My Old Job In An OK Way?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about old job talk:

My new job is the same as my last. I just moved to a new place and got a job at a newly built hotel. However, I can’t help saying “At my old job we did this…”I don’t want to seem bossy, I just want to help…yet I can’t do it without mentioning my old job! What should I do? The hotel was just built and it opened just last week. I’d like to have the supervisor position that they may have soon. What would help my chances?

Signed, Moving Forward

Dear Moving Forward:

You have a wonderful opportunity to move up in a new setting! However, there is nothing worse than hearing someone incessantly refer to his or her old job. The usual mental response is, “If it was so great, why don’t you go back there?”

So, how can you USE your experiences without doing it in a tiresome way? Consider some of the following:

1. Rather than refer to your old job, why not just make a general suggestion or express a general thought? Instead of saying, “At my old job they organized it this way…” say, “One way we could organize it would be to…..” Instead of saying, “Where I used to work we scheduled everyone two months at a time.” say, “There are a couple of ways to schedule people. One way is to schedule them a month at a time, but scheduling for two months at a time can be really helpful.”The good things at your old job were probably not created or invented there, so speak in more general terms of the business. That will also make it sound as though you have more experience than just the one good job.Consider researching other hotels or read about similar operations, so you can say, “I read that this is being done in several hotels around the country…”

2. Remember that many if not most of the other employee worked somewhere else before this. They may have not worked at a hotel as you did, but whether they did or not, they have memories of their old job and what worked well and what didn’t. Consider talking to them and asking their thoughts on the things you feel so certain about.Your former work may have been excellent, but likely other employees have had good experiences they can also share. (Or bad ones, for that matter. Sometimes we learn a lot from what we don’t want to see repeated in a new place!)

3. Acknowledge that your former work, and what you liked about it, may not be right for the new work. There is no job that is exactly the same as the old job, no matter how similar they may seem. The facility is newer, the people are different, the clients will be slightly different, the chain or the individual hotel or function in it will not be exactly the same. So, don’t assume the things you think will apply will automatically fit. That provides you with another way to present your experiences without seeming bossy. Instead of saying, “At the Tropics Hotel we did it this way and it worked great….” say, “Let me tell you what I’ve seen done before and see if any of it could be applied here.”Leave room for your ideas to not be the best ones. (I saw a sign recently that said, “I’m not bossy, it’s just that my ideas are best.” Unfortunately, that comes across as bossy unless it’s handled correctly.) Your ideas and your former experiences may very well be best for this situation. However, probably some variations won’t hurt anything and will let others be best sometimes.

4. As for being the supervisor: Think about what are the hallmarks of a good supervisor, then show that you can do those things. A supervisor is one who works with and through others to achieve the mission of an organization and group.There are a long list of traits for that role, all related to working with and through others. Focus on those and show that you possess them.

*Interpersonal skills (Listening, coaching, speaking effectively and appropriately, empathy, asking questions, reflecting back, collaborating and cooperating, ability to share information and teach and influence others.)
*Job knowledge (Knowledge of the current work and the current employer, awareness of trends and the future of the organization, knowledge of specific tasks of the job, awareness of the big picture, knowledge of employees and how to work effectively with them. ) *Problem solving (Working with and through others, including internal and external resources, to identify problems, analyze them, seek options for solution and pick the best option. Then, follow-up to ensure the problem is solved.)
*Mission and Goal Orientation (Customer service, building the business, focus on improvement, working with all levels in the organization, knowing what is wanted for the business and working with and through others to achieve it.)
*Personal and Professional Development. (Gaining new knowledge and skills; working to self develop and improve; gaining in-depth knowledge and skills; representing the organization and the work group effectively. There are others within those, but those are some key competency areas. Aim to fulfill those and you will be a star no matter what your position now or in the future.

5. Let your managers know your goal of being a supervisor. Don’t overdo it as though it’s the only thing that will make you happy, but certainly let them know. Wouldn’t it be a shame if they named someone else and later said they didn’t realize you were interested?When you tell your manager that you’d like to be considered, make sure you put the emphasis on your interest in working with the other employees to have a great team to help the hotel and your group be successful. If your manager has a specific focus, let him know how you would work to accomplish those things. If not, just let him or her know you are interested and would work to fulfill his or her goals and the goals of the company.

6. In the meantime, build your team now, as a coworker. I often list the ways to have influence: Be credible, Be valuable and communicate effectively–personally and regularly.By being valuable I mean help others accomplish their own goals. In a new job that means they want to feel good about it, feel useful, and feel that they are part of a great team. You can help that, no matter what your position. As you become a useful person to everyone, you will be more likely to get their support now and in the future.None of those six steps requires that you have had vast experience in a better hotel, merely that you have good job knowledge and know how to use it effectively in a new place.Best wishes in your work and life!

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.