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September 30, 2011

How do I explain this breakup … at a job interview?

Filed under: Advice — posted by Breakup Girl @ 8:48 am

Back to work on August 17, 1998

Dear Breakup Girl,

Here’s my dilemma: I moved to a horrible place in the midwest last year for the sake of Mr. Mediocre. Things ended a few months ago, and I’m getting ready to go back east where I belong. While I’ve been out here in the midwest, I’ve been a self-employed writer. So, now as I’m applying to jobs back east, the first question every interviewer asks me is “What brought you to the midwest?” From my resume, it’s obvious that I never had a regular job here, and that I had a good gig going back east before I left. So, how do I explain this move to a prospective employer? I can make a joke out of it pretty easily, but I find it hard to explain it in a way that helps a job interview (probably because it still hurts, and I’m sure that shows). So what do you, the Miss Manners of breakups, suggest I do?

— Tongue-Tied

Dear Tongue-Tied,

I’d hire you purely based on your ability to flatter (Miss M., as you may know, is one of my idols). Anyway, excellent question , but I’m not sure there’s one right answer, especially in terms of “helping” an interview — that nuance may vary from place to place. But I think you do need to give them a (the) concrete reason for the move, lest you come across as flighty or cagey. My suggestion — and I’m open to others — would be to say something forthright and simple, like: “Well, I moved there with my boyfriend, but things didn’t work out. Still, it also gave me the opportunity to try my hand at something I’d always wondered about: being a self-employed writer, which was a valuable experiment in TK [fill in one solid example of something you got out of it]. Now, however, I’ve realized that neither the midwest nor freelancing is for me, and I’m clear that I need to refocus on TK.” Then, if you’re feeling jaunty, you can throw in a quick tension-easing isn’t-she-witty wisecrack, like, “Though as much as I love New York, I gotta admit I really miss the bagels in Boulder.”

Breakup Girl

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