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My first job coming out of school was working as a Lab Technician, testing Tarmac for road construction. I didn't necessarily "want" that job, but after school I didn't want to continue learning (college/university), I wanted job experience.

Some of my recent job interviews I've been to I've been asked how/why I did that job, seeing as my later/current jobs have been to do with IT, specifically Web Development. Would it come across bad to say something along the lines of "I didn't particularly want that job, I just wanted to start working"?

If so how could I word it better? Or should I say something else completely?

  • 1
    "later/current jobs" - how many jobs and how much time is there between the Lab Tec job and now? – AakashM Jul 18 '14 at 15:57
  • Just a recommendation for the future, I'd personally remove old jobs like that from my resume unless they had some component that related directly to my current employer. You certainly don't want to remove anything from the MIDDLE of your resume, but if that was your first job and you've had several IT jobs since, it might be time to do some pruning! – bvoyelr Jun 26 '18 at 17:50
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I would normally ask that question to see what requirements you have for a job that you haven't mentioned yet. For example, some people would answer:

  • It was a chance to work outside all summer and get plenty of fresh air and exercise after being cooped up studying for so long
  • I really needed some non-intellectual work right then because I was going through some family issues and didn't want a lot of pressure or work that I would be expected to take home
  • It was a favor to a family member (or whatever) who was shorthanded and really needed someone to fill that position
  • The pay was so much higher than any introductory position for web developers and I followed it for a while
  • There really were no software developer jobs close to home, and I had bills to pay, so I took the work I could get

Not all of these are answers that every employer will welcome, but that's ok because this is just the start of the story you are telling about this job. Do not stop talking after answering the question as asked. What probably matters most is what happens next:

  • As the summer wound down I realized that I really missed writing software and I needed to use what I had learned at [specific institution name, not just "school"] so I went looking for that. I ended up at [second employer] and never looked back.
  • While I did like getting paid so much, I talked to some of the older team members and realized I didn't want to be doing this my whole life, and also that the software pay would rise over time, while this wouldn't. So I smartened up and got the job at [second employer.]
  • After [my father died, or whatever other family issue it was cleared up - you don't need to share the details] I had the mental energy to get back into software so I got the job with [second employer] and never looked back.
  • I never stopped looking for the kind of work I really wanted, and I learned all I could at that job about punctuality, professionalism, getting along with coworkers, communicating, and meeting customer expectations. I bring all I learned into the kinds of jobs I take these days and I don't regret that summer at all.

This is your story. You already know it. Don't use my example answers, use yours, but first take the time to really know what they are. Why did you take that job? Why did you leave it for the job you took next? You don't need to figure out how to dress it up or cover it up for an interview. You just need to figure out how to tell all of it, including how you're different now. It can be a great way to show that you're a creative problem solver, to remind them of your skills (either from that job or the ones that follow), and what's important to you. Embrace it!

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I would consider myself lucky if every job I landed was a dream job or on my ideal career path. Sometimes you take a job because you need to pay the bills or because it is better than the alternative in your situation. There does not need to be any shame in that.

With that said, you probably want to emphasize the more positive aspects of you time testing tarmac, such as how you applied what you learned to your IT career. You could do this with humor "I learned that I don't want to be testing tarmac the rest of my life" or seriousness "I learned to be diligent in my testing because there were major consequences for letting a bad batch of tarmac out" or a blend of the two, depending on your interviewer's personality. If you do this well, your tarmac experience could be unique enough to make you stand out compared to other candidates who just went from web development job to web development job with little variation.

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Would it come across bad to say something along the lines of "I didn't particularly want that job, I just wanted to start working"?

If so how could I word it better? Or should I say something else completely?

It's perfectly reasonable to tell the truth.

And when it's your first job out of school, many of us have exactly the same reason for taking a job that doesn't fit in with our career path - we needed a job, didn't want to sit around idle, so took what was available at the time.

If you phrase it properly (maybe skip the part about "I didn't particularly want that job" since you never want to slam a prior employer), it will come across that you are a hard worker and hate the idea of being out of work. As a hiring manager, those are things I like to hear.

I think you are handling this properly.

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It's fairly true, but not all that fantastic.

Since that first job was radically different from what you're applying for now, you could say that this opportunity presented itself just as you were leaving school. Then state one or two things that did interest you about this job, or that you learned at this job, once you were in it.

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I would simply tell it like it is.

You finished school, had zero working experience so took that job because it offered you a chance to get some working experience. Sure it wasn't IT or related, but you still had reports, planning, documentation, office politics, payroll, etc. to deal with.

I would also explain that while that job wasn't your first pick, at the time though your options were limited due to lack of experience or formal education.

I deal with hiring developers, honestly I won't hold it against someone if their first few jobs aren't in line with their career path (though to be fair if you're putting this on your resume you need to be able to show me why this experience is relevant to what I'm going to need from you)

I actually used to put a sales position on my resume purely to demonstrate I was both versatile and not a job hopper. (I had three 2 year jobs one after the other due to circumstance, I used that 5 year job to backup my stance the hopping wasn't a chronic issue)

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