Want to Move on to the Next Level? Then Stop Portraying Yourself as a Victim

tantrum“If ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ were candy and nuts –oh what a wonderful Christmas we would all have!”


Ever heard that phrase?  I heard it growing up any time one of us kids pouted, “yeah, but….” My mother would repeat this phrase in a little sing-song voice and then smile leaving us completely bewildered while defusing our pre-adolescent argument.


Pouting and foot stomping didn’t work in my house.  Ever.  Not that I didn’t try, but it was a short-lived attempt.


While my mom used cute little sing-song phrases to quell our victim-hood my dad was much more straight forward.


“This bad thing happened” Child

“And?” Dad

“It was really bad” Child

“And?” Dad

“It shouldn’t have happened” Child

“Ok” Dad

“It was unfair” Child

“Are you alive? Dad

“What?? Yes” Child

“Then it didn’t kill you, you are fine” Dad

“But it was wrong!” Child

“Get over it and go do something else now” Dad


At which point we were dismissed.  End of story.  It didn’t matter how bad it was, how unfair or unjust it was it just did not matter.  In my father’s eyes the event was over, can’t change it now so move on.  Period.


Victim-hood did not work on my father.  If my brother or sister got something and I didn’t it did me no good to whine that I wanted it too.  Just because was not a reason.  I had to earn it or demonstrate that I deserved it.  Presenting an argument of I was being treated unfairly went over like a lead balloon with my dad.


Thank goodness.


In job searching I understand bad things happen.  Sometimes they are not your fault, more of circumstances out of your control.  More often than not we contribute somewhere along the way to our decline.  If the company downsizes, or you are forced to take early retirement there is not much you can do about that.  It is business, not personal.


But if you messed up, guess what, you contributed to the process.  Acknowledge it, own up to it and used it as a tool, not an excuse.


When you make a mistake people will remember how you acted after the mistake much more than during.  Once I made a huge mistake for a client of the managing director.  Huge, monumental, enormous.  Thought my career was over.  As soon as it was realized I immediately went to others to ask their guidance on how to correct it.  I was on the phone, running through the office looking like a mad woman getting all the pieces put back together.


When the managing director came back into the office I marched straight into his office and owned up.  I told him I made a mistake, here is what it was but here is what I was doing to correct it; here is what had been done so far, what was in process and when it was expected to be completed.


He just looked at me and said, “Okay.”  End of story.  No ranting, raving or firing.  Just “okay”.


During the interview process it is important to see the value that you learned in the experience.  If you approach it as you were a victim that is going to set off an immediate red flag for the prospective employer.  If things don’t go your way are you going to immediately turn into victim mode or step up and be a part of the solution?


But there is another piece to this puzzle – networking.


I will hear people say how they “spin” it during the interview, but when they network they fall right back into that victim mode.  They bad mouth or imply certain negative qualities about their former employer, manager or coworkers.


It is great that you can present a positive image and get it right for an hour during an interview, but that isn’t enough.  You have to let it go!  Continuing the victim or negativity outside of that interview completely undermines what you accomplished with the positive “spin”.


We are a connected world.  You never know who knows whom, who is related to whom and what will be taken out of context.  Let’s say you nailed the interview and said it in just the right way.  Yay you!


That night you go out with your friends to celebrate and have a couple drinks.  At the establishment you boast about how you “spun” it but then go into the negativity and “real story”.


It just so happens that the waitress or bartender is married to the receptionist of that company.


Guess what their pillow talk is going to be about that night?  And then guess what that receptionist is going to let the interviewer know the next day?  Probably that you are a bitter, bitter person pulling the wool over their eyes.


Now you may not get a call back, or if you do, you may get tougher questions about the events that lead to the departure.  Thought you nailed it, huh?  Think again.


Bad things happen, I know this, I have lived through some bad stuff myself.  The easiest thing for someone to say is to “get over it”.  While I was in my victim mode I certainly didn’t want to hear it.  I wanted sympathy, I wanted someone to tell me it was ok and it wasn’t my fault and yes, it was completely unfair – those bastards!


But even if I got that, it didn’t change events or make it better.  It just helped fester my victim-hood.


Sometimes it is hard to let things go, if that is the case keep the negativity private.   It will soon dawn on you that it is only hurting you.  It keeps you stuck in the past, glued to a negative event instead of being thankful to be out of such an environment that was damaging to you.


If it was a matter of strictly business and downsizing then try looking at it as an opportunity to try something new.  A new company, a new widget, a new industry a whole new career for goodness sakes!


Victim creating event or opportunity – it really is all up to you.  How you perceive it and live with it is how others will react to it and determine your value and character.  Allow them choose correctly.



Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW



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