The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

January 18, 2013

Career Coach Q&A: On Credit Scores and Employment History

By Joyce E.A. Russell
Special to The Washington Post

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Career Coach columnist Joyce E.A. Russell, an industrial and organizational psychologist, discussed workplace issues in a recent online forum. Excerpts:

Q: I've begun seeing a trend in recent years where employers will look at an applicant's credit report to verify employment history. I have a slight problem — my employment history isn't on my credit report. At all. The reason for that is, I've only ever had one credit card, which I started in college — well before I began accumulating an employment history — and I've had no need to apply for additional lines of credit since then. The upside to that is that I have a credit score most people would kill for; the downside is that my credit report is very bare-bones. With all that in mind, is there a way for me to get my employment history on my credit report without applying for additional lines of credit?

A: Great question and an unusual dilemma you are facing. I am assuming your resume details all of your previous jobs. Have you put down the original name of the firm and its current name (if you know it)? Employers today would not be that surprised by firms that have merged or been acquired. If you can indicate both names of the firm (when you worked there and what it is called now) that might help. You can also list previous supervisors for those jobs (if you want).

Also, do you have any other records substantiating your employment? You did not say how far back you have worked, so maybe you still have old pay stubs or employment letters?

Q: I am a 2007 college graduate with a communications and marketing B.S. degree (3.69 GPA) looking for advice on obtaining a job in the U.S. Since graduation, I have negotiated contracts and competed in professional athletics internationally. How do I parlay this athletic business experience into a career in a "traditional" job role?

A: I would imagine PR firms, communications firms, the sports apparel industry, etc., would all be natural fits for you. In this case, your previous expertise as an athlete would come in handy. What about contacts you may have from your professional sports days? Can you use them for networks and job hunting? Generally, many in sports have contacts that can help them in other disciplines. Make sure all of these contacts know what you are looking for and by when.

If you are looking for a career in a totally different field, then it might be tougher to show transferability. But, you can still do it. In fact, the Labor Department has a site called Career OneStop where you can see career fields relevant and training needed for those careers. The National Business Services Alliance also has a job match survey that you can take (called Job Match) to help you figure out how your work interests relate to various jobs (where the best fit is). Take advantage of these resources so that you can show potential employers that your skills are transferable.

Q: What actions can you recommend taking for a federal employee who could, potentially, be facing losing their job because of the sequestration? What should they be doing now vs. (if it happens) when laid off?

A: I always suggest that everyone should have an updated resume so that they are marketable at all times. It's not that we want to leave our firms, but we need to be prepared and realistic about how we are viewed in today's marketplace. I would also check your online identity based on your social media footprint. What do your network or connections look like? You will want to have a presence in social media so you can more quickly call out to your network. Attend professional meetings or conferences if you are not already doing this, just so you can connect with individuals in your field.

If you have worked for your employer for a while, make sure that others (from other firms or agencies) know who you are. Attending meetings builds your presence and network. Spend a little time each week looking at new opportunities for jobs just to see what is out there. Make sure your skills are current. (Do you need to take any additional training or certification courses to get up to date?) There are so many ways of enhancing skills these days (from regular courses in colleges to online opportunities for continuing education), that it would be good to have relevant skills.

All of these strategies are things you can do to better position yourself for reentering the market and for knowing what else is out there. This is important whether you lose your job or not.