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Job Seeking for Foreigners: Talking About Your Past, Present and Future

Jobseeking for foreign English speakers

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So you’re a non-native English speaker, and you’d like to do one of the following:

  • Move to an English speaking country and find a job there;
  • Find a better job while living in an English speaking country;
  • Find a job in an international company while living in your own country;
  • Get promoted in your current job in an English speaking environment.

Congratulations 😀

With making this decision to find a better job you’ve already made the first step towards it, and I can only salute you for your aspirations to further your career and make better life for yourself and your family!

Now, tell me what’s the next step you’re going to take in order to follow through with your goal? Update your CV and go for the job interview? Well, sounds like a plan to me – but you can do a little bit more than that to increase your chances of landing the job of your dreams.

Remember – most likely you’ll be competing with native English speakers (or other fellow foreigners of yours who’ll be speaking very good English) for the position you’re going for, so you may want to make sure you can talk about virtually ANYTHING you may be asked during the job interview.

Having an up-to-date CV and doing some preparation for the interview just won’t cut it, and that’s when preparing to talk about your past, present and future comes into play.

First of All – Take 3 Plain Sheets Of A4 Size Paper!

I DON’T want you to be SUPER-SERIOUS when doing this exercise.

If you go in the very depth of all the things I want you to do when building your Personal Profile (sounds very serious, doesn’t it? But it doesn’t have to be – so lighten up a bit!), you may spend days on writing it, and it will actually defeat the very purpose of it:

  • To enable you to discuss your entire LIFE with your future employer;
  • To be prepared for ANY unexpected questions that might get thrown at you.

You see – if you spend too much time on writing your personal profile you’re bound to choose very smart language you wouldn’t even use in your spoken English, and that would only mean one thing – you wouldn’t be able to discuss your life FREELY with the person interviewing you!

So, when you proceed to the next step please adhere to the next 3 principles:

  • Write the FIRST thing that comes in your mind; don’t spend much time thinking about the BEST way of putting this or that particular thing into words;
  • Don’t mind any mistakes you might make – you’ll correct them later on;
  • Write the same way you’d SPEAK – don’t try to use some fancy language!

Step #1: Write All Things You’ve Done In Your Past on the First Sheet

Take the first sheet of A4 size paper and write “Things I’ve Done” on top.

Now, your task is to put your:

  • Educational
  • Professional
  • Personal

history on the paper in a very simple and conversationally friendly way.

Please remember – you don’t have to go by some set rules. You can write short, simple sentences about pretty much everything you’ve done in your life in educational, professional and personal terms because there’s a chance your interviewer might ask some question related to, say, your family and you may be taken aback by the question just because you thought it’s not relevant to your job interview!

So basically every job you’ve done, every educational facility you’ve attended, every class you’ve done, anything of note you’ve done in your personal life – established a family, lost weight, travelled a lot – anything of that deserves to go onto that sheet!

BEAR IN MIND: this sheet is about your PAST. If you’re just starting out in your life and you’ve just graduated, you wouldn’t have probably as much to put down on this sheet as some 30-year old, but don’t worry. It’s not about quantity – it’s about QUALITY!

IMPORTANT! Use the Simple Past tense to write those descriptions because they’ve things you DID in the past at some stage, so this is to make sure you get used to speaking about those things in the correct tense during the job interview!

Are you confused? Where you trying to dedicate a lot of time thinking about which tense – Simple Past or Present Perfect – you should use? Don’t worry, there’s really no need to use the Present Perfect Tense here because in reality pretty much everything about your past is going to be associated with SPECIFIC TIME (date, year, any other period of time) or some OTHER EXPLANATION during your job interview which makes the Present Perfect Tense unnecessary:

  • I attended English classes in 2010.
  • I lost 20 pounds during a year after joining a gym.
  • I graduated my college as the best student and my average score was 9.10
  • I worked as a Data Analyst in a large American corporation but I lost that position because a lot of jobs were outsourced to India.
  • I started learning English at the age of 13 in the secondary school.
  • I created my first website back in 2006 and it became my hobby pretty quickly.

Step #2: Write All Things You’re Currently Doing on the Second Sheet

Take the second sheet of A4 size paper and write “Things I’m Doing Now” on top.

Now, just like in the previous step where you put your:

  • Educational
  • Professional
  • Personal

history on the paper in a very simple and conversationally friendly way, this time around you have to write short and simple sentences about things you’re doing in relation to these life aspects NOW.

Here are a few sentences to get your creative juices flowing:

  • I’m working in a Service Desk in a large multination corporation.
  • I’m attending evening accountancy classes with a prospect of becoming a chartered accountant in a year’s time.
  • I’m training for a triathlon taking place next summer.
  • I’m communicating with a lot of different people on a daily basis because I’m working in the Customer Service department in a large clothing retailer.
  • I’m traveling a lot – I aim to visit 3 new places every year and I always take my friends with me.

As you can see, I’m using the Present Continuous Tense when writing these sentences, and the reason being you can substitute Present Simple for Present Continuous in conversational English so that you don’t have to analyze your speech too much and rack your head trying to decide which tense – Present Continuous or Present Simple – you should be using during the job interview.

Remember – your stress levels are going to hit record-high levels during the interview, so you definitely may want to keep it simple and stick with one English grammar tense only when speaking about the three main aspects of your life:

  • Past
  • Current times
  • Future

So basically you should stick with Simple Past when writing about Past, Present Continuous when writing about things happening now, but speaking of Future – well, that’s when GOING TO + VERB future form comes in really handy!

Step #3: Write All Things You’re Planning to Do on the Third Sheet!

Now, take the third sheet, write “My Plans for the Future” and write down all the things you’re planning to do in the future in terms of your:

  • Professional
  • Educational
  • Personal

life and this time around you should stick with the GOING TO + VERB Future form.

Why?

First of all, you should get rid of the notion that the basic English grammar tense to describe future actions is the WILL + VERB future; more often than not people will use Present Continuous or GOING TO future forms when talking about future (read more about the subject here)

Secondly, most of your future plans worth mentioning during the job interview haven’t been made in a spur of moment – which would demand the WILL + VERB future form – they’re plans you’ve made at some stage in the past, so you really can’t go wrong with using the GOING TO English future form to write sentences on the third sheet:

  • I’m going to raise funds for a children’s charity by participating in a marathon early next year.
  • If everything happens as planned, I’m going to start as a mature student this September.
  • I’m going to start a family in the near future because me and my girlfriend are going to get married next year.
  • I’m going to move to the City center in a few months to be closer to my job and make it more convenient for me to commute.
  • I’m going to apply for a Senior Accountant’s position once I’ve done 3 years’ service as the Assistant Accountant.

Of Course, You Don’t HAVE to Stick Only With the 3 Tenses!

As you go about writing stuff on the 3 sheets describing your past, current and future life, you’re NOT OBLIGED to stick with the 3 English grammar tenses only – Simple Past, Present Continuous and GOING TO + VERB Future.

I’m merely suggesting you use these 3 as the MAIN tenses to describe past, present and future because you’re going to make it an awful lot easier for yourself to speak during the job interview if you cut down the number of tenses you have to use.

You’re perfectly fine to write sentences such as:

  • I’d like to become a web developer after I graduate the college.
  • I want to further my career in logistics and that’s why I’m applying for this position.
  • I’m planning to move up the career ladder in the IT sector because I simply love everything related to technology.

… on the third sheet were you’re writing about your future plans.

And there’s nothing to prevent you from not using the Simple Past tense:

  • I’ve been working in the IT sector for 5 years now.
  • I’ve achieved a high level of troubleshooting skills while working in the Customer Help Center.

… on your first sheet related to your past achievements.

Also, you can go ahead and use Simple Present on the second sheet because after all, it’s the standard tense to be used with routine things you do on a regular basis:

  • I work in a manufacturing plant employing around three hundred people.
  • I liaise with 3 different departments as part of my daily job.
  • I do a lot of data entry on a daily basis so needless to say I’m quite comfortable with processing figures and other kinds of data.

It’s just that IF you’ve always found the various English tenses a bit difficult to comprehend, for starters you should stick with the 3 basic ones and then you’ll build your ability to improvise and use other tenses as we move onto the next stages of your job interview preparation.

Now – Just Do It!

Ok, let’ stop beating around the bush.

Take 3 plain A4 sheets and dedicate each of them to your past, present and future life in terms of your professional, educational and personal achievements (they don’t have to be some crazy achievements, don’t be afraid of sounding average!)

Now, write a good few sentences on the first sheet about your past following this pattern:

I (DID WHAT)… WHEN.

Then write a fair number of things about your current life:

I’M (DOING WHAT)

In the end, fill in the third sheet by following this pattern:

I’M GOING TO (DO WHAT)… WHEN.

Don’t spend a lot of time brainstorming.

As I said – if you make this task into something big, you’ll never get it done! 😉

You’re doing this just to get your creative juices flowing, and just to expand your horizons and make yourself remember what you’ve done, what you’re doing now and what you’re planning to do so that there are no surprises when your interviewer asks you an unexpected question during the job interview!

Thanks for reading!

Best Regards,

Robby

P.S. Would you like to find out why I’m highlighting some of the text in red? Read this article and you’ll learn why it’s so important to learn idiomatic expressions and how it will help you to improve your spoken English!

P.S.S. Are you serious about your job interview preparation? Check out my English Harmony System HERE! – it’s going to help you prepare for the job interview in no time!

 

English Harmony System

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