L.T. asks:

After five years working in the European semiconductor industry, I’m now back in my native country of Indonesia looking for the next step in my career. My last job at a research institute in Ireland ended abruptly: my department was shut down and everyone was out on the street just a few weeks later. Because I wasn’t eligible for unemployment in Ireland and wasn’t able to find a new job there within a month, I bought a ticket to the country where I was born to conduct my job search from there.

I was recently approached for an interesting customer support role at a large chip manufacturer. I was instantly enthusiastic, but after a telephone interview they told me they thought I’d had too many employers in recent years. I think the number is actually quite reasonable.

After earning my bachelor’s degree at a university in Indonesia, I applied to several foreign universities. I also applied for a scholarship, which I didn’t get right away despite my good grades. That’s why I accepted a position at a high tech company. Because my goal is to work in semicon, after my contract as a product engineer ended I went to work for a major chip manufacturer.

After I’d worked there for nine months, I received a surprising letter from Taiwan: I’d received a scholarship after all to earn my master’s degree at a leading university. I hadn’t realized I was on a waiting list, but I didn’t hesitate for a second. After earning my master’s I interned for half a year at IMEC in Leuven, Belgium, where I was able to work on very interesting analog chip technology. Before my internship was even over I received the offer from Ireland to do research there in the same area. I accepted the job, though I would rather have worked in industry. But they told me the experience would enhance my chances of finding that kind of position.

And indeed: eighteen months later I received an offer to work on an interesting project at a large chip manufacturer. It was a one-year provisional contract, true, but if I performed well my contract would certainly be renewed. Unfortunately when the year ended they didn’t have the budget to keep paying me and I returned to the Irish research institute. I’d been working there for just six months when my former manager in the Netherlands called me: he’d gotten extra funding to pay me after all. I politely declined the offer since it was another temporary contract and I didn’t want to end up in the same situation again.

In hindsight, my decision didn’t turn out to be less risky. Did I make the wrong choice?


The headhunter answers:

It’s all too easy in hindsight to say you’ve made the wrong choice. When I analyze your last ten years, I see that you have a lot of ambition and a lot of perseverance. You also have strong technical qualities, the ability to adapt, flexibility and good social and verbal skills, which I’ve experienced first-hand.

Now they’re penalizing you for having switched employers five times in the past ten years, but they’re missing the fact that in that time you also earned your master’s degree in a foreign country and learned the local language. When you subsequently found work in Europe based on temporary contracts, two of your employers asked you to come back. When your job history comes up, mention this last point and indicate that you aspire to a lasting career at one company.

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