By Jack Mulcahy, ACRW
Jack Mulcahy Resume Services
Everyone who has been in the workforce long enough has been fired. Some acrimoniously, some relatively peacefully. There seems to be no getting around it: every worker, at some time in his or her life, will probably be fired from a job.
When you’re fired from a job, your first reaction may be panic. What will I do now? Will anybody else hire me? How do I explain to an employer, not to mention to myself, that someone didn’t want me?
Unless you’re a thief or you deliberately start fistfights with your coworkers, you may get fired for the converse of the reason you got hired. The primary reason candidates get hired in the first place has less to do with their skills and much more to do with whether the employer believes they’ll fit in with the company, its culture, and their coworkers. And if you stop fitting in, whether it’s because of a change in management, culture, team, or assignment, chances are your days are numbered.
Of course, a personality clash with the boss is another reason you could be fired, perhaps a more likely one. Before you take the job, you go into the interview, and you and the prospective manager are both on your best behavior. You want the job; s/he wants to hire you. Yet once you’re on the job, you learn that you just don’t like that manager, now that both of you have dropped your masks of good interviewing behavior. Suddenly, your dream job seems more like a nightmare. You’re being asked to do tasks that weren’t in the original job description, things that you either can’t do or don’t do very well. You find out that the last three people in your position quit after an average of four to six weeks.
The next thing you know, you start walking on eggshells, afraid to make the wrong move. And before you know it, you’re called into the manager’s office and told, “Sorry, it just isn’t working out, and you’ll have to go. Pack up your things.”
How do you explain this to a prospective employer? Before you go into the interview, it’s a good idea to purge as much as possible the negative thoughts about that previous employer. After all, the worst thing you can say is, “The last boss was a jerk who never understood me.”
In fact, never make any negative comments about any place you’ve worked, if only for the reason that you never know who might know whom. The best strategy is to be open about being let go and that you simply didn’t fit in with the company, and emphasize that you learned some valuable skills you can use on the new job.
A similar response could be that the decision was mutual; you were in the wrong place at the wrong time in your career, and both you and your manager realized it. No hard feelings. No matter which of these answers you give, your previous employer is unlikely to give any response except to confirm that you worked there from date X to date Y.
But your previous employer won’t be giving you a good reference if you’ve been fired; this is where other references can come in. You may have cultivated relationships with coworker at that company who will vouch for you. Perhaps even a vendor or a customer you’ve dealt with would speak in your favor. This is where you need to search your past extensively to find someone who shares your high opinion of yourself.
Whatever you do, however, don’t let one bad boss ruin your future. There are plenty of them in the business world, and this may not be the first you’ll run across. Put your self-esteem back on as you would a new suit and go out there and knock them dead at your next job!