Deciding what happens next
- Accept what has happened to you. It is a lot more difficult to move forward unencumbered by the past jetsam if you haven't worked it through. Whether or not you were at fault as the reason for firing, you need to be ready to move on and find a positive way forward. It is also important to have worked out any issues concerning wrongful termination because this can prevent you from moving on.
- Leave shame behind. You shouldn't be ashamed of being laid off from a job in the majority of cases. If an employer should ask, and the reason was as part of "lay-offs", explain that it was a lay-off, as lay-offs are typically financially or strategically motivated, and are less an issue of employee performance.
- Understand why you were fired. If others were also being fired you shouldn't consider it as an attack on you personally but a "lay-off", which is more and more common in today's corporate world.
- Don't take generalized reasons too much to heart. Some companies may direct specific reasons to why they are firing you but that could just be their way of conducting lay-offs.
- Use the lay-off situation to your advantage. If others were laid off, use this as a way of explaining that the company had been laying off employees for sometime and you were let go along with ___ other people that week.
- Consider which industry you want to work in. This is a very important step as you don't necessarily have to stay in the field you've always been in. Do some research into other options and see if you meet the requirements, or whether you can perhaps spend some time studying to bridge your existing knowledge into the new field.
Looking for work is like a job in its own right. You will need to research, prepare your resume (see next step), look for vacancies, talk to people, make decisions about what does and does not lead to profitable results for you. Expect to put in a decent few hours each day on finding a new job.
- Spruce up your resume. It's likely it's not in the best shape that it could be. Given the subjective nature of resumes, it's a good time to think about a small outlay of funds to have a professional fix it for you, to ensure that you are polished as highly as possible and ready to get out there again. Alternately, if you would really prefer to make your own, put in some good effort and time into it, and do some background research to find free resources on making it as effective as possible.
- Network. Talk to the people you know to find out what jobs are available, or whether they have anything available. Don't forget family and friend networks either. And look back at references - some of these people might have something available for you too.
- Do not mention being fired in cover letters or in resumes. These documents should remain upbeat and positive in their presentation.
job application forms. On your application, write "would like to discuss in person", or "job ended", or "terminated", under the reason for leaving.
- Leave out that which can just increase doubt for no good reason. If you were only with a job for a few days/weeks before being fired, there's no reason to even list it on your application/resume. Consider it as a trial period rather than as a real job.
Joyce Lain Kennedy's suggested answers as a way to begin preparing yourself. And be prepared to not labor the point; Kennedy says "Practice in advance what you'll say. Then keep it brief, keep it honest and keep it moving."
- Be honest. When telling interviewers why you were fired, start by telling the truth. Tell people what happened and what you have learned from the experience.
- You can disguise the reason for your termination but don't stoop to lying that it happened. Lying to an employer about your reason for leaving could result in your immediate termination. Most don't specify between firings and layoffs but lay-offs are usually indicative of a business decision.
- Take responsibility for what happened. It is incredibly important that you don't point fingers looking for other people to blame. That will simply suggest to your potential new employer that you don't stand up and take responsibility and that you gossip vindictively.
- Don't speak poorly about your former employer even after you've been fired. This is especially important when speaking to future employers and interviewers. Tell them how loyal you were to the company, how you had hoped to retire from there someday and how unfortunate it was to be downsized.
- Tell them how great everyone was. Even if you were plainly fired, a glowing review of the old company makes you seem less threatening.
- Keep your answer about the firing issue brief. Don't start rambling and tell a long story which could get you into more trouble by making you look defensive.
Making use of references
- Use your references to defend you. If you can find several former colleagues or management-level staff who can give a reference and positively explain your departure, you'll be one step closer in your job search.
- Remember that not all employers have the time or inclination to check references, so bear that in mind. If the job you were fired from is further down on your resume, there's a good chance the employer isn't going to bother checking it, so admitting to being fired from that job isn't always in your best interest.
- Be aware that most reference calls to your former employer will simply state that you worked there from (dates of employment). In a number of jurisdictions, employers can be sued if they divulge specific issues about your employment.
Injecting realism into your new job hunt
Be prepared for losing out on some job opportunities. The reality is that some potential employers will shy away from you when they find out you were fired and the reason behind it. In some cases, you might not be able to avoid this if the employer doesn't have an open mind or if the reason you were fired was very serious.
- Remember that the severity of the reason you were fired can make things more difficult. It is much easier to explain away a few late or missed days of work than it is to rationalize stealing thousands of dollars of merchandise.
- Remember that layoffs, firings, downsizing and corporate restructuring are more common in today's corporate workplace. Depending on your industry these changes can be quite common and completely overlooked in hiring decisions. Getting fired nowadays doesn't carry the same negative stigma it may have done 20-30 years ago.
- If you can, omit the job from your resume. If you worked there less than three months, it's much easier to claim to be unemployed during that time than to try to explain a firing in a position that was a poor match for you. Naturally, you shouldn't include anything positive from this prior job either. Being fired has a tremendous negative connotation and avoiding it, if at all possible, is best.
- There is one school of thought that suggests it is better not to admit to having been fired. In this case, you would need to resort to saying that you left to do consulting, the company downsized, etc., but avoid using the word "fired". The theory behind this is that it puts you in a very weak light and caters to those who don't like to give second chances by hiring someone who has knowingly been fired. The problem with this approach is proving you have done something else in the interim, so you might want to think this line through carefully. The better view is to put as positive a gloss on the situation as possible.
- Consider the matter of privacy. Looked at from this perspective, it could be thought that it isn't anyone else's business why you left a previous job. Thus, any prospective employer is going to have to evaluate you on your interview skills, your resume and your strong references. Again, the trouble with this view is that most employers do think it is their business, for sound business reasons of wanting to be sure that they're getting someone of good value and who is trustworthy.
- Probably the worst thing you can do is lie during an interview when explaining why you got fired. If you've been fired and are then caught in a lie, that makes you a liar who got fired, so you'll then have two strikes against you. If you get fired again, it's hard to explain that you got fired for lying about how you got fired - how can they trust you?
- Be all the more careful if your town or city is small and has a "village gossip" mentality. Within the same industry, people will tend to know what has happened, so be truthful!
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