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You Were Fired?

Courtesy C. Holsendorff

I once read a book written by a recognized entrepreneur with the expectation of gleaning some business enlightenment. The author (whose name has long ago escaped my memory) introduced his story by recounting how he’d been fired from not one, but two manager-level corporate roles before deciding to start his own business.

I became much less interested in his entrepreneurial prowess and far more fascinated by the fact that he’d rebounded after two back-to-back job firings! This is someone who apparently had a handle on how to answer, “Why did you leave?”

Skepticism aside, it’s not the end of the world that your employer fired you for any one of the top reasons other than internal company restructure. There are many articles written about how famous people rebounded from getting fired early in their un-famous careers. After Steve Jobs’ firing from the company he started, he went on to return to Apple nearly a decade later─bringing with him the innovation of the iPod, iPhone, and iPad!

You were fired from your job. Something to be concerned about as you embark on your job search, yes, but by no means an insurmountable issue. What’s more important and of greater concern is how to explain it.

Much like the guy who sabotages his job search with concerns over his age, it starts with your own thinking. That is, if you think you’re too old to get hired, for example, you’ll telegraph that in your conversations and body language. Similarly, if your job firing is looming large in your psyche, you’ll be hesitant or perhaps defensive (and therefore suspect) in your conversation.

Remember that your job search is about marketing yourself to employers. It stands to reason, then, that as a ‘product’ your message must be consistently positive. Like the other critical conversations throughout your job search, you should rehearse what you’re going to say so that rogue thoughts and words don’t get in the way. Of course, it goes without saying that you need to be consistently honest to everyone you speak to in the interview process. Employers can very easily check employment references.

You’ll recall the three recommendations in the previous article, So, Why Did You Leave? With the added concern of explaining a job firing, those recommendations apply even more so. Let’s reiterate them below.

Explaining Your Job Firing To Employers

  1. Keep it brief. With too many details you may appear defensive and, therefore, suspicious. Your focus is to move on to other topics.
  2. Keep it positive. Don’t use the word ‘fired.’ Use more neutral terms like dismissed or terminated. These terms are far less inflammatory. Speak in terms of the previous job not being a good 'fit,' for example. Perhaps it evolved into something you weren’t originally hired to do? Offer a favorable attribute of the job or the experience/value you gained from it.
  3. Take your story forward. What did you learn from the mistake(s) you made? Explaining the lesson learned shows maturity.

As emphasized in the previous article, don’t leave the interviewer back ‘in the past’ at the point that you were fired from your job. Be certain to end your explanation with your plan for going forward. (After all, your qualifications got you into that interview, right?)

Endeavor to return the interviewer’s focus to the present by reiterating your qualifications and desire for doing the job for which you're interviewing.

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