Jobfully Blog

I Wasn’t Laid-off. I Was Fired!

These days, it’s pretty common to lose your job due to a reduction in force (RIF) or lay off. With the struggling economy, such a lay off is usually not problematic on a resume and can be easily explained, especially if you were one of many to lose your job.  But how does a job seeker explain being fired? That’s the question Colin had for Jobfully. As he explains it, he had preformed his job successfully for several years but began to sense increasing dissatisfaction from his manager. At an annual review, his manager let him know he was being terminated. The company was not struggling or cutting positions. They just didn’t want Colin anymore.

Colin was given five steps to launch a successful job search after such an unexpected departure from his previous position:

  1. Work through all the confusion, anger and disappointment a firing can bring. This is true after a layoff as well.  Losing your job is painful, disorienting and stressful for many people. It’s critical to work through all your negative emotions and feelings so they don’t taint your job search by coming out in networking conversations and interviews.
  2. Determine what your previous employer will say about you. If possible, try to shape their explanation of the situation. For example, in Colin’s case, he came to see that the reason his employer became dissatisfied is that they no longer shared a common vision of the company’s future. In a calm, emotion-free dialog, he and his former employer agreed to describe the situation as a disagreement over vision, rather than a firing. Try to find common and neutral words that you and your former employer can both use. They don’t want you bad-mouthing them and you don’t want them speaking poorly of you.
  3. Get recommendations from others in the company. Although your manager is unlikely to give you a LinkedIn endorsement, a manager in anther department, a peer or  teammate may be happy to speak to your achievements and contributions. This helps paint a positive picture of your time at the company, even if it did not end well.
  4. Practice how you describe the departure when networking and interviewing. Colin was understandably uncomfortable talking about being fired. He practiced positive statements such as “I was ready for something new”, “I wanted to take my skills in a new direction” and “I’m excited about what I have to offer in a variety of environments.”  It’s not enough to just say these words, you have to mean it. If you’re struggling with anger or still feeling bitter, return to step one and work through it.
  5. Prepare to be 100 percent positive in every encounter.  Colin’s inclination was to vent with close network contacts. But job seekers need to view every conversation as one that may lead to job leads and eventual a hire. Snide comments, bitterness and negativity have no place in job search. As they say in sports, “Put on your game face,” and be completely positive at all times.

Ultimately Colin was able to overcome his firing. He learned a valuable lesson about career management and has vowed to be more proactive should he ever sense that his boss has concerns about his performance. He’s been able to present his past as well as his future value in a positive way so that his firing has not been an obstacle in his job search.

3 Comments

  1. Posted September 22, 2011 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    Thank you for posting an article on a truly sticky subject — and handling it with honesty! I really admire how Colin approached his situation. I’m impressed that he was able to work with his previous manager for a mutually-acceptable way to discuss the situation.

  2. Posted September 22, 2011 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    Kate,

    You’re so right – coming to a mutually agreed upon conclusion is the best way to move forward.

    Thanks for your comment.

    -Mei

  3. Posted November 20, 2011 at 3:56 am | Permalink

    Point #5 can’t be over-emphasized. If you’re negative about your previous employer in any way, you need to get over it after some strategic initial venting to one or two people. Otherwise, your negativity will come through to people in your network, potential job referrers and, most importantly, interviewers.

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