In his mid fifties, Sam took a job that was a little over his head working for a boss who was a real hard case. The situation got really uncomfortable for everyone involved. Both Sam and his boss lost their tempers a couple of times. Ultimately, Sam was offered the opportunity to leave before being fired.
All of the folks involved were very careful to never describe the job change as ‘being fired’ because that made it possible for Sam to collect unemployment insurance.
When the unemployment insurance ran out, Sam had to start to look for a job. His job search efforts were half hearted while there was a regular check coming in. A badly bruised ego and a tough economy put him in the difficult position of having to explain the firing and the employment gap.
When he finally got a hold of me, his panic was palpable.
I listened as he told me about how he’d screwed himself and created an impossible situation. He was certain that there was no way out. It wasn’t entirely my fault, he confided.
I gave him a few pieces of advice that you might consider if you have some ‘resume challenges’:
- It’s Not How It Felt, It’s What It Looks Like
Getting terminated is a difficult thing. But, almost everyone in the economy has been terminated at some point in their career. The economy is a difficult horse to ride. I explained to my friend that while it may have felt like he’d been fired, he’d actually been laid off. Just because it feels like you were fired doesn’t mean that’s what you talk about in an interview.
- Don’t Criticize Former Co-workers and Bosses
No matter how unfair things were when you parted ways, you will never get a job if you tell interviewers that ‘it wasn’t all my fault’. The business world values people who take complete personal responsibility while understanding that there are always two sides to a story
- If You Have Lemons, Make Lemonade
“Wow, in my last job I made a couple of really difficult mistakes. Here’s what they were and here’s what I learned from them.” Most businesses really value the kind of adaptive people who can profit from their failings. Demonstrate that you know how to do that.
- Never Sit Idle
Always have a project with goals and action items. If, somehow, you wind up with 18 months of empty time on your resume, look back at your endeavors and characterize them.
The point of the advice was simple. The act of finding and acquiring a job is a very public activity. Although it is reasonable to feel vulnerable in that process, how you feel is not really the issue. What matters is the way that you can characterize the things that you have been a part of.