I hope that was what Gordon intended to title this piece and wasn't just a memo to me when I coded this (yes, one of these days we'll have him set up with direct posting)! I almost missed getting this up today … I need to be out the door in 7 hours to get the #22 to get to the Orange Line to catch the first train down to Midway for my out-of-town trip and had almost let getting this posted slip off my mental to-do list … and that would have been bad.
Aside from my getting an actual business trip (going out East to run a “social media / public relations” boot camp for a client's volunteer group) this week, I also had a call from another client who was saying he was going to try to hook me up with an associate of his who also needs some web/social/PR work done. It certainly puts me in a good mood when I get wind of some more paid hours!
Anyway … co-Job Stalker Gordon Dymowski has an interesting piece this week on the subject of being fired. Oddly, I've never been fired, and I've never quit a job … I have, however, worked for a whole string of ventures that eventually went out of business … which is no less pleasant a situation, if a bit more impersonal.
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(First, on a personal note - I’m starting a part time freelancing gig doing short term social media monitoring this week. In addition, I have some other potential freelance clients, meaning that I’m moving slowly, but surely, in the right direction. Hopefully, continued hard work and diligence will pay off, but until then...here’s this week’s post).
Let go. Laid off. Terminated. Fired.
Those are the hardest words to hear as an employee....and even harder to say as a job seeker.
Many of us (myself included) all know the crushing disappointment and hurt that comes with that meeting. The one where our supervisor wants to talk to us privately, closes the door, and tersely announces that the organization no longer requires our services. No matter how it’s handled, it still feels very overwhelming, potentially devastating our confidence and leaving us shaky during the job search.
It’s also, in these current economic times, becoming increasingly more prevalent, with companies feeling a need to cut back. It’s not fair, it’s not cool...but it happens.
And as job seekers, it becomes an additional challenge. It’s something that haunts us as we interview, as we network, as we seek that next great challenge....we’re faced with a single burning question; how do we talk about the fact that we were let go?
In short, we sit, take a look at the situation, and try to frame it in as positive terms as possible.
First, we try to avoid using the word fired - this is a loaded word, charged with negative connotations. If we’ve been fired, even though it may feel emotionally valid to say it, the word tends to be associated with those who did so poorly, there was no other choice. (I will talk about that situation in a little bit). Being “let go” or “laid off”...yes, it stings, but not quite so much. Even if it is framed, for example, in official sounding phrases such as your work product “lacks the depth of insight as your past work” or that you “have contributed, but we are looking to streamline our processes.”
Part of working through this issue as a job seeker means working on reframing it in positive terms, focusing less on blame (this is probably not a good time to criticize your former employer online...but then again, it’s never a good idea to criticize former employers online) and more on what changed. Was it about the company’s performance? Was it about a change in philosophy? Did your employer not play up to your professional strengths? As much as it sounds like the behavior of a junior high school student, making it an issue of “It wasn’t me, it was the situation” is the best approach.
(A note to those of you who were fired - that is, let go because you chose to behave in a nonprofessional or unethical manner: using this approach will be dishonest. Many job applications require you to state honestly the reason your last position ended. This might be a good time to take stock, determine your role in matters, and state when asked, “I learned a lot from my past position, and am dedicated to doing better.” Obviously, I’m not a career coach - I am just a person like many others seeking regular employment - but employers may appreciate a person who has gained a hard-earned lesson over a person who keeps repeating the same pattern every time and expects a different result).
It also helps to write out your explanation, even if it is relatively simple. Doing so not only helps you crystallize your thoughts, it does provide some emotional catharsis. Reflection on this also, ironically, builds confidence - being able to face feelings around being let go actually assists in building up the ability to handle confrontation, candor, and rejection in the job search. Think of this as similar to using the classic Serenity Prayer - a job seeker learns to accept what they cannot change, gain the strength and confidence to change things within their grasp, and slowly, begin to learn what they can and cannot change.
Now comes the difficult part - call trusted friends and colleagues and begin integrating it into practice interviews. (You are doing practice interviews, aren’t you? Or is it just me?) Ask for candid feedback. Once you begin integrating this into your interviews (as well as shaping it based on feedback), it becomes much easier to talk about, and the twinge of angst around job loss lessens somewhat. (It never truly goes away, but it does get better). Yes, it is easy to say without knowing about the various other life stresses a particular job seeker might have, but being able to show confidence, consideration, and determination in a job interview not only builds further character us as job seekers, but also serves to help convince an employer that, yes, perhaps we are the right person for the job.
Times are tough, and much of what I am saying is easier said than done...but it has been said, and many others can tell you that it can be done.
But enough of me....what do you think? Have any stores to share about how you handled being let go or laid off? Please leave a comment - I would appreciate the feedback.. I am also more than willing to connect via Linked In and various other social networks, and links to blogs and other writing can be found at http://www.gordondymowski.com.
As always, thanks for reading!
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