I don't want to be perfect, just better...

Monday, May 18, 2009

Washington Post: Job-Hunting After You've Been Fired

Getting fired is no walk in the park, and the circumstances matter greatly. Were you totally faultless as you might like to think? Or were there some situations you could have handled better that would have saved your job?

And how do you cope with this situation, where you've been sent packing, yet the former employer is still, slowly, looking into the circumstances, and you want to actively look for new work?

How do you apply for a position in the same industry, in the same or higher position you previously held if you were wrongfully terminated and everyone is dragging their feet during the investigation? Every application I've completed asked the same question, "Can we contact this employer?"

I am good at what I do and truly enjoy doing it. I was terminated and another employee was put on probation. I still think it was totally unfair, but that is the type of unfair practice conducted by my former manager. What do I do?

Jim Gray, president of his Charleston, S.C., human resources firm, says that unless this worker is under some kind of constraint, such as a lawyer advising him to not talk about the circumstances under which he was fired pending a lawsuit, he could discuss it with a prospective employer. Of course, there are all types of reasons for firings and some workers, depending on what they might have done, might have great difficulty in immediately finding new work.

But Gray said the worker can permit a new company to call his previous one with some assurance that the company is not likely to do much more than acknowledge his dates of employment and the final position he held, rather than rehashing the details of the dismissal, especially if an internal investigation is ongoing.

Even so, Gray suggests, "If there's something to hide, own up to it. You never want your prospective employer to be surprised."

He says the worker can recount what happened, saying, "These are the facts. I don't think the firing was fair, but there are 20 folks who can vouch for me. I want to assure you I was on the correct side of this."

If the worker realizes that he could have done something better in the situation that led to his firing or that he committed a mistake he now regrets, Gray says he might acknowledge it, saying, "In hindsight, I would have handled it differently. I've learned from it. Believe me, that's not going to happen again."

But Gray says the key, given the possibly questionable terms of the worker's dismissal from the previous job, is to have former colleagues who can attest to his work abilities.

Kenneth Bredemeier has six years of experience writing about the workplace. On the Job, a column addressing real worker questions about office relationships, corporate policies and workplace law, is written exclusively for washingtonpost.com.

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