Getting fired is similar to being dumped – it’s as surprising as a Christopher Nolan plot twist and as painful as Van Damme landing a Dim Mak to your chest. At least in relationships, you don’t have to explain the reason for your breakup. But career-wise, you must explain your firing to prospective employers… and if you’re married *shudder* to your spouse. Here’s how you can describe the situation on your resume, job interview, and to your spouse:
On Your Resume/Cover Letter
Before explaining your dismissal on your resume, accept that there’s no shame in being fired. It happens to a lot of us, including the guy writing this article (more on that later). Whether you violated policy, cost the company money, disagreed with management one too many times, etc. – you must not appear negative or resentful in your resume/cover letter.
Remember, employers want a motivated and upbeat employee, not one with a Punisher-like vengeance streak. This may come as a surprise, but there’s no need to mention your firing at all in your resume/cover letter. That’s because at the stage in the job hunt, it’s unnecessary until you land a job interview. Instead, focus on improving and updating your resume/cover letter to reflect your accomplishments, qualifications and skills.
If you’re filling out online job applications asking if you were terminated from your last job, don’t lie – be truthful and “explain” the reason(s) why you were fired and any lessons learned as a result. Some companies automatically screen out “fired” applicants, so it doesn’t hurt to contact the company’s HR manager about sending your resume and cover letter directly to him/her.
In A Job Interview
Let me tell you a story. During my first year at university in 2006, I worked as an automotive technician for a major American retail chain. One day, an old lady brought in a Japanese import so battered, if it was a Transformer, it probably would’ve chosen seppuku over driving her another second. While changing this car’s battery, I mistakenly connected the cables to the wrong terminals. Sparks flew, smoke rose, and fuel began leaking – causing the shop to be evacuated until we were sure it wouldn’t catch fire.
I thought I heard the car whispering “thank you” as I unwittingly euthanised the poor vehicle. I got fired for that mistake after a year of stellar service and positive customer feedback. Afterwards, I sent out two job applications, one to another major retail chain, and another to a large pet store chain. On the retail application, I lied about being fired. But on the pet store application, I was truthful.
I eventually landed a job interview with the pet store. During the interview, the topic of my previous job came up, and I immediately told the hiring manager I was released because of the said incident and took accountability for my mistake. A year later, I asked my manager why she hired me, and she said it was because I was truthful about being fired on both the application and the interview.
Be honest to prospective employers about why you were fired, and explain what you learned from the experience (ex. I always came into work late, now I set my alarm, etc.). Additionally, if you were fired because you couldn’t get along with your supervisor, don’t badmouth him/her in an interview – be tactful and say you had a “difference of opinion” instead.
To Your Spouse
If the idea of explaining your recent firing to your spouse is enough to put fear into your heart, you’re not alone. Personally speaking, I’d rather spend a month in Guantanamo Bay than have to tell my girlfriend I got axed. But these feelings highlight a simple truth – no matter how you bring the news across, there will be some anger and disappointment.
Now that you know there’s no easy way to avoid the “pain” of sharing the bad news, here are three ways to break it to your significant other:
- Look, a bird: Of all approaches, this is the most disingenuous because it relies on distraction. When it comes to explaining your firing, you over-complicate the situation by making it about the organisation, the economy, etc. In short, you’re giving your spouse a target bigger than yourself to vent his/her dissatisfaction.
- One door closes, another opens: This approach turns your firing from a negative into a positive. You tell your spouse that now that you’re “free” from your former job, you can now pursue a job/career that you really want. Of course, saying you want to transition from marketing manager to painter might not go over so well, so talk to him/her about your decision.
- The heartfelt approach: Instead of hiding the news or creating a distraction – share your disappointment and embarrassment with your spouse and seek their emotional support and understanding. That way, you get their 100% support… after they let off steam.
Just keep in mind your spouse is only upset because he/she cares about you (unless you’re married to a gold digger). So once you’ve journeyed past the initial bump in the “honey, I got fired” road, make sure you revise and update your resume, begin your search for a better job, and budget appropriately to survive the interim period between jobs.
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