The upside of being fired

How to make getting the boot look good in interviews

It’s hard to put a positive spin on getting fired. Or at least I thought it was hard until I decided to look for information on it. It seems the internet is awash with sites not only saying that getting fired isn’t so bad, but making it sound like it’s quite a positive career decision.

Writing on CNet Asia, Wade Mitchell says there are certain steps to getting yourself sorted.

Firstly, he advises dealing with it - move on quickly from time-wasters like denial, feeling sorry for yourself and apportioning blame, then do some damage control and assess how much you can minimise the impact of getting fired.

“Contact your former supervisor if possible. Explain that there are no hard feelings and tell him you intend to search for another job. Ask what he would say if a prospective employer were to call for a reference.”

You might think it ridiculous to ask for a reference when you’re been fired, but Mitchell says former employers may give you a good reference because they’re nervous about the legalities of doing otherwise. Once you know what the referee will say, you can prepare for tricky questions in job interviews, Mitchell says.

“…you can smoothly address the issue in future interviews as a “teachable moment.” Explain how much you learned and that it will never happen again.”. Of course, if your old boss is going to give a nasty reference at least you’ll be aware that’s going to happen, Mitchell says.

The next step is to work on getting a new job. Mitchell advises that you don’t have to mention being fired in your CV, cover letter or job interview. However, if you’re asked about it then admit it and "don’t play word games and dance around the fact that you were sacked…. Ask for a chance to explain the circumstances.”

Mitchell believes you should try to make it sound like being fired was the right decision by your previous employer, while being as gracious as possible.

“Make sure you explain that being fired is an opportunity to explore jobs that better suit you. Arrive prepared to explain exactly why the job you’re seeking is just such an opportunity.”

Whatever you do says Mitchell, avoid being rude about the former employer (and don’t mention any legal action against them you have underway).

Kris Maher of The Wall Street Journal Online says the job interview is one of the biggest stumbling blocks after being fired.

He writes that most experts advise against using the word "fired" during an interview. Like Mitchell, he advises avoiding negative comments about our past employers and co-workers.

“Instead, talk about ways that you helped your previous employer."

He quotes Kathy Sanborn, a career coach and author of The Seasons of Your Career,who says "There's always something good that you've learned from your past employer and position, even if you hated that job."

Sanborn is also quoted as recommending you ask for a letter from the boss that fired you saying some positive things about your performance.

“Failing that, you can ask a former co-worker to write an impressive letter of recommendation for you.”

That at least shows potential employers that someone at your former workplace thought highly of you.

Harvey Mackay has written a book on people who went on to success after being fired (We Got Fired!). Writing on, he advises figuring out what went wrong. Don’t try to blame others but instead figure out some positive things you can do to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

He also advises practicing how you are going to answer tough questions about what happened, before having to do so a job interview.

As with any job hunt, stay networked, advises Mackay, and try some voluntary work.

“You'd be surprised how much talent is spotted by top execs who observe people taking on challenging community projects.”

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