By Rochelle Kaplan
Being fired from a job can happen to anyone and can occur for a variety of reasons. Perhaps you had a personality conflict with your immediate supervisor and your supervisor prevailed. Or, the job description was completely different from the one given to you during the interview and it was absolutely the wrong fit.
Or, how about this: You really screwed up and deserved to be fired!
First, don't obsess over it. You are undoubtedly not alone. I was fired from my first job (Sears, retail) when security accused me of using my employee discount on friends. I was mortified when it happened because it was untrue. But, being only 18, I was ill-equipped to convince management and security otherwise!
All I wanted to do at the time was hide under a rock and re-emerge when I was ... 19! Soon enough, however, I learned that being fired was not the end of the world and certainly not a reflection on my overall skills and character. Instead of dwelling on the fact you've been fired, focus on what you plan to do next and how you're going to secure another job.
Instead of dreading the inevitable question of why you left your last place of employment, understand that there are effective ways to address the issue with a prospective employer. Work on how you can turn the negative incident into a positive event, or at least learn how to neutralize it to your benefit. But remember, no matter what you fear may happen when you utter that dreaded "f" word - and chances are your fears will never come true - you must always tell the truth!
Here are 6 suggestions to help you be prepared for handling the question of why you were fired:
1. Don't lie!
Be honest from the get-go. Don't lie or think that telling half-truths will diffuse the situation. Know this: If the prospective employer discovers the truth - and he or she probably will - your chances of landing the job will be slim to none. By telling the truth, you'll display credibility, integrity and principle. You're not the only person to ever be fired and it is likely that the interviewer sitting across the table from you was also fired sometime in his or her career.
2. Don't be defensive!
Swallow your pride! Separate your ego from the incident and be honest with yourself about what transpired leading up to being fired. Be introspective and figure out what really went wrong. Also, don't allow shame to prevent you from seeing it objectively and understanding why your boss fired you. And for heavens' sake, don't blame anyone else for you being fired!
3. Be accountable.
Now is the time to take responsibility for your part in what happened, if you haven't yet done so, no matter how you feel about your former employer. Whatever it takes to achieving peace with yourself, do it: meditation, yoga, therapy, the 12 Steps - whatever works for you. When you're at peace with yourself and know who you are and what you've done, you'll be more convincing in answering that question in an interview, which, in turn, will likely make your interviewer more at ease, too.
4. Construct a clear answer.
Before you go into an interview, create a concise and clear answer as to why you were fired. Verbalize exactly what happened, what you learned from it, what you would do differently now that you have 20:20 hindsight, and how you would avoid certain confrontations in the future. Write it out, edit it and commit it to memory. Did I say memorize it?
5. Brevity is key!
When explaining your situation in an interview, be concise and to the point; don't ramble on and on and let your nerves get the best of you. Most hiring managers don't expect a detailed account of what led up to your firing and truly require only a summary of the incident. Again, no defensive rants about how awful your former boss was!
6. Practice your answer.
Stand in front of a mirror and say it out loud. Practice at home, in your car, at the gym, at the grocery store until you can say it with sincerity and in a calm manner. Ask yourself: Are you still bitter, resentful and angry about being fired? If you are, rid yourself of those emotions (Go back to suggestion No. 2). The hiring manager/interviewer is likely going to be concentrating on how you express yourself more so than on what you're saying. Have you learned from the experience? Is this reflected in your answer and demeanor? Has it changed the way you now conduct yourself at work? Focus on how you deliver your answer and how others will perceive it.
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