Turning Lemons Into Lemonade: How to Sweeten a Sour Experience in Your Job Search
Looking for a new job without a perfect work history? You’re not alone…Even legendary leaders Lou Holtz, Steve Jobs, and Michael Bloomberg have been fired! And as for the widely-quoted statistic that most Americans can expect to work in at least 11 jobs over the course of a lifetime…it’s also been said that most people can expect to be fired or laid-off once or twice.
As with many things in life, it’s not how you fall down — but how you get back up on your feet that ultimately matters most. We scoured the web for different perspectives on how to get back up if you’ve run into an awkward situation with a former boss or employer. Here are five different strategies on how you can turn your own career lemon into lemonade:
1. Get distance and the perspective of time. Then preserve relationships if you can.
Rough work experience can leave a bitter taste in your mouth. Give yourself time to process it — and when you do speak of it, avoid making a face!
“Don’t do anything rash or bitter. As satisfying as it might be to send former co-workers or client lists an email about everything that’s wrong with that company, don’t do it. You need to protect your reputation now more than ever, and a bitter, hostile exit will make that impossible…
…Think about who you want to keep in touch with from your last job—not just co-workers, but clients and vendors too. Reach out to them. A good way to mitigate awkwardness with former co-workers who might be unsure how to handle your firing: Tell them what you liked about working with them and why they are good at what they do. People will be impressed by your classiness.”
– Alison Green, U.S. News. Ten Things You Should Do Immediately After Getting Fired
2. You should hear (and see) how they’ll talk about you.
“If you have been fired or terminated, check with your former employer and ask what information they will give out when they get a call to verify your work history. If they do give out more information than the basics, what they say may be negotiable and it can’t hurt to ask. When you left under difficult circumstances, you could ask someone you know to call and check your references; that way you’ll know what information is going to come out. Or, you can also use a reference checking service to check on what will be disclosed to future employers.”
– Alison Doyle, What Can Employers Say About Former Employees?
3. Don’t say why you left on your resume.
“The general rule when discussing having lost a job is to be honest but brief. Note that there’s no need to list how you left a job on a resume, but be prepared for the question to occur in an interview. It really helps to have a standard answer available so you can comfortably answer the question, and then move on to other more positive topics.”
Focus on the what instead of the when and where.
Have a long gap between jobs? Create “a resume that highlights qualifications rather than work history.”
– Elisabeth Sanders-Park, author of No One is Unemployable and The Six Reasons You’ll Get the Job.
4. When asked about your career lemon, be brief and objective.
“The economy has pushed many talented professionals into the workforce, so don’t be ashamed to simply explain that you were a part of a downsizing. If you were fired for performance issues, it’s best to merely say you “parted ways” and refocus the discussion on how your skill set matches the current position.”
– Tony Lee, CareerCast, The Ten Toughest Interview Questions and How to Answer Them
5. Hold your head up high.
“People who are laid off and people who get fired should follow the same rules as people who quit. You should just act like you quit. The world does not need to hear what the terms of departure are. People just want to know what you are doing with your life and how you fit in with them.”
– Penelope Trunk, The Best Way to Deal with Getting Fired
Do you have other suggestions and strategies for avoiding negative pitfalls with past employers?