One of the biggest mistakes you can make on an interview is to tell prospective employers that you can do anything they need you to do. No matter how able and willing you are, if you make a pledge like that you’re bound to fall short. The employer knows that and won’t hire you. Instead, ask the interviewer to describe the greatest challenges facing the department in which you want to work, then describe what you do best, what you’ve been recognized for, and how that ability has benefited companies you’ve worked for in the past. If their needs and your talents match, you’ve got a good shot at the right job.
One of the biggest mistakes that parents can make with their job- seeking children is to tell them that they can do anything they set their minds to do. That’s an overblown estimation that won’t serve them well. If these young adults are willing to listen, they can benefit from the practical advice their parents can give. Parents: describe what you’ve seem them do best; describe times they’ve approached challenging situations in productive and effective ways. Describe which attributes are marketable and important to employers, and which behaviors are turn-offs, and why. Over-the-top compliments may feel good to the giver but don’t do much for a receiver who needs something instructive and tangible to hold onto.
One of the biggest mistakes employers make when interviewing prospective employees is to sugar-coat the challenging situations their would-be employees are going to encounter. Applicants need to know what they’re going to face so they can make informed decisions about their employment. Therefore, tell job seekers the truth. Describe the situation objectively. Ask applicants how they would solve the problem. Ask for examples of their having been involved in similar situations, the actions they took, and the outcomes that followed.
One of the biggest mistakes job seekers make when writing resumes is to over-inflate them… stuffing them with everything imaginable, hoping that someone needs something they’ve done. The result: the resume reader doesn’t know what the applicant can do best and wants most to do. Rather than attempt to be all things to all people, job seekers should stick to one theme and one pursuit. Design a resume that builds a case based upon proven experience and success.
(Tip: Keep your references in the loop, letting them know which jobs you’re targeting. Be sure they know you well enough to provide workplace examples of you at your best. If they can’t, you need different references.)
One of the biggest mistakes a job hunter can make when networking is to ask contacts for a job or to suggest that it’s their job to find you a job. Nothing stops a network faster than intimating “what have you done for me lately?” Instead, state what you’re looking for and request brainstorming time for ideas and recommendations of the right people to talk to and places to look.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make when negotiating is to say more, when less will do. For example, you’ve been made an offer that’s lower than you can afford to accept. Say something like, “Mr. Jones, I appreciate your offer. I want to work for you and your company. I can do the job and can contribute to your bottom line. I am concerned with the salary offer. It’s less than I would have expected given my experience and the span of responsibilities the position requires.” Then…be quiet. You’ve put the ball in Mr. Jones’ court. Let’s see what he does with it.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make when leaving a job is to badmouth the company, your boss, or your co-workers. Like it or them or not, they will always be part of your professional history and fair game for reference checkers. So, even if the experience has been a bad one and you’re glad that it’s behind you, swallow hard, thank them for the opportunity, wish them well, and move on. Trash them when you leave and sooner or later, you’ll be the one to pay the price.
He said that he was impatient, hard driving, focused, bottom-line. That he had trouble with people who wanted to think aloud, taking everyone’s time, noodling about what ought to have been immediately clear to everyone present. That his idea was good, it was the right thing to do and the right time to do it. So, he did what any clear thinking person would have done, he blew up. Well, not totally. But he did say in very emphatic terms that he wouldn’t sit through these interminable meetings and have his time wasted by individuals who didn’t know enough to speak intelligently about the subject at hand. With that, he left the room.
He thought the subject was closed. He made his point. What was left to say? Plenty, apparently. He was informed that he was to apologize, immediately, to the management team, or be denied the promotion and salary increase that he had so long worked to attain.
He was willing to meet, he said, to explain his position. “Not good enough”, he was told.
“Why should I apologize?” he screamed into the ear that I was holding at a respectful distance from the telephone receiver. “Why am I the bad guy and these idiots get away with making it so? Why should my career be threatened because they don’t know the truth when it smacks them in the head and kicks them in the behind?”
“Do you want me to respond or do you want to keep venting?” I asked.
“I want to know how to answer them without feeling like I’m giving-in”, he said. “I want to explain myself. I realize I was too emotional. But I won’t apologize for anything else.”
“What’s your “end in mind”? I asked. What do you want to have happen as a result of that conversation?”
Silence. I didn’t hear him breathe.
“Good question”, he said. “and I don’t have an answer.”
I knew then he was ready to listen.
“Being “right” isn’t reason enough to demand that others agree with you. Being “right” isn’t sufficient cause for others to abandon their perspective.”
“OK. Maybe you’re right. What am I supposed to do? I’ve got integrity and I won’t compromise it to pander to people I don’t respect.”
“If you don’t respect the people on your team, why are you working for that company?”
“I misspoke. I do respect them. They’re smart, they’re smooth, and they’re sophisticated. To tell the truth, and I hadn’t thought about this until just now, I don’t think they respect me. That’s why I get angry.”
“Why wouldn’t they respect you?”
“Well, they went to ivy- league schools and have advanced degrees. They know how to dress, and what to say. The pick the right restaurants and choose the right wines. They’ve got class. I don’t. I didn’t get that in my house. Believe me, I wouldn’t trade my parents or my life, because that’s how I’ve gotten as far as I have, but I sure could use a little more polish.”
“What would polish do for you?”
“I’d be more patient, more understanding, I’d listen better because I wouldn’t feel like I always have to prove myself.”
“What do you have to prove?”
“That I have a right to be in the room. I have a right to a seat at the table. And I’ll fight for that right because I’ve earned it and I’m not going back to how I lived or where I lived, ever again.”
“It sounds like fighting for that right will guarantee you a ticket to where you don’t want to go.”
“Looks like it.”
“You’re smart, you’re quick, you connect the dots while others are still arranging them on the paper. You’re creative and passionate. You have everything that you need to succeed but…
“ You have lessons to learn: There are more ways than your way to solve problems, craft visions, and initiate processes. You can be intelligent and have viewpoints that add value and not be demeaning to others. It’s about professional maturity, not social sophistication.”
“It’s about winning as a team and beating the competition instead of beating up the team and losing my chance to play.”
“You’ve got it.”
Job hunters make big mistakes when they negotiate from a win-lose mentality. It’s a buyer’s market. The jobs are few and the applicants many. If you project an attitude of arrogance or indifference, don’t bother to show up. There are plenty of applicants out there who understand how that game is played. Your win-lose gambit will turn into lose-lose outcome.
Applicants make big mistakes when they negotiate from a lose-win mentality. Sure it’s a buyer’s market, but if you appear as though you are willing to compromise your values, and trade your experience and talent for a job that demands only a fraction of your ability, savvy buyers will take a pass. They know that you’ll either leave as soon as a better opportunity comes along, or that you’re not nearly as good as advertised. Bottom line, you’re not worth the investment, no matter how small it is. You’ve managed to turn lose-win into lose-lose.
Well, if lose-win and win-lose both turn into lose-lose what does win-win, in a buyer’s market, look like? Like this:
You understand and can clearly and articulately describe your strengths, skills and abilities. You know which workplace environments and management styles bring out the best in you. You consistently and proactively generate revenue (and/or save your company time and money) through effective and efficient practices. You’re a good hire, you know it, and you want to prove it.
You have carefully, realistically, and objectively evaluated your personal finances, expenses and obligations, and know what dollar offer you can afford to accept. You know where and what you can compromise and what line you will not cross. You believe in yourself. You’re centered, focused, optimistic, and energetic.
Employees make big mistakes when they blame others for errors instead
of accepting responsibility for them. Blunders happen. The most well meaning, talented, and competent (along with the most absent-minded, lazy, and misdirected) slip-up. It’s critical to acknowledge the error as quickly as you recognize it and to report that error to those who are most apt to be impacted by the unchecked consequences of your unintended action. Managers and supervisors agree, “Don’t surprise me. If I know in time I can do something to ward off the ramifications of the mistake. If I don’t know, we’ll all be affected, and it won’t be pretty.”
Interviewers make big mistakes when they overlook red flags that job applicants throw into the final stages of negotiation. A prime example: applicants who delay accepting a bona fide offer, saying they need more time to think. Prospective employers can conclude that applicant are indecisive, which can be a deal breaker, or continuing to look for something better, also a deal breaker. If you’ve been made an offer that is acceptable, based upon the criteria you’ve set for yourself and the employer, accept it. If it isn’t, reject it. Either way, get back to your interviewer in less time than you’ve been allocated to make the decision.
New employees make a big mistake if they act as though they know it all and there’s nothing anyone can teach them. A little humility goes a long way when the terrain is new and the colleagues newer. When you’re new to a company you don’t know what you don’t know. So, asking specific questions about expectations and outcomes and general questions about company culture, protocol, and politics will provide invaluable information about what works, what doesn’t, and why. Watch how people interact, listen to how they communicate, and incorporate that learning into your professional vocabulary and style.
Employees of newly merged companies make big mistakes if they fight the process and attempt to hold on, too fiercely, to the past. Managers on both sides of the merger are watching their employees very closely. They want to hear upbeat, positive, can do language, coupled with heads-down, get it done behavior.
Keep in mind: Employers are looking for decisive people who will fit into their culture, play on their team, work hard, enjoy what they’re doing, and above all, make a difference. If you’re that person you’ll naturally negotiate from strength, not weakness and operate from a win-win perspective, no matter the situation or challenge you face.
According to formal and informal workplace surveys employees are staying where they are, not because of loyalty to their bosses or love of their work. They’re staying because they’re concerned if they initiate a search:
- They’ll be found out and dismissed, before they are able to find work.
- An aggressive and talented field of job seekers can easily replace them.
- There aren’t any jobs out there that are more secure, satisfying, or promising than the ones they currently hold.
What they don’t know is that many companies have cut back as far as they can and want to hold on to the talent that remains; it’s expensive and time consuming to train new people, no matter how attractive they appear on paper; it’s bad for morale when high potential employees leave for something presumed better.
To survive this market, management has had to pare, scrape, and cut wherever possible. They’ve asked employees to do without raises, perks, and promotions. They’ve replaced those who’ve declined the invitation with those willing to pay the price to remain employed. The cost to survive has been great. Employees have felt overworked, underpaid, and unrecognized for compromises they’ve grudgingly made to keep their jobs and their companies afloat.
Once the economy turns, management will struggle to keep the employees they’ve depended upon most. Their best trained and most valued, talented, loyal, steadfast, and true employees are apt to run for the exits, carrying the inventory in their experienced heads. They’ll be looking for companies who will acknowledge their contributions, treat them well and pay them better.
What can management do now to encourage employees to stay with them in good times as well as bad?
Pay attention to what employees want from their work. Good pay used to be enough, but priorities have changed, at least that’s what the Louis Harris Pollsters found when they asked that question of the American worker. Of these options:
- Good chance for promotion,
- Good pay,
- Job security,
- Good working hours, and
- Gives a feeling of real accomplishment
The one response that significantly out-polled the others was: work “that is important and gives you a feeling of real accomplishment”.
In another Harris Poll, “What three factors appear to have a big impact on job satisfaction?” the top polling responses were:
- Having control over one’s work.
- Using talents and skills, and
- Recognition and Appreciation.
In the book “The 100 Best Companies to Work for in America”, authors Levering and Moskowitz describe those businesses that make the grade as magnets for people looking for meaningful work and models for getting it right. They found that top companies had more employee participation in decision- making, greater trust between management and employees, and more equitable wealth distribution through profit sharing. And they had more fun.
Fortune Magazine’s quest for the “100 Best Companies to Work for in America” revealed that top ranking companies value training and education, work life balance, and special relationships with employees.
The Gallup Organization conducted a 21-year research project to distinguish the strongest departments of a company from all the rest. Buckingham and Coffman, in their book First, Break All the Rules, What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently present their findings. Chief among these is that the front line manager, more than pay, benefits, promotions and training, is key to attracting and retaining talented employees. These successful managers use four key strategies in hiring and developing employees.
- They select for talent, not just experience, intelligence or determination.
- They set expectations by defining the right outcomes, not the right steps.
- They motivate by focusing on strengths and not weaknesses, and
- They develop by helping employees find the right fit, not the next rung on the ladder.
If you have management responsibility, take time, now, to evaluate the well being of your employees. Speak openly and honestly about the current state of the business and the vision you have of its future. Talk about the role each employee plays in its sustainability, viability, and profitability. Train, develop, encourage and provide opportunity for each employee to achieve more than is currently within reach and celebrate every time it happens.
If you’re like many hard drivers, you can be more than a little defensive when criticized for something you’ve said or done.
“What do you mean, I’m defensive? I’m just explaining what happened and why I did what I did!”
“That’s what I mean, you’re acting defensive. Just admit that you were rude this morning. I was in the middle of an important presentation and you cut me off.”
“Rude? How was I rude? You were taking forever. I jumped in to keep from falling asleep. Besides, how can an explanation be defensive? You’re the one who’s acting defensive because you just don’t want to hear the truth. You know who’s rude? You’re rude! I don’t know why I’m even wasting my time explaining this to you.”
Joe, you’re boldly going where you ought not to go, attempting to right a perceived wrong by arguing your way out of it. If you continue, you’ll create a bigger problem than the one you started.
“What am I supposed to do? Apologize for something that I didn’t intend, something that others balloon out of proportion?”
It’s your actions that get you in trouble, not your intentions. Actions have consequences. Apologize for the actions that you take that result in the consequences you don’t intend.
“How’s that? I don’t follow you.”
Instead of arguing, defending, or explaining, say something like, “I can understand why you felt that I was rude. I got carried away and interrupted when you were in the middle of making your point. I apologize.”
“That’s true. I did that. I got so excited I didn’t pay attention to what she was saying or what was going on around me. She’s right. I was rude. I didn’t mean to be. I’m feeling kind of embarrassed right now.”
Will you apologize?
“Sure, no problem.”
There are times you’re asked to explain things that you’d rather avoid, like “why were you let go from that job?” Cut to the chase. State what happened and describe what you learned.
“ I learned two important lessons from that experience. The first: have more than one mentor in a company that’s undergoing major change, and the second: get experience in more than one area of specialization. By having more than one mentor I’ll be more aware of the influences that can impact my position. By cross training I’ll have greater flexibility and opportunity to add value, particularly if I can move from an area that’s being consolidated to one that’s expanding.”
There are times you think you’re funny and you’re not.
“Jack, you made a serious mistake when you told that joke in the staff meeting. It was crude and insulting. You know we don’t tolerate that around here.”
“You’ve got to be kidding! Everyone knew I was joking. Everyone was laughing! Besides, I’m not the only one who talks like that and you know it. I’m not taking the fall for this.”
“Stop arguing and just admit you made a mistake.”
“I’m not going to admit anything. You people are too sensitive. You’re always looking for a problem when there isn’t one. So I told a joke. It was funny. Get over it.”
“You people? Where are you going with this, Jack?”
Jack’s taking an error in judgment and escalating it to a problem of potentially damaging proportion.
“OK, so what was I supposed to do? I knew the conversation with my boss was getting out of control but I couldn’t seem to stop myself.”
Own your mistakes, whether they’re tactical or strategic, personal or professional. If you don’t step up, quickly and honestly, others will force you to, and it won’t be pretty.
“OK, I hear you, but what can I say?”
“I apologize and I’ll apologize to the people who were there. We were all laughing and story telling and I didn’t think. I learned a good lesson. A joke isn’t funny if it’s at someone’s expense.”
Your boss is likely to accept your statement and move on, unless you do it again. Trample on people’s rights, show disrespect, act with incivility, and no amount of quick talking apologizing will get you off the hook. Pay now or pay later. You choose.
Cal, the employee, is in the middle of an approach-avoidance mess. He has a job that he needs and doesn’t want. He doesn’t know what he’s doing and he’s lost while he’s doing it. He forces a smile while he’s scared; he wants to leave and has to stay. As confused as he appears, he’s not the least befuddled about this: It may be scary “in here”, but it’s much scarier “out there”. Bottom line, he’d rather hide out than be thrown out.
Cal’s in survival mode. He’s adopted the strategies of chipmunks, chameleons, and porcupines; he fantasizes writing a book for employee imposters called, How to Avoid Work and Stay Employed: Strategies for Scurrying around, Blending in, and if all else fails, Sticking it to your Company. His dream treatise relies upon his favorite tactics: Deny and Avoid. Cal’s D and A theory holds that if you are successful at avoiding and denying you can be successful in buying time. If you can buy enough time, the things you can’t change will change by their own accord allowing you to survive while doing absolutely nothing.
Here are a few of Cal’s Guiding Principles of D&A: Don’t admit when you’re in over your head. If co-workers ask questions that require informed responses, change the subject and make stuff up.
Don’t ask questions. This is important. If you don’t ask questions, A. your boss and co-workers won’t know what you don’t know and B. Your boss and co-workers might think you know more than they know.
Don’t draw attention to yourself. Wear neutral colors and shoes that don’t squeak. Remove jewelry that clangs, bangs, or reflects light. Avoid making sudden moves or emitting sudden noises. With practice you can stay in plain sight and disappear from view.
If the above fails…
Stay out of sight. If your boss doesn’t see you or your shadow, he/she won’t know where you are. If you are unexpectedly in your boss’s line of sight, move as quickly as you can to the nearest available exit and always know the shortest distance to the closest door.
When in transit, scowl. Scowling is good. If people see you scowl they are likely to leave you alone. If you’re asked why you’re scowling, mumble something unintelligible and keep moving.
Combine 1. scowling 2. asking no questions, 3. hiding in plain sight and 4. heading for exits. Average time purchased: 17 days.
Bob, the Boss, has an approach avoidance conflict of his own going on. He has a job that’s hot and a personal life that’s not. He’s obsessed by work, so he’s there 24/ 6 ¾ . Nothing makes him happier than putting out fires and nothing worries him more than not having any to put out.
The only people skills he has are poor ones, so he shuns the skills and avoids the people. He’s an absentee leader and a runaway manager, despite his responsibility to lead people and obligation to manage process. He doesn’t believe in training employees or developing talent. He delegates without authority or expectation. His greatest fear is that he will be replaced. His remedy is to move quickly, look busy, and be the only one who knows what’s going on.
Bob sends a very clear message to his employees: If you want to succeed, stay out of my way, don’t ask me questions and don’t make me look bad to my boss.
The good news: Cal and Bob are a great match. The bad news: it’s a match that burns at both ends.
Cal’s buying time, waiting for the train to the unemployment station. He’ll find Bob sitting a few cars back. They’re both short timers. Cal knows it. Bob doesn’t. Cal’s afraid to challenge himself, afraid to fail honestly, afraid to question himself and others to understand what he innately does well and should continue to develop.
Bob’s hanging on to a “knowledge is power” past that protected those who knew too much and shared too little. Cal and Bob didn’t invent the game. They’re following a failed model of buy time and blur reality, so stockholders and stakeholders don’t know if they need glasses or the emperor really has no clothes.
Bam. That’s the sound of your confidence hitting bottom. The longer you’re out of work, the bigger the hit your confidence takes. Pretty soon you’ll have trouble remembering what you did well and why anyone was foolish enough to pay you for doing it.
The good news is, you’re not alone. The bad news is, there’s no great comfort in having company. Is there real reason to be concerned? No, you are employable, you do many things well and you’ve always earned your pay. It’s not your objectivity isn’t doing you in; it’s your subjectivity. Anxiety is feeding an invasive fear that inhabits you at the worst possible times: when you’re networking and when you’re interviewing. So, what can you do to keep your self- esteem intact just when it seems to be showing some cracks?
Recognize that you’re spending more time thinking than you are taking action. Get out of your head and out of the house. Get up early, take a brisk walk, exercise, eat a healthy breakfast, and then hit the phones. You’re calling on people you know and you like and want to spend a few focused minutes with, brainstorming for ideas about people to see and places to go for the job that you know you can and want to do.
If you sound whiny, wimpy, or all the worse for wear, your friends and acquaintances are going to keep their distance. Act like you’re in great shape, upbeat and positive about your outlook and your chances, and they’re far more apt to want to jump in and help. What’s that? You think that’s dishonest? You don’t want to pretend? You want them to accept you as you are or you want nothing to do with them? That’s fine. Go back to bed. See if more sleep, more downtime, and more aloneness improve your attitude or your chances.
The rest of you, put on your shoes, and come with me. We’re going to get a job. You’ll need pencil and paper or your laptop because I want you to take notes. First, write down exactly what you want. Don’t think about whether or not you can get it, deserve it, or can afford to wait for it, write it down. Next, salary. you need a minimum of 70K a year? Write it down. You want to work in a company of 10 to 25 employees. OK, make note.
Now, write a description of co-workers you want to work with: Hard working, honest, friendly but focused, with a great “we can do it” attitude? Got it. What kind of business should it be? You want a company that sells consumer products that are immediately usable and affordable. Are you taking notes? What’s your job? You’re the general manager, and you report to? The owner. Keep writing.
How involved do you want the owner to be? Ah, you want the owner to drive strategy and you want to run the business. OK. Now, for the clincher: Why are you the best person for the job? Why is this owner going to hire you and trust you, more than other job applicants, to run the operation? Take a minute to think this through and write down your response.
Ready? Go. You have a proven track record that consistently demonstrates that you’re a leader-manager who’s hard driving and goal focused. You value working with and leading a team of people that want the same thing for themselves, each other, and their customers: to be respected for integrity and consistency while providing a product of quality and affordability.
What’s the best way to find this job? Sure, check the newspapers and monster boards, but if you stop there you’re stopping short. You’ve inventoried your assets and have the tools necessary to network: You know what you need and want, what you can provide your company, and how you add value to the bottom line. That’s your ticket. Use networking to find people who know people who hire people. Tell your story by describing your objectives, again and again. Ask for names of people who can get you closer to your goal, and don’t take your shoes off until you get there.
“Joyce, I read your column regularly. I would like you to touch on the subject of employers who do not inform potential employees of the outcome of interviews. With high unemployment rates, I can understand that they cannot possibly respond to everyone who sends them a resume. However, no employer should ignore someone who has interviewed with them for a position. It’s just plain rude to keep someone’s hopes alive if there is no offer forthcoming.” – A Reader
How hard can it be to say, “We’ll not be hiring you for this job. We’ve found someone that we believe is a closer match to what we need.”?
“Easy for you to say”, says one interviewer. “But it’s not that easy when you have argumentative applicants on the other end of the line. Some of them cry, some yell, some try to convince you to change your mind, some threaten to sue, and some just threaten. People are really stressed right now. Companies are still laying off, the economy’s iffy, and world events are unsettling. I don’t know about you, but I try to avoid needless confrontation with people at times like these. That’s why I’m not apt to call when all I have to share is bad news.”
I can understand wanting to avoid difficult conversations, but is there anything that keeps you from writing a rejection letter?
“I could write the letter”, says another interviewer, “it’s just that I’m real busy and it slips my mind. We’ve laid off a number of people and I’m responsible for doing more work than I have time.”
Is writing that letter a low priority for you?
“You probably don’t want to hear this anymore than I want to say it, but, yes. Writing that letter is a low priority when compared to more pressing issues we have to confront. We interview and we give everyone a fair shake. One person gets hired. And the rest don’t. Mature job seekers understand that.”
“We don’t call the people we don’t hire”, says another interviewer. “We’ve started making that clear in the interview. We do, however, send a standard ”thanks, but no thanks” letter to those who don’t make the grade. We may want to call some of these people at a later date so we don’t shut the door completely.”
A third interviewer described their policy as situational. “I’ll feel an obligation to call an applicant that we decide not to hire, is if that person has been recommended to us by someone on the management team or someone outside the company that we really respect. Other than that, it just makes better sense to not go there. Those calls are very uncomfortable for the caller as well as the person receiving the call. We do however, send a letter to each person who has interviewed with us, thanking them for their time and interest and letting them know that we will keep their application in our files should we have a need and a better match down the road.”
Here’s a related concern from another reader:
“I had what I thought was an excellent interview. The interviewer was very encouraging and said that I would hear back from them within a week. That was a month ago. I assume they’re not considering me, but I am aggravated that I was told I’d receive a call and it never happened. I’ve been out of work for close to a year. We live on hope at our house, and this doesn’t help.”
I contacted several local employers about this matter and the following comments are a composite summary of what they said:
“Interviewers usually act in good faith when they say they’ll call back within a specific time frame. What they cannot control, however, are the business emergencies that keep those meetings from taking place. We understand how stressful a time this is for job seekers, particularly those who are currently unemployed. The best advice we can give is to those applicants is to find healthy outlets for those frustrations. Taking them out on prospective employers only diminishes the possibility of interviews turning into a jobs.”
Outplacement. Downsizing. Rightsizing. Realignment. Reorganizing.
Call it what you want, it means the same thing to the person being affected: No work, no income.
It’s not what the company wanted. Management wanted great products, productivity, and profitability. It’s not what the employees wanted. They wanted certainty, security, a financial stake in the future.
No work. No income.
She and He have lost their jobs and are at a loss to know how to reconcile their high rise past with the low rent present they just got and didn’t want.
She: “I don’t know why it happened to me. It’s not that I think that I deserved to be spared, but… well, I do think so. I’ve worked hard, harder than others. I came earlier, I stayed later. I did more when others did less. And I did it because I wanted to. So why did I get pink slipped when the person in the next cube didn’t? Why did my friend in production get the ax and her friend, three feet away, didn’t? My friend is the sole support of her mother and her two teenage children. Her friend lives alone with a cat.”
He: “It happens. We’ve been through tough times before and we’ve made it, we’ll make it through this one, too. I’m not worried about it. I’m angry about it. Our owners saw this coming. They could have made adjustments earlier. They didn’t. They turned a blind eye to the trouble and a deaf ear to those of us who warned of the dangers to come. I was one who begged them not to expand, not to take on more debt than they could manage. They must have thought the money would keep rolling in and they wouldn’t have to be accountable. Well, they’re accountable, all right. Accountable to those of us who were with them in the beginning when they failed us in the end.”
She: “You got to hand it to ‘em. They didn’t discriminate in this layoff. Young and old got laid off. People of all color and description were terminated. The ones with money and the ones without, were all handed their hats.”
They: “Enough. Enough. How did we fail you? What obligation did we have to keep you employed when the money was gone? We made you an offer and you accepted. In exchange for your doing your job, we said that we’d pay you. And every time we paid, we kept our side of the bargain. You’re disappointed? Hurt? Angry? So are we. You’re tired, scared, humbled? So are we. You have to start over and so do we. We may have failed ourselves, but we didn’t fail you.
You say that we didn’t listen. We listened to our investors, our bankers, our customers, and yes, we listened to you. We made mistakes. Some by commission. Some by omission. Some through an unfounded belief in our own infallibility. That’s how we learn. It’s how we all learn.
You’re in pain and so are we. We all make choices. We all live with consequences. We have to hope that we make more good ones than bad, but whatever the outcome, as long as we live, we’ll continue to choose.”
She: I saw it coming; I just didn’t want to look. I didn’t want to admit that my days here were numbered. I could have left but I liked my work, my friends, and my routine. I didn’t want it to end and I knew that it would.
He: If I were honest I’d direct my anger and frustration where it belongs; at me. I was fooling myself by thinking that if the higher-ups would listen to me we could avoid disaster. Bottom line, I didn’t want to leave. I didn’t want to give up on my bosses and the one place that I had worked my entire career. I stayed too long and cared too much. I was afraid.
She: I was afraid, too. I was afraid to test myself. I was afraid that I’d fail if I were to go somewhere else.
He: So rather than fail elsewhere, we failed ourselves, here.
She: It’s time to get on with our lives. I’m ready. Are you?
Whether you’ve been fired, laid off, or asked to leave your job without knowing why, you’re left with bigger problems than having nothing to do on Monday.
The following questions address those concerns:
Q: I was fired from my last job. Do I need to indicate that on my resume?
A: A resume is a condensed version of your work history that lists the companies you’ve worked, the positions you’ve held, and the jobs that you’ve done. To highlight your experience, include accomplishments that you’ve made. Do not include the tumbles, bumbles, and fumbles of why they asked you to leave.
Q: Every time an interviewer asks why I’ve left a job, I freeze. I know that I’ve left for the right reasons, but somehow they sound all wrong. Interviewers seem to think that I’ve been terminated, instead of leaving on my own. How can I change their mistaken impression of me?
A: It sounds like your confidence melts when you’re questioned about the wisdom of your choices. Your best defense is a good offense. Introduce the subject yourself and explain, simply and candidly, your decision making process.
Q: I’ve really been struggling to get work. I know why no one is hiring me: I was terminated from my last job. I’m thinking seriously about not telling the truth and just saying that I left on my own. Can I get into serious trouble if I do that?
A: If hired and then found out, you can get fired for misrepresentation. How’s that for trouble? So you might want to rethink that option. While you’re at it, rethink the possibility that getting fired is what’s keeping you from getting a job. It may be something else, like the intense competition from a growing pool of the unemployed; applying for jobs that aren’t a good match; and/or ineffective interviewing. Rather than jumping to an uneasy conclusion (“I was fired”) and applying a dangerous consequence (“I’ll lie about it), work on the three areas you can control. 1. Apply for job opportunities that require your skills and abilities 2. Anticipate the tough questions you’ll be asked and 3. Be ready to respond to them openly, honestly, and with a candid self-awareness that indicates your maturity and firm grasp of reality.
Q: I was fired from my job and wanted to “learn from the experience”. I asked my boss for an explanation, but nothing he said made any sense to me. So, what did I learn? I learned that it makes no difference if you work hard or not, you can’t control the outcome. So, why bother trying? What do you think?
A: I think that you can’t control world conditions, the weather, the economy, and why people behave as they do. You can control your responses and your actions. Employers want employees with good people skills, who are focused, flexible, learn quickly and apply what they learn accurately. If you’re working hard but not making a difference, for yourself, or your company, you need to choose what to do about that. If you don’t, your company will inevitably do it for you.
Q: I’ve been in one field, with one company, for 15 years. Business is flat, I’ve been laid off, and my skills will soon be obsolete. What can I do for a living and how can I make a salary that’s consistent with what I’ve earned in the past?
A: You’ve rolled several challenges (outdated skills; make the same money; do something new) into one big question. I’ve rolled several responses into one big challenge.
- Inventory your assets, strengths, and abilities. They’re all transferable. Find companies that want what you have.
- Companies want employees who learn quickly and can quickly apply what they know. They want workers who are interpersonally savvy, appropriately self aware, flexible, resilient, efficient, and effective.
- You’ll need courage, time and money to learn something new and to connect that learning to what you do best. You can earn your way back to a salary you can afford but you’ll not earn your way back to where you’ve been. The future won’t look like the past. It never has, it never will.