The best way to deal with getting fired

Yesterday I was on the phone with Rachel Mendleson, from Canadian Business. She is writing an article about how to quit a job without burning bridges. She wants me to give people advice about not burning bridges.

I tell her I think the topic is stupid. I tell her everyone knows that advice already.

She says, “What about the blog post you wrote 9 Tips for Quitting a Job Gracefully?” Do you think that information is no longer right?”

“Oh. I forgot about that,” I say. “But it's old. It's a boring topic now.”

“What about your number-seven tip: about how you shouldn’t do an exit interview?”

“Yeah. People shouldn't do that. I'm sorry to be difficult. Why don't you just copy and paste what I wrote about exit interviews into your story? I used to do that when I was a columnist at the Boston Globe —just lift stuff and quote people. It's so much faster than real interviews.”

“I don't do that.”

“Oh. Okay. Sorry. Sorry. Okay. I'm going to try to be more helpful. Here's a quote for you: Quitting a job is a networking event. It's about making sure you bring your old co-workers into the fold of your network before you leave.”

“What are tips for doing that?”

“How did you come up with this story anyway? Is it your boss's idea? Tell him it's an outdated idea. You should just write an article about how to network. It's a more interesting topic. Everyone knows not to burn bridges but they don't know what else to do. Tell your boss that the story should have a more positive bent anyway. ”

Silence.

“You're not going to tell your boss that, are you?”

“No.”

“Okay. I'm sorry to be so difficult.”

[Note: It's true, that I am sorry. But also, did you see this post from Fred Wilson at Union Square Ventures about how being difficult is good? He says venture capitalist love investing in brilliant entrepreneurs who are difficult to get along with. No fewer than ten people forwarded that blog post to me, probably because I'm difficult to get along with, but hopefully also because I'm brilliant. While I was feeling unable to be accommodating during this interview I kept telling myself it's okay because people fund my companies.]

Rachel says, “One thing I was thinking about is if the same rules apply to people who have been laid off.”

“Oh. That's a great topic! I should write about that topic.”

“So what do you think about it?”

“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.”

I can hear, over the phone, that Rachel starts taking notes. I can't remember what I said after that. After the call, I kept thinking that she thought of a great topic. So I'm writing it myself. How to quit a job you’ve already been fired or laid off from. (And, by the way, there is not a difference between getting fired or laid off because in both cases you are not going to talk about how you got dumped. You will reframe the story.)

1. Make a quick and essential mental shift. Tell yourself that you weren't forced out, you left. You must believe this in order to create a cogent, believable story about your life. And, it's true. Because it doesn't matter who decided first that you're a bad fit. Just because you decide second that it's time to move on doesn't mean you didn't decide it. So, you have control of your life. You have vision for your life. And you decided that it's time to move on. The stories you tell yourself about your life are essential to your self-image.

2. Frame the departure as you taking a risk. People respect risk-taking in the name of figuring out how to create a stable life. (Which, actually, is why most people take risks — it has to do with their perception of what their own stability will eventually look like. People don't generally take risks in order to mess up their lives.) So figure out what you want to do next, and then explain to people that your departure is a risk you took to help you get what you want.

3. Leave it off your resume if you can. Any job that sucks, whether you were fired or you quit, is not going to help you on your resume. So if it was for a short amount of time, that won't create a gap that raises eyebrows, just leave it off your resume. When people ask what you were doing during that time period, talk about something you do in life that is rewarding and engaging that you do outside of work. It's perfectly fine to talk about that instead of a job you got fired from. After all, your resume is not your life story. Your resume is a list of your achievements. Keep it that way.

4. Decide to choose gratitude over bitterness. One of the greatest things I ever did was write a thank-you note to a boss who fired me. I managed a quality assurance department comprised of 17 guys and one woman. So I really looked out for the woman. I got fired for favoring her. I probably got fired for other stuff, but the documentation was about favoritism. At first, I was incredulous that this could really happen. But my boss had given me opportunities to learn and grow, so I wrote him a thank you note upon my departure. Being kind to people makes us be kinder to ourselves. So be kind to people when you get fired. It will shock them, in a good way. (Not that I do this every time. When I got fired from Yahoo, instead of a thank-you note, I wrote a blog post.)

5. Ask yourself: What would Oprah do? If you are not sure about how to handle yourself when you get fired or laid off, look at how someone like Oprah who famously quit her job. Make a mental shift to thinking that you quit, and focus on tips for quitting, and then everything starts to become clear — yes, you send an email giving people your new contact info, you talk about how you're really excited to about doing something new. Everyone gets laid off or fired at some point. It's how well you bounce back that defines who you are.

Posted in No image, Quitting
78 comments on “The best way to deal with getting fired
  1. Asma says:

    brilliant post!
    this is very timely since so many people are being laid off or fired

  2. KateNonymous says:

    It occurs to me that this goes way beyond getting fired. Most of this could also apply to breakups of any kind. Almost no one says, “I got dumped.” Instead, you say, “Oh, it was mutual,” or “It wasn’t working out,” or something like that. One of the only exceptions is if the dumping happened in a way that highlights what a jackass the dumper was–like if you get dumped by text message, or a post-it, or on Oprah.

  3. Anna says:

    The link to the Yahoo! firing post is broken…

    • Penelope Trunk says:

      Thanks, Anna. Fixed it. There should be a WordPress plug-in that tells you if you’re about to publish a broken link.

      And, it’s so great that in the paragraph where I say I was fired for quality assurance, I have a quality of assurance problem.

      Penelope

      • Paul says:

        Looks like it’s still broken. Also, there is a WP plugin to check for this: wordpress.org/extend/plugins/broken-link-checker/

        I loved the getting fired from Yahoo article, by the way. I can never decide if I think you’re hyper-collected or not but right now I’m thinking: yes.

      • Alex @ Happiness in this World says:

        Penelope,
        There isn’t a WordPress plug-in that tells you prospectively you’re about to publish a broken link but there is one that continually scans your published posts for them and alerts you when it finds them retrospectively. It’s called Broken Link Checker. Works really well.

      • Becky says:

        I think you are missing the h in http.

      • Mark W. says:

        Penelope, I use an add-on in the Firefox browser named Interclue ( http://tinyurl.com/3klgdf ) to preview web content on a link by hovering over that link. It allows me to see the content of that page and verify that the link is valid without clicking on the link and going to that web page. It has other functionality as well. It’s not as convenient as having a WordPress plugin though. I emailed Interclue support yesterday to verify that it works on a Mac and they confirmed that it does.

  4. Don Becker says:

    Thanks for the advice. Gaps are better than jobs that could be a negative. I admit we wonder about gaps in a resume and may inquire but it is not remotely a deal breaker. We are quite comfortable viewing the experience a prospect wants to trumpet. We also put weight on the face-to-face interview. Best part of post is the idea of writing a nice note to the party that actually laid you off. Bosses are often unhappy about what they feel they need to do when they lay you off and a good note not only helps on a potential rehire, but the boss may be connected and much more likely to maybe even be looking for jobs for you or responding very well about you when and if contacted for a reference. It can work out for everyone. We have had two employees laid off over the past twenty years that not only far exceeded anything their career could ever have been here, but later were in a position to hire us to do work for them which we were pleased to do.

  5. T says:

    Great topic, greater advice. Yet again!

    Networking following something like this is so critical, but also so difficult to do. Your advice is great because of the powerful re-frame. With a bruised ego, it is difficult to reach out to people who possibly didn’t like you (that’s why people get fired, right?). But, is networking about ‘liking.’ I don’t know, but suspect that not entirely.

  6. Jessica says:

    My husband says re-framing a story is just lies. I say (as an ENTJ) that then you control the story and the spin. He says – well, don’t do it home at least. So I try to turn it on and off – but it’s hard when one theory applies brilliantly at work but at home it sucks. I will probably keep doing it my way.

  7. Karla says:

    I think you actually gave this advice in other posts, because I did exactly this when I got laid off. And it was shocking for some, because I always complained, so everyone was impressed that I could let it go and be kind and grateful in my last words.
    And I really felt much better doing so rather than complaining again, as bitterness goes away in a few weeks and you never know who’s help you’ll need in the future…
    For point 5 I would suggest to ask yourself: What would Penelope do?

  8. Jaime says:

    Very funny post. I have never been fired (well, define firing!) but I guess it would be hard for me to consciously believe I quit because I wanted.

    But again, I quit jobs in the past and some of them were as traumatic as being fired. So the question is: is it better to quit or to get fired from a terrible job?

    • Tori says:

      Looks better for resume purposes if you quit. If the company did something legally actionable, it is better if you wait to be fired.

  9. Pascale Soleil says:

    You have a typo: “Tell him it's an outdates idea.”
    And, as the commenter above noted, the Yahoo link is broken.

  10. Sarah says:

    I love you!!! This post is brilliant! Most especially the first point when you said that it doesn’t matter if you decided second, you still decided. And the gratitude aspect is something I really believe in.
    Oh, and the yahoo link is working now.

  11. Editormum says:

    Sorry, PT, but I have to disagree. Sometimes there is a HUGE difference between getting laid off and getting fired. Implications that the larger corporations clearly see.

    A layoff means that they didn’t want to let you go, would have kept you if they could, and would rehire you if circumstances were different.

    Getting fired, however, means that they didn’t want you, were glad to get rid of you, and wouldn’t hire you again if they could possibly avoid it.

    I’ve been let go twice, both times from jobs I loved. And both times, the bosses insisted on calling it a layoff, not a termination or firing.

    I was let go from a fabulous PR/communications slot thanks to a corporate merger. The big new company was based in the DC area, and that’s where their PR/comm team was. I didn’t want to relocate, so they let me go. But THEY called it a layoff because, they said, they didn’t want to give people the impression that I’d done anything wrong. I’d been very helpful and supportive during the merger campaign and the transition, and they didn’t want to cast my leaving as a negative in any way.

    My second layoff was due to my boss’s resignation. I worked for a rabbi. If the rabbi resigns, you don’t keep his secretary. Especially when the replacement rabbi has a secretary of his own. Again, they called it a layoff because it wasn’t my fault I was let go.

    Both times, my getting ousted was just the normal ramifications of business change. But I got very clear communication from the powers-that-be that “firing” and “laying off” are two very different things in the corporate lexicon.

    • Penelope Trunk says:

      I know this is harsh to say, but its true: corporate rock stars don’t get laid off. They get moved or shifted, but they don’t get cut when the company has to do layoffs.

      Penelope

      • Fred says:

        This is not harsh. This is true. But it is important to remember that not everyone is a rock star.

        Rock stars are the top 20% (or some smaller fraction) of a company who get shifted around no matter what the business landscape looks like. Dogs are the bottom 10% who should be fired because they aren’t pulling their weight — and note that they should be fired even when times are good.

        The other 80% of people are in the middle doing whatever jobs they are assigned well-enough (or average).

        You get laid off when the company is doing poorly and you’re in the 80%. You get fired when you’re in the 10%. You keep your job when you’re in the top 20%.

        But anyway, your post meets all your criteria for a good article. And as far as I can tell, total accuracy isn’t one of them. That wouldn’t be very interesting, anyway.

  12. Kelly says:

    I just got fired from my minimum wage job. My manager said it was because I had poor customer service skills. I think the reality was that I knew that it was not being ran well and she wanted me out for that reason. I think she saw me as a threat because I have a college degree and work experience. She was in charge so she could get rid of me for any reason she wanted to.

    She also was a classic case of why it’s a bad idea to promote internally because she was not management material. The group that owned the hotel would have been better off making her the interim general manager while they searched for someone better suited for the job. In general, the group that owns my former workplace doesn’t have the best people in charge. The regional manager was a classic example of someone who is better at getting along with the head boss but who presents a totally different side to her subordinates. This woman directly created a atmosphere where it was okay to have one standard for the peons and another for the management. For example, it was okay for my manager to have multiple personal distractions (kids, dogs) and wear jeans, but those of us actually doing work facing the customers were expected to be 100% professional. It was not a good work environment that created mutual levels of distrust for both parties. It’s only a matter of time before the place gets shut down by either corporate or the state. They had too many complaints about the cleanliness and service. Also, the pool is a health risk. I helped speed that process up by reporting them to the labor department for payroll issues.

    I have an interview at another hotel that appears to be better ran and kept up than my previous employer tomorrow. I have a feeling that my skills and experience will be better appreciated there. I’m leaving it off my resume and any applications.

    • Chris M. says:

      Hmmm… Your example makes me wonder, because I think it’s perfectly normal for a manager who does not deal directly with customer to be able to wear jeans while customer-facing subordinates have to work with more formal attire. Everywhere I worked it was like that.

      • Dana says:

        Hi Chris,

        I agree that in many places that is the norm but truly, managers should set an example. Another thought: What happens when the manager has to handle a big issue with a customer directly? It certainly happens. Should they trot out in their jeggings?

    • Mike says:

      Kelly, you got fired because you are an ass. That comes out loud and clear in your post.

  13. Harriet May says:

    I think this is the kind of advice that you should be aware of way before you get fired. Before you even get the job. You know how people are so concerned nowadays that they style their resume in such a way that it can be carried over to other personal documents, such as thank yous and cover letters, for the sake of personal branding? Perhaps it’s important to act in a way that becomes your style, too. Does that make sense? Always be the person that is the type to write a thank you after getting fired. You should brand your gracefulness, and then you’ll always have a sort of template for acting in different, especially adverse, situations. Maybe that’s a dumb idea. I have had hardly any real-life work experience yet and am making it up as I go along. Which mostly means quoting Penelope Trunk blog posts when in doubt.

  14. amy l The ParmFarm says:

    I love this. I am a reporter and for a time, I was a talkshow host and then I got fired. I had actually expected it because in the media business, sooner or later you get fired, or rejected or whatever. The stories are legendary of media types who have gone on to greatness after getting fired. (PT included…). So, I simply convinced myself that you aren’t really IN the news business until you’ve been fired from at least one job – so I was psyched. And that made it a lot easier to get my next job.

    It’s really all about rejection. Everyone gets it – it’s just what you do with it that will determine your failure or success.

    Amy

  15. Elizabeth Harper says:

    I loved this post especially being privy to the way the idea unfolded. I felt like I was holding my breath trying not to let Rachel know that I was eavesdropping on your conversation and after you finished your call with her, you turned your attention my way and shared the real facts with me. Well done!

  16. Laura says:

    I agree mostly with this post. But for those who are naive about how things work sometimes (and we all are in the beginning, no?), I think it’s really important somehow that we get to hear the details of just how these kinds of things go down so that when it’s happening to us, it doesn’t take us by surprise and we can maybe manage it better.

    I’m kinda surprised with your authenticity push that you would advocate for this although I kinda understand maybe it’s not a lack of authenticity but more a reframing for good health.

  17. Nick Barron says:

    Not bad, though I’m not sure I agree with leaving it off your resume.

    On the note of being fired, I was canned from a job I hated and for which I should never have been hired, and it was an amazing experience.

    I put my thoughts together in a post here, http://theymightier.com/5-ways-being-fired-can-be-the-best-thing-for-you/.

  18. Jessica says:

    As long as you keep deluding yourself that being difficult just means you’re brilliant and intellectual and superior to everyone else, you will always have problems.

    Follow your own advice. Be nice. You seem to go out of your way to make your interaction with absolutely anyone, even the people you love, a nightmare.

  19. Avil Beckford says:

    It’s an interesting take that your resume is a list of life achievements.

    I got fired from a project because I was too “difficult” to work with. I refused to respond to requests on Sundays and statutory holidays and for them that was unacceptable. Three months later I was asked to work on the project again but I declined. I really like the idea that I wasn’t fired, I decided to quit.

    Thanks!

  20. Tzipporah says:

    So how does an introvert do networking? Is that what LinkedIn is for?

    I like your idea of writing thank-you notes and emails because they don’t involve the face-to-face contact that I find so draining, but that I’ve always thought of as the essence of networking.

  21. Irving Podolsky says:

    Well Penelope,

    I understand what you are trying to say about the psychology of piecing an ego together after a firing. But when does re-framing turn into delusion and false rationalizations? Because if one is terminated for legitimate failures, and those deficiencies are not addressed, they may not be corrected. I see this “re-framing” done all the time in my line of work. A person is fired and it’s always someone else’s fault.

    Know what I mean?

    Irv

    PS: I don’t think “else’s” is a word but I couldn’t think of better way to say it.)

  22. Mark W. says:

    Leaving your job on your own terms vs. being fired from it is the black and white. Laid off is somewhere in the gray area. In all three cases, the result is the same. The best way to deal with any of these circumstances is to move on. Easier said than done. I like the re-framing concept as that is what we do.
    I am a big fan of gratitude. It’s good for us and everyone around us. A link to a rather recent Wall Street Journal article about it – http://tinyurl.com/286pbwf .

  23. Ben says:

    Ha, I talked with Rachel for the same article but I wasn’t as obstinate as you :)

    One tip I suggested, and something I did, was to do your own 360 review with your peers and your boss when you leave. Since you’re leaving they’re more likely to be truthful in how they feel and might give you some insight into things you can do better.

    Plus, the ones that give you a good review could be good indicators of who to use as references. Just setup the questions with something like SurveyGizmo or SurveyMonkey and send it out from your work email address to all your co-workers a few days before you leave.

    Of course, if you’re fired then you’ll have to send it from your personal email so it helps to keep a list of your co-workers email addresses at home.

  24. Kelly O says:

    Hate to be the wet blanket here, but leaving off a job because you were fired or laid off (and yes, there IS a huge difference between the two) is not really a positive way to deal with finding another job. As soon as someone starts doing a little research, they will find out about either a gap in your resume of indeterminate length (because sometimes people get fired or laid off after many years at a company, not just months) or find the position you left off. Then you’re in the position of explaining why you left if off, or simply being eliminated from consideration because of an implied falsehood – lies can be both spoken and silent.

    (And seriously, you just admitted to copying and pasting from other sources and turning it into your own article? I’m glad that the person interviewing you decided to actually do her own due diligence and research.)

  25. Mark says:

    Can Penelope, or anyone, extend this advice, for those who didn’t handle it well right away and, and say, went to school for a post-bacc, and then realized it was the wrong direction, and moved to a new city, and has recently got an Asperger diagnosis – how do you handle a long strange period peppered with independent consulting, gaps, and school, basically what Penelope refers to as getting lost, when employers seem to prefer to poach successfully employed people, rather than hire the unemployed? How do you reframe a long strange gap? Or deal with it honestly?

    • Penelope Trunk says:

      You pick and choose what you talk about so you tell a story of how you got to where you are. People just want a cohesive story. They don’t want things to be perfect, they want things to be memorable. So gaps are fine with a good story.

      Here’s an example. From when I was 20 – 25 I had about 15 jobs, including bike messenger, nude model. book store clerk, term paper writer, arbitrage clerk… the list is endless. And I was always on the edge of being homeless.

      Here’s my story. I graduated from college and worked really hard to get on the professional beach volleyball circuit. But when I got there I realized my ability to market my volleyball skills far exceeded my volleyball skills. So I quit volleyball and went into marketing.

      Telling one’s own story is very very hard. Sometimes you need to hire a career coach to get your story together for you. It’s hard to see ourselves from a distance, which is what this sort of storytelling requires.

      Good luck!

      Penelope

  26. downfromtheledge says:

    What if you DO burn your bridges? I need an article on that. What to do when you have no references left.

    Yes, I knew better, but at the time I quit my last “real” job I was suicidal and said a lot of words to people that I thought would be my last.

    How do you rebuild your career when you screwed it all up yourself?

    I hate lying. I suck at it. So it’s hard to explain the gaps and the reasons for leaving….

  27. Cheryl Roshak says:

    Hi Penelope,

    This seems the only way I can reach you. I am a member of Brazen Careerist, which I love, and I signed up for tonight’s Speed Mentoring on Network Roulette, however I can’t get into Brazen Careerist at all, no way, no how. I have even asked for a new password which was sent to me, but even that doesn’t work. This has happened to me several times before.

    Of course I am highly disappointed at the moment as I have been looking forward to this event and cleared my calendar to be here tonight, but for some reason I am locked out due to what? Technical difficulties? Too much traffic? Glitchy programming? Why am I always having trouble logging in from time to time?

    Sorry to interrupt your blog dialogue like this, but I have no other recourse at the moment. You have my email above, please advise me on what’s up and why this keeps happening, and why, at least, tonight? So not happy.

    Cheryl

    • Penelope Trunk says:

      Hi, Cheryl. First, I’m sorry the site didn’t work for you tonight. Second, what we’re doing with Network Roulette is actually pretty tough, technically, so it wouldn’t surprise me if there was a technical glitch.

      Since we’re deep into the comments section and maybe no one is looking, I’m going to tell you that I have no idea how stuff works on Network Roulette. I mean, I’ve tried it out, and it’s fun, but I’m pretty far removed from it. I passed your email onto the developers. In my fantasy life, someone else will contact you directly about this. I hope that happens…

      Penelope

  28. Michael LaRocca says:

    Real entrepreneurs don’t burn their bridges. They sell them. (Wow, I sound like an Internet guru. Are you impressed?)

  29. Dennis says:

    I think an article on “how to quit a job WITH burning bridges” would be more interesting. What is the downside? With company privatecy laws a company can only comment when you were employed and cannot give any details on one’s seperation and if they do the past employee just hit the lottery (from the lawsuit that would follow). The only downside is that one would not be able to work at that company (or for that boss) again and who in their right mind would go back to a company (bad boss) that they decided to quit from. If more folks burned their bridges, improvements at that company might improve at a faster rate, that is the company would immediately realize that they have a problem, otherwise it could take them years to figure it out.

    • Jake says:

      Many times terminations are about bad job fits and not necessarily about horrible managers. At large companies, I have seen people fired from a job that was a bad fit. Then later they are hired into an job that is much better fit for them and they flourish.

      If they had seriously burned their bridges, they would have lost the future opportunity.

    • Kelly says:

      Most organizations that are competently ran would have questions about why there are so many terminations for “not a good fit”. I would think that would raise questions about the judgment and hiring ability of the person who is making these decisions. I also think it would raise questions about that person’s leadership and management skills if there is a high degree of turnover for most of the positions. Is that manager someone not suited for management or are the people they hire really poor choices?

      That was the scenario at my last job. The manager was a woman without a college degree or any prior management experience. She also had a rather unique definition of professionalism i.e. one definition for herself and another one for the people who reported to her. I think she was threatened by people with education and experience who plausibly could replace her if corporate was unhappy with her. One of those people was myself. She also was a micromanager to an extent where she trusted that no one else besides herself was able to make any significant decision and complete inability to delegate to anyone else.

      The place was not well ran before she took over and had some serious financial problems, including payroll issues and not paying local contractors for services rendered. The one day shift I worked most of the calls were from people whom the hotel owed money to. To the best of my knowledge, she had no experience hiring or dealing with business finances. She had no real ideas except to ask corporate which didn’t seem to care.

      I’m glad to be out of there. She was probably one of the more toxic managers I’ve ever had. She created a very negative work environment through her actions and the double standard she and her regional manager promoted.

  30. Derek Rubio says:

    There seem to me to be some good points in this post (eg. importance of gratitude), but as a sassy woman who likes to be honest I think you will agree that some of them boil down, from one point of view, to just BS- I mean, telling yourself, & others, a version of what happened (being laid off, quitting or being fired) that strokes the ego or misleads a potential employer. Come on folks, what intelligent mature person can invest all this energy in ‘reframing’ & ‘spinning’ & look themselves in the mirror every day? Why not get real- which doesn’t mean, incidentally, being candid with everyone to the point of harming reasonable self-interest (think much, say little, write nothing is the thing to aim for). Believe me, folks, it’s possible to thrive as a human being outside the corporate rat race; you just have to make a wise jump out of it & discover that life does go on & you do survive- ‘perfect love casteth out fear’. Fear is the main obstacle; conquer that & you are all set.

  31. KT says:

    This is a really interesting topic. I’m thinking about all the firings and layings-off I’ve witnessed, and how differently individuals handle them.

    I agree with Irving and Derek regarding the value of “re-framing” getting fired. While I think re-framing could be beneficial 3-6 months down the line, it is delusional as an immediate response. One of my peers was deservedly fired. I was taken advantage of and “kept down” by his presence in my workplace. However, I care about him as a person and hope that he learned something from being fired. How else would he ever change? (Though I realize not everyone needs harsh reality checks, I think a lot of people do need consequences in order to examine their actions.) If he doesn’t change, I don’t see him being very happy in any future work situation; at the very least, he will spread misery to others.

    Anyhow, I think you’re advising putting on airs for the veneer of success at the expense of personal development. Who cares if you can sell yourself as a success if you’re a horrible employee and co-worker?

  32. Catherine says:

    I only have two jobs I purposely burned my bridges on in my long career of working for companies that eventually go away. I always handled leavings/layoffs with the utmost dignity, until the one position where the company had my staff serve the board lunch once a month. These were financial people who were trained in a financial job and never told they would be waiters/waitresses once a month. When I gave my resignation the staff begged me to put an end to this awful ritual that they hated, so I held an exit interview and told them how much the staff hated that board lunch. It got rather heated before they got my message. The staff stopped having to serve lunch and I never put them on my resume.

    The second time was working for a company where everyone hated each other, hated change and were just nasty all of the time, so when I left I told them in a letter that it was the most dysfunctional place I had ever laid eyes on. I ran from that building and I don’t put them on my resume either.

    I wish you’d do an article on stupid interview techniques and stupid interview questions that don’t prove anything. The best, most successful companies I have ever had the pleasure to work for had a very casual interview process. The worst ones you had three interviews, a background check and give a blood sample — then you’d get in the place and think “I went through all that to work in this??”

    Ahhh I feel better now. Thank you.

    • downfromtheledge says:

      lol – you’re so right (in that last paragraph)! i don’t know why they put themselves through the time and cost, either, when most of them have made up their minds in the first 5 minutes whether they’re going to hire someone.

  33. chris Keller says:

    Am I a naive dinosaur? I feel the need to be scrupulously honest! Doesn’t anybody say, with utter candor, that they left a job because
    a) of personality conflicts;
    b) personal values/standards didn’t mesh with the employer’s;
    c) I needed more of a challenge;
    d) at this job, there was a culture of _________ which I didn’t want to adopt for myself;
    e) I didn’t feel my efforts were appreciated;
    f) the job description changed over time, and it was not longer the same job I signed up for.

    I recently quit a job–actually “retired” from a job–where I told colleagues that there were just too many things I disagreed with and couldn’t go along with any more. Is that burning bridges?

    I think that part of leaving a job must always be that you have a mental image, picturing yourself doing “x” or “y” or “z,” which is a variation on your last job, or a bold new venture in another direction. And you want to make that picture real . . . so you reach for it, and in so doing, you let go of your old job.

    Penelope uses “letting go” in her post. I think that, too, is a useful AND honest spin. You let go of something that is neither working for you nor the org.

    • downfromtheledge says:

      With the exception of option C, all of those violate the fundamental rule, “never say anything negative about a previous employer.” They send up red flags about YOU by implying:

      a) you can’t get along with people
      b) your standards are too high/you like to question the way things are done
      c) I needed more of a challenge;
      d) you’re ragging on the negative culture of the place
      e) you think you’re all that
      f) you’re not flexible

      But yeah. In a perfect world there would be some honesty, and the entire process wouldn’t be based on bs and who can sell the most manipulative story the best.

      • Beenthere says:

        I agree with Chris Keller-telling the truth is the way to go. However, you can be diplomatic without losing your authenticity.
        For example for d) cultural differences. You could say “they were extremely bureaucratic and took forever to make a decision” OR “my work style and values are more consistent with an entrepreneurial environment”.
        Most HR people and hiring managers have a bs detector, so even if you think you are fooling them, they can read between the lines.

  34. JP says:

    I liked your advice about treating being fired and laid off as a mutual decision.
    I have had to fire only a couple of folks in my career and both times they knew it was coming. I had clearly communicated the issues in prior meetings (even in those meetings my comments on areas they needed to improve was obvious to them). By the time we got around to separating, we really was more of a mutual decision.
    I am not sure the same can be said for layoffs. I have had to do that too and it is much harder. Layoffs are not the employees fault and often they have been working harder to try and correct the economics that might force a layoff. But the situation is often times too out of their hands.
    I had a conversation with an HR friend who would never hire a person who had not had a job in between being laid off and applying for an opening. They believed that folks who are laid off jump to the next job offer without any thought about the job itself. They just want the paycheck and security. Once they get the job, they start looking for their next more permanent job.
    So you advice about reframing why you are no longer employed would also help you land that next job and not seem like your are just desparate for a paycheck.
    I liked how you built this entry. Really good.

  35. Tori says:

    Penelope,

    What action would you suggest for a two year job where the manager was horrid but the clients were great? Use the clients as references, but leave a gap in the resume? How, then to answer the question, “Manager Name and Telephone Number”?

  36. Sonia Jaspal says:

    Penelope,

    Please feel free to delete my comment. I am making a factually correct statement. Most organizations do background verification on hiring employees. The policy is, if discrepancies occur between what is stated in the resume and the background verification report, the new hire can be immediately terminated from his new job, and/or if verification is done before he joins the organization, he/she will not receive the appointment letter.

    As per KPMG report 25% of the resumes now are fraudulent. This comes under resume fraud. Because candidates use these techniques, organizations face a lot of loss. They spend first on hiring the wrong candidate, sometimes spend on training and sometimes on salaries. Depending on the nature of mis-statement made in the resume and the expense incurred by the orgnaization, organizations can very well file a legal case on the canddiate for fradulently misleading them.

    Hence, some practical advice not to take organizations for a ride, and stick to ethics and integrity. It pays in the long run.

    Sonia

  37. James A. Abercromby II says:

    Yeah I got fire last May, I am dealing with it pretty damn good, its a not issue took my time back. Now I am trying to take everything back. Get back on track man.

    http://nomadicamericanlabs.blogspot.com/2011/02/i-am-survivor-of-childhood-sexual-abuse.html

  38. James A. Abercromby II says:

    FIre in May and still out of work now. Dealing with it, its cool got a posi attitude.

    http://nomadicamericanlabs.blogspot.com/2011/02/i-am-survivor-of-childhood-sexual-abuse.html

  39. Olivier says:

    “Just because you decide second that it's time to move on doesn't mean you didn't decide it.” That’s brilliant! Yes, the past is malleable and you can still take ownership after the fact. It’s your challenge to make this believable, to yourself to begin with.

  40. Angela DuBois says:

    Isn’t that true all through life? It’s not how many times we get knocked down. It’s how many times we get back up.

  41. Anna says:

    ‘Strategies for getting fired’ – I never even heard about that topic before, but a great idea… it is a traumatic experience everyone has, few talk about and most don’t know how to handle.

    To treat it as a resignation, use the same strategies as for a resignation… great idea but very hard to do. Write a thank you letter to the boss who sacked you… Yes why not. A way to
    1) forgive so it is easier to get on with life,
    2) Shake and re-programme the boss to focus on your positivity and not your failures… to reduce the risk of creating a negative reference,
    and 3) Re-programming your own mind … and others’… to feel that the exit was voluntary and driven by opportunity, not failure.

    Good.

  42. dee natha says:

    I wish i had followed this advice when i got fired. i need not keep in contact with anyone for weeks.
    I was bitter and resentful at the company boss. So much of this was mindset alteration, it took me weeks to realize how to deal with being fired in a positive way.

  43. cara merapatkan vagina says:

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  44. GoOctopus Job Search says:

    Different people with different thinking, but it’s the same important to be positive when you are laid off.

  45. Liz says:

    Holy crap. This is a fantastic topic. I haven’t been laid off lately (or ever…I’m young), nor have I quit a job lately (or ever…I’m technically still considered an employee in the deli department at Kroger…my union dues are probably astronomically high by now since I haven’t paid them in four years) but I have been rejected after job interviews lately. The advice to make a mental shift and that you decided to leave (or not work there) is phenomenal.

    I see a blog post of my own coming out of this! Thanks!

  46. Wil says:

    Why would anyone want a job (just over broke) anyway and work for some dumb clueless cluck

  47. master says:

    I have never been fired in my 5 years career so far, I quite couple of jobs on my own though. I don’t mention one of those jobs on my resume as it was for very short time period.

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  49. Reba says:

    in the US, i can think of one huge reason quitting isn’t the same getting fired which isn’t the same as being laid off: unemployment insurance. the difference in each of the three has a lot to do with whether you get it or not so –

  50. interview preparation says:

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