I am sure you have heard it too, the at length explanations others give as to why they are looking for another job. Sometimes I forget to mention at the beginning of our meeting in Connecticut that I really don’t need to know and you don’t really need to tell anyone. No explanation is actually required even when you go on a job interview.
What you need to do is separate yourself from the situation a little bit and develop a short factual explanation that will address the issue.
The reason it has to be short is that the more you talk about it, the more important it must be to who you are and whether I should hire or network with you. But let’s face it, if you really were fired for cause, you probably won’t tell me. That’s why I really don’t need to hear an explanation. As I always say, unless you were arrested AND convicted, I don’t need to know. And if you were, you probably won’t tell me.
If you were dismissed from your job, chances are you are, to a degree, hanging onto the explanation you were given. Trust me, it is irrelevant. What exactly can they tell you in an exit interview that will be helpful to you for your future behavior for which they can’t be sued? As Dilbert once said after his boss removed all the controversial information from his report, all that was left were the periods and commas.
Be objective and come up with a short, factual and accurate explanation. Try it out on a few friends and see if it squares with the long explanation. Now, here is the hard part – unless asked a specific additional question, don’t say any more about it, especially in an interview. Your time is limited and you need to communicate all that you are capable of doing for your new company.
By the way, the reason your story has to be factual is that us financial folks are so honest, we are just plain lousy at lying. We also have a tendency to blame ourselves for everything that goes wrong at the company. There is always something more we could have done.
Friends, it really isn’t true. Just as it takes a village to raise a child, you weren’t the only one there and everything isn’t your fault. Chances are you gave lots of good advice that wasn’t followed. (My other favorite political quote is “the moral equivalent of war,” but I couldn’t squeeze that into tonight’s editorial.)
The other thing to keep in mind is that not being at the company is probably a good thing if you haven’t been happy for a while. We feel the need to always be productive, and even if unhappy we tend to bury ourselves in the details. It is just plain impossible to focus on a job search and present a positive image if we aren’t happy. As noted above, we just aren’t good at lying.
Freed from the burden of that, you will do a much better job of presenting your credentials to your next lucky employer. (Just don’t mention your years at Sing Sing!)