J.T.: When you’ve been fired, you don’t need to say so on your résumé. Just list your accomplishments and the dates of employment. What’s more important is to be prepared to explain what happened when a recruiter or hiring manager asks, “Why did you leave your last employer?” You’ll need to be honest. Why? Because if they do a reference check and find out you were fired, they won’t hire you.
Dale: Hold on. First, most past employers will only verify dates of employment. The HR folks may or may not respond to that little zinger of a question, “Is Alec eligible for rehire?” So check your old firm’s policy. There’s a difference between being honest, which you must be, and being confessional. Employers don’t care about your problems; don’t give them one.
J.T.: If you are asked about being fired – and I think you will be – you can say something like: “After 15 years of service, I was let go. I can explain what happened if you like. Please know that this is hard for me to talk about, but I’d rather be honest with you so you know that I learned from my mistake. Choose me and you’ll be getting an employee who’s determined to justify your trust and exceed your expectations.”
Dale: Not knowing what your “misconduct” consisted of, there’s no telling what you’re up against. However, I can pass along this story: The son of good friends got hooked on prescription drugs and eventually sold some to an undercover officer. He was immediately drummed out of his profession and sentenced to a year in jail. Within a few months, he was out on work release, and building a new and possibly better career. How? The many people who knew and respected him were glad to be part of his turnaround story. My point: There is kindness and forgiveness waiting out there among your friends and former colleagues, and when you find it, it will drop you to your knees.
Dear J.T. & Dale: I have been a legal assistant for nearly 20 years. I am interested in a new job, but not in the same role. I have many skills that would be beneficial in another field, but I’m stuck as to which fields to pursue. – Katie
J.T.: You are not alone. Lots of folks have wonderful careers, but eventually find that they are itching to do something new. I would suggest seeking some career-exploration resources, like a career coach.
Dale: A perfect place to start is with J.T.’s website, CareerHMO.com, where you can find both free and paid resources from a variety of career coaches.
J.T.: The most important thing you can do to get started is identify which of your skills you most want to leverage in your next career – your “transferable” skills.
Dale: The key phrase is “want to leverage.” You may be great with, say, billing, but detest doing it. So your career progression should let you spend more time doing what energizes you. Follow the energy.
J.T.: The next step is to be able to effectively and easily articulate to others your strengths and the careers that would let you apply them. Some of these people might even be able to refer you to potential employers. (Eighty percent of jobs are filled through referrals.)
Dale: But there’s no need to come up with a statement of your ideal job. With your experience, you can always go back to legal work, so this is a time to experiment. Start by looking at all the jobs that intersect your own, including the work done by all your favorite clients. You have hundreds of useful connections walking through your business life. Show interest and some of them will show it right back.
J.T.: It’s not easy, but just starting the search will give you energy. Follow that energy and see what joys you can find.
Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a professional development specialist and the founder of the consulting firm jtodonnell. Dale Dauten resolves employment and other business disputes as a mediator with AgreementHouse.com. Please visit them at jtanddale.com, where you can send questions via email, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.