Using it to Your Advantage
Being fired isn't all bad, experts say, and it doesn't have to disqualify you from future jobs--so long as you approach the topic with savvy.
Negotiating coach Jim Camp says it's critical to put it on the table immediately, and explain why you were fired and how much you learned from the experience, vowing never to repeat the mistakes that led to your termination. This way, he says, you make the interviewer comfortable, and he or she can decide whether to continue.
I want to be up front and I want to control what I can manage, and that’s myself. I want to be sure I give myself every opportunity for a vision of effectiveness for the interview, every opportunity for the interviewer to perceive me as effective. The effective person always deals with the real problem.
Ignoring, avoiding or glossing over a termination is a big mistake, Camp explains, because it paints you in a negative light. When it comes to your resume, it's not necessary to note a termination there; just describe the length and nature of your work as you would for any other position, Camp says.
If the interviewer is skeptical after you've explained, all isn't lost. Camp suggests a strategy he calls the negative "strip line":
It’s used to deal with a negative mindset. For example, the interviewer says, "Why would we hire you after you were fired?" If I take the positive step and say I’m a very good employee, I’m better than you might realize, I’ve done all these wonderful things and I’m really a good person, then they say, "We just don’t hire fired people." What happens is, in that situation, they end up pushing back harder because you are positive--and they’re going more negative. They’re getting madder at you for pushing back.
The strip line would sound something like this: "At first glance, I probably wouldn’t hire me either. Hiring someone that’s been terminated doesn’t appear on the surface to make much sense. But I’ve learned so much in my experiences and how I handle certain situations; even though I’ve been terminated, I’ve grown a great deal and I think I can be a real asset."
So instead of an argument, I’m working to create vision for the interviewer, I’m effective. I’ve created a vision of a person who’s learning.
Camp's strategy is a smart one. He's vying to put you in a position of power, one where you learn to work ostensibly bad things into good. You can't control what potential employers do or think when they realize you have a termination in your work history. But you can control how you think about it and ultimately, what you do with it.
The Best and Brightest Get Fired, Too
According to the book "We Got Fired! ... And It's the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Us" by Harvey Mackay, a writer, speaker and entrepreneur, a host of rich-and-famous people were fired at some point in their careers. For example:
Katie Couric was "fired" from doing on-air work by CNN after the network's president said he never wanted to see her face on a TV screen again.
Joanne Kathleen Rowling, aka J.K. Rowling, was fired from some secretarial jobs because she was found writing creative stories on her computer. She used her severance to write Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone while her daughter took naps. When she ran out of money, she received a grant to finish the book.
And New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was fired from Salomon Brothers, an investment firm--albeit with a $10 million goodbye-gift.
Bloomberg was thirty-nine at the time. He could have stayed history and pounded the beach of Costa del Sol for the rest of his life. Instead, he made history. He founded Bloomberg L.P. and became a billionaire.