I have worked in the financial services industry for 10 years. The first seven were with a major bank and for the past three I have been self-employed.
In the last few months of my employment, my boss and I disagreed on a number of issues. I was offered a different position at the bank, but she declined to approve me for the new post. Her advice was that I should leave the company voluntarily, or I would be terminated. I did not quit and she lived up to her word. I was offered a severance package, which I used to start my own business.
My fiancée and I are now looking to change cities, which means I would have to wrap up my business and more than likely go back to work at a bank. While I have been self-employed, I have been recruited heavily to return to the banking industry. Unfortunately, employers tend to shy away from hiring me based on my record of employment. Will I always be haunted for being terminated without cause?
First, congratulations for taking a dark situation – being dismissed from your job – and turning it into a bright outcome – using the severance to start your own company. It takes courage and skill to succeed in your own business and your three years of success speaks to your abilities. So I wonder why moving your business to a new city wouldn’t be an option? There would obviously be challenges, such as building contacts and marketing yourself, but your knowledge and expertise could be needed in another city. This may be a viable alternative, so keep this an option while assessing your opportunities.
Now to deal with your question: Your record of employment is a permanent document in your career file. Your résumé will show your seven years of experience at the bank, and recruiters and future employers may ask about your termination. The way you handle these questions will have a strong influence on the person interviewing you. According to a BlessingWhite Inc. study, the top reason employees give for leaving an organization is that there are no opportunities to grow or advance. A brief and concise response pointing to a lack of growth opportunities at the bank may be all you need to reply when asked about your termination.
If you move full-steam into the recruiting process, take time to reflect on these points:
Your take on what happened
Assess how you have answered questions about why you left the bank. Could you have been perceived as bitter or spiteful? Could the interviewer have seen you as someone who became hard to manage toward the end of your employment? Or do you come across with a positive, professional and ambitious outlook? Take an honest look at how you are presenting yourself and what you are communicating in the interview process, from the point of view of the potential employer.
Wear the old boss’s shoes
Think about the last few months of employment at the bank from your manager’s position. If you were her, how would the words and actions of your subordinate have made you feel? Would you have felt unsupported, threatened, challenged in any way? There may be some great learning and insight you can gain from this experience that will help you grow, and may also bring some humility into the recruiting conversation: “This is what I’ve learned from that experience and how it can help me to bring more to your business.”
If you decide to look for a new job, spend some time before you start the job search evaluating who you are now. After three years of being an entrepreneur, you may have different needs and goals as an employee. Make a list of your strengths, skills and passions. Look at what is important to you and what brings you fulfilment. Use this information to help you assess your career path before you put yourself out there.
Take this opportunity to make the most out of the change you’re contemplating. Examine what you loved about working at a major bank. What is it about your own business that excites you? Learn as much as you can about the coming trends of the financial service industry. With this information, honestly assess your future career path. Is the financial service industry where you want to be? Are you best suited working for an organization or self-employed? What is important to achieve in your day-to-day work life? Answers to these types of questions may quickly lead you to the right job.
Special to The Globe and Mail
Cindy Gordon is president of Culture Shock Coaching in Toronto.
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