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In an interview, how do I explain being let go?

A businesswoman is fired from her job.

Blaj Gabriel/Getty Images/iStockphoto

The question

I have recently lost my job and would like some advice on how to best frame the situation when asked the reason why. The company let me go one day before my three-month probationary period was up. The situation I found myself in did not resemble the job presented when I interviewed for it. It was a no-win situation. No reason was given for my termination. Your advice would be very helpful.

I have a second question with regards to my search for a new position. I have been in a management role for the last five years. I am worried that if I accept a non-management role with no one reporting to me I will not be able to move back into that type of role. What would you suggest?

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My background is in purchasing and supply chain management. Would it be a waste of time trying to get an operations manager, warehouse manager or project manager position?

The answer

First of all, don't let the dismissal put you in a negative frame of mind. It sounds to me like it was a good thing. The jobs wasn't what it was sold as and, furthermore, not what you wanted to do. There was either a significant communication issue within the organization or a lack of integrity within the management team. Either way, your dismissal was probably more about them than about you, so don't let it affect your confidence or self-esteem.

When you're in your next job interview, share your experience openly and truthfully. Share the facts that you were not informed of any reason for dismissal, that you were let go during the probationary period and you saw a lack of fit within the organization. Don't say anything negative about the company. Just share the story honestly and with a positive attitude. That will show the recruiter that you are the type of person who learns from their experiences, picks themselves up after an unfavourable situation and looks for new opportunities.

When considering a non-management position versus a management position, you should consider a number of factors. It's obvious that securing a job is a high priority, but there may be underlying costs to accepting just any job. Start off by assessing your previous role in management. What type of feedback were you getting about your abilities? What did you love about being in a managerial role? What didn't you enjoy? Understand what your motivations are for seeking a managerial role.

Many people are promoted to a management position because of their abilities and commitment to the organization. It doesn't necessarily mean that they are suited for the role or have the desire to take on these responsibilities. Think about your career goals. Where do you want to be in two years? Five years? Would settling for a non-managerial position hinder your ability to achieve your goals? Sometimes honesty and patience will help you score big for your future. With this information, you'll be better able to assess job opportunities as they come to you.

You may very well come across an opportunity for a non-managerial position with a company that has a reputation for promoting from within. Therefore, in assessing each job opportunity, it will be important for you to assess the culture of the organization as well. Get an understanding from the HR personnel, employees of the organization and members of your network about career growth opportunities within the organization you are interviewing with. It may be the type of company that supports internal growth and prefers people to come in at a lower level so they can groom candidates for their management style.

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Finally, when looking at jobs in slightly different fields than where you are experienced, consider how your skills and strengths can be used in any of these new positions. Supply chain, operations, warehouse and project managers have many underlying similarities in that they all focus on the management of people, processes and systems. Consider how your work experience allowed you to develop strong skills and talents in these areas and how your strengths could be translated for any of these jobs.

Again, I must stress the importance of considering your long-term career plan before finalizing any choices. Would experience in any of these areas support the achievement of your future career goals or would they be limiting? Would they provide you with additional business knowledge or sidetrack you from your area of expertise and passion? Wise and well-thought-out decisions will move you closer to your intended professional and financial success.

Cindy Gordon is president of Culture Shock Coaching .

Do you have a question about careers, labour law or management? Send it in to our panel of experts, which includes career coaches, a recruitment expert and an employment lawyer: . Please be advised that while The Globe and Mail may publish your submission, your name and address will be kept confidential.

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