I was fired from a job over four years ago. I was mortified. I have a propensity to assume responsibility when things go wrong, so I declined my union's offer to challenge the termination. However, I have struggled with it, emotionally and job-wise, ever since.
A career counsellor advised me to be honest about being terminated, saying a company that hires me can legally fire me if I am not upfront and they find out later that I "lied" on my application. It's taken four years to even form the words "I was fired." But I followed her advice.
I have obtained work since my termination, and in all three jobs the gap in my employment history was a non-issue.
However, I am currently looking for work, and I am having no success. I continue to come back to the anomaly on my résumé. A psychologist recently advised me to remove that job because it only brought attention to the gap. It was a low-level position, and not in my profession.
In half of my recent interviews, the gap has come up. In this competitive employment market I feel that this blight on my résumé is overshadowing all my good experiences, and my positive references and letters of recommendation.
How do I get employers to stop focusing on what I've done wrong and start focusing on what I've done right? Is it a "lie" to remove that job from my résumé?
THE FIRST ANSWER
Executive coach, Toronto
If you walk into an interview focused on the gap, people will sense it. A voice in your head screaming, "You're doomed. You'll never get a good job again," limits your ability to present your best side.
Your biggest challenge is to change your inner narrative. Identify the thoughts and beliefs about yourself and the termination that you would like to let go of, and write them down. When you're ready, read them out loud and physically let go of what's holding you back by tearing up the paper. This can be incredibly powerful.
In parallel, you get to create a story for yourself and the world that is both truthful and positive.
You have a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate humility and resilience to prospective employers. What did you learn about being dismissed from your job that will serve you well in future roles? How have you been resourceful during this time in order to pay the bills?
You offer solid professional experience, and others can vouch for you. Unfortunately, it's clouded by negative emotions that you must face head on.
Here's a fresh perspective: Interviewers often ask you to "describe a time you failed." It's designed to identify self-awareness, ability to learn from mistakes and uncover how you handle tough circumstances. Practice a succinct answer that conveys these strengths and feels authentic. Consider a question about your employment gap as your time to shine.
THE SECOND ANSWER
President, Spectrum Development, Toronto
Losing your job is never a pleasant experience, and you are not alone when it comes to it haunting you. Many people struggle with self-confidence and self-worth after losing their job, through lay off or being fired. It's time to start looking forward.
Today's job market is extremely competitive, and any "blemish" on your résumé may indeed be all an employer needs to move on to the next candidate. I will never advise you to lie, or omit information, especially if it is relevant to the position you are applying for. While your résumé is not a legal document, omissions, discrepancies, and false information are far more likely to harm your reputation than why you parted ways with your former employer.
The other consideration is the number of jobs you have had over the past few years. Many employers will find the job hopping to be a greater concern than the termination. I strongly recommend that you choose your next role carefully, and commit to a longer term to show this employer – and future employers – that you are a worthy candidate.
Got a burning issue at work? Need help navigating that mine field? Let our Nine To Five experts help solve your dilemma. E-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.