When You Didn’t Leave on the Best of Terms

 In Job Search Strategy

We have all heard the old adage about not burning bridges.  This is especially true when it comes to your career.  However, some people leave their jobs under less than favorable conditions.  In some cases a layoff is really a cover for a firing.  In other situations, the employee is given the choice to quit or be fired.  And sometimes a worker has simply had enough and walks away without a real game plan for finding another job.  Any one of these scenarios can cause a job seeker heartburn because it is almost inevitable that a potential employer will ask why the person left the previous employer.

As a career coach I have counseled people in all of the above mentioned scenarios, and I know that job seekers in this type of predicament worry about being able to find new employment.  They are especially nervous about having to answer questions in the interview about the terms under which they left.  And they are concerned about what their old employer will say about them.

First, realize that most employers will only verify the most basic information about you. They will not give a reference. They will simply confirm your dates of employment and your job title.

As far as references are concerned, identify someone that you worked with at the organization who was a colleague or even a second or third level boss who you had a good relationship with that you can use as a reference. In many cases bosses at any level will not serve as references for candidates while they are still with the organization, but if you know someone who has moved on to another job or who has retired who can serve in this capacity for you, this will be a good choice.

Be prepared to give an answer in the interview about why you left your previous position. Interviewers are trained to look for red flags in the interview, and if you give an answer that leaves questions in the interviewer’s mind, you will certainly raise that red flag. In order to give an appropriate answer about why you left, you will need to move past any negative feelings that you might have about the situation. Otherwise, that negativity can bleed over into the interview and cost you the job.

If you work in a field where everyone knows everyone, and you know that there are certain people at your old job who will likely be asked about your performance, try to make amends with them. Take them out to lunch or dinner and show that you are willing to let bygones be bygones. You cannot afford to get blacklisted because employees from your previous employer are badmouthing you, even if it is unofficially.

Even though it is always best to leave a job on good terms, that does not always happen.  But that doesn’t mean that the situation isn’t salvageable.  By taking the appropriate steps you can start over again.

Cheryl Palmer is a career expert who has regularly been quoted in The Ladders, the Wall Street Journal, CBS MoneyWatch, and CNN Money.  She is a career coach, resume writer, and LinkedIn expert.  Download 5 Master Strategies to Land a Job Through Social Media at www.calltocareer.com.

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