Hi Evil HR Lady,

In May I graduated college and found a full time job with a large firm in town. One month into the job, I came down with mono and an infected liver. On doctor’s orders I was out of work for five weeks and my supervisors and HR at work were all very supportive and even suggested that I apply for short-term disability. Right before my illness, another person was hired in our department who can basically do all of the work that I did but more as he has a higher degree and more experience than me.

Also, the GIS (a computer program) person went part-time and I was given the majority of his work. When I was hired, I made it very clear that my GIS experience was very limited and they said that I would only be assisting this person with 10 hours per week. When I came back from sick leave, I found that I was spending 30 hours per week doing GIS work. I talked to the GIS person to make sure he knew that our supervisors were aware of my limited experience (he was the one who interviewed me on those skills in the first place). He said that they were and that he would talk to one of our supervisors about it. When he did, the supervisor had no idea that they were giving me work that I didn’t know how to do and said she would get it resolved. Two weeks later, I was terminated due to an email I replied to. In this email, the administrative assistant revealed our boss’s expense report information to me. I didn’t get along well with this girl and usually tried to humor her in order for her to leave me alone and since I replied saying how surprised I was at one of the expenses (no foul language, no name calling, no negativity), the termination was justified because HR felt that “the e-mail showed how unhappy” I was at the company.

Up until this point, I had received plenty of “job well done” emails from my superiors and at no point did my supervisors talk to me about email use, my attitude, my interactions or my appearance while this other girl had repeated warnings that she was not doing her job correctly.

As soon as my coworkers found out (from an office-wide email) they all called me up and offered support and good recommendations. Three of them even emailed the office manager saying how pleasant I was to work with and what a good worker I was. Everyone was shocked that I was fired along with the admin girl, including myself.

My question is: What do I put on my resume and applications for new jobs? I know you repeatedly say not to lie on your blog and while I am usually the most truthful person you will find, you have said that you are very uncomfortable hiring someone who was fired with cause. Technically I was fired with cause, but the reason for termination was so ludicrous that one of my former coworkers is more than willing to give me a recommendation and he even suggested that he be my “supervisor reference”. He technically did supervise me on projects and believes that I was not fired justly. He is a senior employee, although much lower on the pole than my real boss.

You are right, I will recommend that you not lie. However, unlike your parents, who didn’t take “but you didn’t ask if I was attending calculus every day, you just asked if I was showing up and I did, twice, last week,” as an appropriate answer, companies don’t require that you voluntarily reveal everything.

Yes, you can leave this job off your resume and explain that shortly after graduating you got mono and were very ill blah, blah, blah. However, you did gain some valuable experience in that job.

I’m not going to second guess why they terminated you. (Although saying that it was because of the e-mail and then saying that the e-mail showed how unhappy you were is a really lame reason. Darn HR types!) Instead, let’s move forward.

Including the job on your resume says you gained experience in your field–and in a related field (which can only help you!)–will probably benefit you on your current job hunt. You don’t have to list a reason for leaving on your resume. In fact, I would think it was strange.

On an application, you may have to list a reason for leaving. Most companies don’t have you fill out an application until you show up for the interview. Which means, you get a chance to verbally explain rather than having to fit why you were terminated in a little box.

The interviewer (either staffing, hiring manager or another interviewer) will say, “Why did you leave your last job after such a short time?”

This is something you need to be prepared to answer. Your answer needs to be truthful, but you can certainly spin it your way. Whatever you do, don’t say, “well, there was this admin that nobody liked and plus they dumped GIS work on me that I wasn’t prepared for and blah, blah, blah.”

Instead try, “I was hired to do X and unfortunately I caught mono and was out for 6 weeks. During that time, someone else took over the majority of my responsibilities, so when I came back I was assigned to GIS work. Unfortunately, that is not my forte, and things didn’t work out very well. I’m eager to start a new job doing X again, although I wouldn’t mind learning more about GIS.”

You can list the project supervisor who volunteered to serve as a reference. List him as a “project supervisor,” though, not just a generic supervisor. And let him know that you’ve listed him as a project supervisor. That way, he won’t attempt to lie for you. Since this is your first job out of college, listing a college professor or previous boss and then two people you worked with at this company should allay fears that you are some sort of slacker.

Mismatches happen. Normal people understand that. Hopefully you’ll be able to land a new job quickly!

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One thought on “Fired, Now What?

  1. Hi HR Lady,

    I just got fired today for stealing. It was for a small amount (not that it being small justifies anything). I got greedy. It was a dumb thing to do, it was a wrong thing to do. I feel badly about it.

    Now I feel like I’ll never be able to find work. It took me a long time to find that job (it was supposed to be a just-for-now job which I was going to quit after I found one I wanted). Will I be able to find one ever again if I am truthful and accountable for what happened? I am having a hard time believing that. Do you have any “success stories” or suggestions? Thanks.

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