Words I Wished Someone Told Me When I Got
Posted: May 13, 2009
Fired Laid Off
Last week I had a short email exchange with a former co-worker whom I had just learned recently “resigned” from a former employer. Reading between the lines her version of “resigned” sounded like it might be more synonymous with another person’s “laid off.”
Either way she was out and onto better things, she assured me. The company wasn’t the same place she knew and it was time for a change. The longer and the more descriptive the back-story around her departure became, the less convinced I became of the amicable nature of it, but it got me to thinking about human behavior and the lengths we go to, to explain away our failures.
Don’t get me wrong. Failure might seem like a harsh descriptor in the scenario I’ve just described and while I don’t equate her imminent departure as one, judging by her reaction, she clearly did.
I’ve gotten the royal boot twice in my life and they were both in consecutive jobs. In the first, I was laid off after less than a month. It barely left a scratch on my resume or a dent in my career. In fact so small and insignificant was it, I left it out entirely from my resume rather than paying it any more airtime that it warranted.
The second job, however, made enough of a mark in my career and professional development to rear its head in job interviews. I debated going the “I left the job to pursue other activities” route, but in the end opted for an approach more true to my brand. In short, I ripped that band-aid right off and was upfront about the job – its strengths, the relationships I’d cultivated, the skillsets I’d developed.
As transparent as I was about the jobs strengths, I was also brutally honest about getting laid off. It’s never an easy convo, but after the 1st interview, subsequent ones were easier and I never left feeling shamed or incompetent, especially because I played up the desirable qualities I’d obtained as a result of this job.
It was a natural conversational piece and moreover, I kept it on the positive (employers love this) and started to gain a new appreciation for my former job and the person it allowed me to become. in fact, I felt strangely empowered and the point is, what I ended up projecting more often than not, to potential employers, was “What the heck was that employer thinking letting her go.”
I bring all of this up because listening to my former co-worker made me think of all the wounds a lifetime of professional experience will inevitably leave us. The ball’s in our court, however, with how we handle the situations life throws us. And as anyone who works in Marketing knows, it’s all about the angle.
And the spin. So think carefully about presentation and how you want to be perceived. If you’re lucky you won’t have to fake a thing.