Don’t let being fired from one job prevent you from getting another.

Being ‘fired’, ‘laid off’, ‘let go’: Whatever you call it, it never feels good. When you lose your job, you lose your confidence ‒ right when you need it most. When you should be putting your best foot forward, you have question upon question holding you back.

It might seem hard to believe, especially if the experience is still fresh in your mind, but losing your job is not the end of your career. Being adaptable and able to learn from bad experiences is highly sought after. If handled correctly in your job search, even the worst experiences can help highlight your greatest strengths.

Be prepared for the question

You should be prepared for the topic to come up. You might be asked in a job application, or maybe later, during the interview process. At some stage, employers will want to know why you left your previous position. The question isn’t whether or not you will need to discuss your termination, but how to have the discussion when it comes.

Before you start, make peace with the past. Talking about losing your job will bring thoughts and feelings back to the surface, and it’s better to get a handle on those things ahead of time. The last thing you want in an interview is for unresolved emotions to bubble up as a resentful tone, negative comments or defensive body language.

HR managers aren’t looking for the full story of your worst moments. They want to know what strengths, skills and experience you can bring to a position. Don’t just prepare for the worst ‒ prepare for a positive, productive discussion.

Your CV should highlight your strengths

Losing your job may be part of your work history, but it doesn’t define you ‒ so don’t lead with it. In fact, don’t put it on your CV at all. Prospective employers don’t expect to see that information at this stage.

Your CV should tell HR managers when you started a job, when you finished it and what your role involved ‒ what you achieved, what skills you developed and how your experience will contribute to your next position.

Your CV is your opportunity to present the best version of yourself ‒ to show off your skills, talents and experience. Highlight the highs and not the lows.

Focus on the facts in your job application

Not every job application will ask you why you left a previous position, and there’s no need to bring it up until you’re asked. It will be much easier to cover this topic in the back and forth of in-person conversation than in writing. Ideally, you don’t want to talk about it much, if at all, before the interview.

If it does come up, be honest, but don’t overdo it. Giving too much of an explanation may seem like you are making excuses or overcompensating, and you risk raising questions that you won’t be able to answer. There are a number of reasons why someone might be terminated. Employers know this, and they won’t just assume the worst.

Just like your CV, focus on the facts. State when your job ended and why. There may be a certain word or phrase you prefer ‒ ‘terminated’, ‘discharged’ or even just ‘job ended’. An HR manager will expect to discuss this in an interview, so they won’t be looking for a full explanation just yet.

You should know that a former employer cannot provide any reference that is biased or based on subjective opinion, but they can provide the facts. It’s best to accept what happened and be honest about it. If you try to hide the facts, or if you outright lie, you risk the truth coming out and putting any new job at risk ‒ and things will be that much more difficult to explain the next time over.

The interview: Take responsibility and be honest

It bears repeating: Be honest. When it comes to the interview, being dishonest can make you seem either uncomfortable or like you’re trying too hard to be convincing. There are subtle and unconscious cues that you may not realise you’re communicating that can reveal your apprehension. If an interviewer can tell you’re holding back, it might not matter what you’re hiding ‒ the fact that you’ve raised their warning bells can be enough reason for them to pass you over for a more suitable candidate.

Maybe you think you were treated unfairly, but don’t lay the blame ‒ a job application or interview is not the time to go into it. You especially want to avoid giving the impression that you might end up causing issues for a future employer.

Sometimes, of course, no one is to blame. Sometimes a person is not the right fit for a job, and sometimes a job is not the right fit for a person. Employers understand this, and if that is what happened, it is a more-than-suitable explanation.

In the end, bring it back to you: your achievements, your skills, your experience, what you learned and how you grew. An HR manager wants to know about what happened so they can get to know you. Are you the right fit for the role?

If you lose your job, remember: As with many things in life, what matters most isn’t what happens, but how you handle it.

Don’t let one termination hold you back in your career. Get a free critique from TopCV to find out if your CV will help you move forward.

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