Being fired by a previous employer can be a difficult stigma to overcome when you're searching for your next job. Difficult, but not impossible. Re-entering the job market after being fired often depends upon how you project yourself to future employers – it's all in how you spin it.
Start With the Previous Employer
You and your previous employer know you were fired, but future employers need not see your dirty laundry. Before accepting a severance or separation agreement, discuss your options. "Negotiate the way your departure will be described to potential employers in the future," Alison Green writes at U.S. News and World Report. "Simply by asking, you might be able to get your former company to agree to describe your separation in neutral terms, or at least to confirm dates of employment only." The good news is, most employers are wary of giving negative references, even for fired employees, out of fear of possible legal ramifications. So your chances of negotiating a neutral or positive reference may be better than you might think.
Get a Makeover
Getting fired is never a positive experience, but it can give you an opportunity to reinvent yourself. Use your post-firing downtime to update your skills, your resume, even your appearance. Take online or in-person courses that can help you expand your skill set. Spend some quality time with your resume, retooling it to focus on your more recent accomplishments. And yes, take a look at what you're presenting to potential employers. Ask a trusted friend or colleague what changes or updates your appearance or wardrobe needs before you start going for interviews.
Maintain Your Contacts
Being fired doesn't always mean you've burned every bridge at your former place of employment. Don't forget former friendly supervisors or co-workers who might be willing to provide references. Co-workers who have worked with you on successful projects may be better at providing detailed references that address specific achievements, the kinds of references that will sell you to a potential employer, at any rate.
Network Like You're Employed
While you're sending out resumes and searching for jobs, don't forget to network with colleagues as though you're still active in your industry. Attend conferences and professional events as you can, but go a step further by seeking out contacts. Suzanne Lucas, CBS Moneywatch's "Evil HR Lady," recommends reaching out to your colleagues as essential to the job search. "Let them know you are looking for a job. Ask what problems they are currently facing. Ask to come in and present a solution. Scary? You bet. But, remember, these people know what kind of person you are. Their perception hasn't been tainted," Lucas writes.
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