“I was recently terminated. It was my first job, and now I am having a difficult time since employers always ask me the reason why I was terminated. How should I answer this question without turning people away from me?”
Being fired is never fun, but it happens. In overcoming termination it’s important to be honest with yourself about what happened, and learn from your mistakes.
When it comes time to start looking for a new job, you have two options: include the job from which you were terminated on your resume, or leave it off.
Include the job on your resume.
There are a few situations where it may be worthwhile to leave this job on your resume: the skills you learned at this job are particularly valuable, you don’t have many other sources of experience, or there would otherwise be a huge gap in your employment history. Remember: whatever you decide to include on your resume, be prepared to explain it.
Include the position just like you would any other job on your resume, and only mention your termination when asked by potential employers. Interviewers will likely inquire why you left your last job, and that is the time to explain yourself. Construct your response around three main points:
1. Be honest – Admit that you were fired, and take your termination seriously. Lying will only cause more problems down the road, and laughing it off shows employers you may not take your responsibilities seriously.
2. Describe what happened – briefly describe the situation around your termination. Focus on your actions: what you did and the consequences. Avoid blaming, name calling, or overly vague language.
3. Demonstrate what you learned – Stay focused on the future, what you learned from the experience, any self-improvement steps you’ve have taken in the mean time, and how you would handle a similar situation should it arise again.
A sample response might go something like “Unfortunately, I was fired from that job. I had a hard time juggling my professional, academic and person lives and didn’t show up for some of my shifts. But I have cut back on the number of classes I’m taking and have found a way to organize my time much more effectively. I’m ready to take my career seriously!”
Take responsibility for your termination in an honest and professional way, and demonstrate that you have grown and learned from the experience. Most employers understand that we all make mistakes, as long as you learned from them.
Leave the job off your resume.
Since you were fired from your first and only job, you may want to put the spotlight on other sources of experience: volunteering, academic, athletic, extra curricular etc… Paid employment is not the only source of valuable skills and experience!
Treat your second job like your first job! Find whatever work you can to rebuild your resume and your credibility. There’s nothing wrong with flipping burgers or waiting tables, and the skills you can learn (team work, time management, organization, multitasking, customer service etc…) are applicable to a wide range of careers!
Prove that you can be a good employee on paper and in person, and employers will be more likely to give you another chance. If you only focus on your past instead of your potential, employers will as well!