Let’s say you were – like all of us – young and foolish. Let’s also say that you were so foolish that you trashed your career in some way:
- You told your boss you were sick so that you could take the day off to see a ball game, but who should you see at the game but your boss (who took real PTO) and she fires you on the spot.
- Or you weren’t “foolish” per se: bad things do happen to good people: you went through a nasty divorce and couldn’t function well at work and got fired, for example.
- Or you took a youthful chance and cashed in all your retirement savings at age 29 to start the company you told yourself you always would before you were 30….and it failed, leaving you with pretty much nothing and a big gap in your work history.
Things, in other words, happened, and you need to pick up the pieces and put the trashed part of your job history behind you.
Here’s how to do so. Take a look below.
- When you have pretty much nothing but bad job references.
If you were fired for cause (as in the first trashed-career example, above), or if you’ve left jobs too soon, too often, and/or before they could fire you, you probably have few if any good references. You’re going to need decent former-employer references to land a decent job. What to do?
You’ll need to both ‘fess up and find different references.
If applying for a job that requires references as part of the application process, be ready. You should talk to friends who know you to be of good character who can speak of that good character. List them as references.
Once in the interview, the hiring manager or recruiter undoubtedly will ask for some on-the-job references. Here’s where you tell the truth and you make it totally your fault. Tell the interviewer you were young, you were foolish, you were cocky, you made some doozy mistakes. Tell the interview how you “paid” for those mistakes (fired, demoted, had to take lower and lower paying jobs always quitting jobs, and so on).
Then be sure to tell the interviewer what you learned from these mistakes and how they’ve actually helped you: you’ve matured, you’ve seen how being arrogant before proving oneself (even AFTER proving oneself) is never a good thing, and so on.
Then offer references at former employers who can speak well of you.
You can bet that the company will try to speak to your former manager, so having backup references of former colleagues who can sing your praises will be a big help.
- When your life blew up, you didn’t handle the stress well and your boss ended up letting you go.
Very similar to above: tell the interviewer you were young, your personal circumstances took a turn for the worse, you didn’t handle it well, and you’ve paid the price. Let the interviewer know what and how you’ve learned from the experience, and so on. Keep those reference of non-former-boss people who speak well of you handy.
- When you took a big risk that didn’t pan out.
This is where you explain your lack of current job references and the gap in your history to as the fact that you took a risk to follow a dream. Most hiring managers understand the impatience of youth and will cut you some slack for following a dream that you probably didn’t plan well enough for. Take full responsibility for the disaster and tell the interviewer what you’ve learned from the experience, making sure to add how your new-found wisdom and skills will help his company. (They will, by the way: failure is a terrific teacher.)
Need to get your career back on track after some self-administered or “life” setbacks? Helpmates can help. Many of our temporary assignments can help you get your career back on track rather quickly. Contact the branch office nearest you to register with us.