I was let go from my job last week - it was kind of a surprise, but I'm bouncing back and I was looking to leave the company anyway, so I'm not too broken up about that. I am not thrilled about the prospect of job hunting while unemployed (would have preferred to have landed a new job first) and am trying to get a handle on my next steps. I have some Networking 101-type questions that I need help with, as well as some questions about how best to frame what happened at the last job to recruiters/prospective new leads/interviewers, and how to best avoid ever being in this same situation ever again.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (11 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Hi everyone. I am posting this anonymously since it is employment-related, but I am going to try to provide as much context as possible to make my questions clear and am willing to provide more details through the mods if need be. Going to try to avoid this being too much of a wall of text, but it might be tricky.
Last week I was "let go" from my job. It was a surprise to me, as they had given me an 11% merit raise the week before. I had an evaluation at the start of the new year with the two people I report to and they said that while there were still a few things I could improve on (I had only just taken the job spring of 2011, so about 9 months), on the whole things were looking fine, so I was getting this merit raise. We had what I thought was a productive and respectful conversation about the areas in which I was doing well and the areas in which I could improve, and I made a few suggestions as to resources I might need in order to improve in those areas, the main one being that I wanted to have weekly "check in" departmental meetings - which is something that has happened in every place I've worked before - to go over how things are going and stay on top of anything that can be corrected immediately. (The management style of this company is very "hands off", and both of my managers were/are extremely overextended dealing with larger issues the company is currently facing, and they are not always able to pin down since they are frequently in meetings and not at their desks, so I was clear that I wasn't looking for hours and hours of hand-holding, just a 5-10 minute check-in/rundown once a week would suffice, just to make sure we were all communicating consistently.) They seemed amenable to that, and then they said that they were giving me this pay increase, so I thought things were fine.
One week later, I'm told that I'm being let go essentially because they "do not have the time or resources" to provide me with the training I would need to improve on the areas they felt needed improvement. I felt pretty blindsided by this. The company works in a field that is related tangentially to the industry that I have worked in for the past 5 years (since college), and I originally took the position because I was looking for a challenge and my skills seemed like they would translate over fairly easily with a bit of training. And it seems they did, but not enough? Or not fast enough? Or something? Even though they did give me a merit raise? It was a bit confusing. When I asked for clarification, I was told that they were really hoping when they filled the position that they wouldn't have to provide any training, that they could just give me a once over of the place and the software and let me have at it. I found this a little odd, since they had never suggested anything as such before, and I also think it's weird to think that a company can get away with bringing in a new hire without providing any sort of training whatsoever - they would have to find someone who has years and years of experience in exactly this type of function in order to do that, and someone with that much experience isn't going to be interested in being given an entry-level salary, crappy economy or not. Not to mention it just seems irresponsible and slightly delusional to think that you wouldn't have to train a new employee.
Anyway, I said that in my resume and in both rounds of interviews I did with them before taking the position I had been very clear what my experience was, that I was looking to take the job as a challenge because I was looking to learn more, and I had not misrepresented myself. Moreover, my three references all verified what my experience was as well, and did not misrepresent me either. They agreed and said that it was their error, that they had read into my resume and what I and my references presented to them erroneously, and didn't do enough due diligence before offering me the job. Because it was their error, they offered me a severence package that pays me in full (at the new pay rate as of last week) until March 1 and covers my health insurance until March 1, after which I will be elligible for Cobra. So basically, six weeks' severence. Oh, and they'll give me a positive reference if I need one.
I felt a bit like the rug had been pulled out from under me, but on another level I was a bit relieved because I had not been a fan of the workplace culture - they have been around for over 20 years but still operate a bit like a start-up, with no clear division of duties or documented procedures, and pretty much everything is done at the last minute in a mad rush of panic and stress, and it was making me miserable. It was also a very passive-aggressive work culture - I would listen to my immediate manager on the phone with various work contacts and I was uncomfortable with how unbelievably rude she was to them. I don't think berating people who are integral to keeping the company working is the way to go, no matter how stressed you may be, and I found that after she had raked people over the coals it was often difficult to get things moving again, as our contacts would be reluctant to engage with us lest they be sniped at. I was preliminarily putting out feelers to see if I could get another job, but I didn't think I was going to have to act on it quite so quickly. I mean, they gave me a freaking merit raise! Why would they give me a merit raise if they were going to let me go a week later? And if my performance was an issue, why did it only come up for the first time during the evaluation, during which they still gave me a merit raise? It makes no sense to me.
Anyway, I am moving on and trying not to dwell too much on what happened. I read this recent post (http://ask.metafilter.com/204186/How-do-I-rebound-from-being-fired) and it's helped me a bit with regards to how to put all of this in perspective. I know going forward I'm going to be better about keeping lines of communication open and asking for feedback on my performance consistently, and not taking a "no news is good news" attitude. My main concern, though, is the issue of them having creatively interpreted my resume, my interview answers, and the statements of my references, assuming that I would not need any baseline training for a new position. How do I avoid this happening again? I've revamped my resume once more and made the verbiage as clear as possible without dumbing it down, and I've had several friends and respected former colleagues from my previous workplaces vet it (including those who provided references for this last job) and nobody sees any indication that I am presenting myself falsely. I did a mock interview on Friday with my college's career counseling office and did not come off as presenting myself falsely in that arena, either. I do not want this kind of miscommunication to ever happen again - it is frustrating and humiliating and makes me feel defensive, which isn't really the greatest attitude to present to the world.
Other questions I have are of the more Networking 101 sort - I am applying to job postings, but I know that most jobs are not obtained this way (although this last job was the result of getting called after responding to an ad on Monster, of all places). A former colleague gave me the email addresses of a few people who work in my industry who might be open to chatting in an informational interview sort of way, but I literally have never set up anything like this before and am worried that I'm going to seem like a dolt. What do I say? "Hi [person], I am a fellow [job title] and am hoping to get employement in [city] doing [our job] - [mutual colleague] gave me your contact info, would you be open to meeting me for coffee sometime and giving me some insight as to what the next steps might be for me to find employmeng doing [our job]?" Isn't that awfully forward?
I've also read that it's useful to contact people who work for companies you'd someday like to work for and request informational interviews similarly, even if you don't know them. This seems really forward and almost gauche to me, but I'm an introvert so my barometer of what is offensive contact is skewed. I am in several industry specific LinkedIn groups and there are a few people who work for companies I am interested in who are in these groups as well, so in theory I could contact them via LinkedIn. Is this okay to do? In all cases I'm third degree connected to them (meaning that they know someone who knows someone who knows me), so trying to get a straight up intro from someone we both know is unlikely. Is the fellow group connection enough to make the request? I just worry that they will find me annoying. Any tips to get over this, or other suggestions for networking best practices would be appreciated.
Lastly, how do I explain to recruiters/HR people what happened with my last job? I guess technically I was let go for performance issues, but given the generous severance, the admission that they made a mistake in the way they creatively interpreted my resume (not to mention the fact of the merit raise one week before, suggesting that performance was in fact NOT a problem) and that they don't have the time to give me the further training I need suggests something more akin to I left because "it was a bad fit." But then, wouldn't that work better if I had been the one to leave first? I do not want to lie, but I do not want to present this in a way that makes me look bad, either. Can I say I was laid off? What constitutes a layoff? Or is "bad fit" sufficient? I might be registering with some temp agencies soon in order to bring in income if finding permanent work before my severance runs out proves to be unlikely; is this something I will have to explain to them, too? It's been so long since I temped and I obviously wasn't coming in with this having just happened...
TL;dr - I was let go last week out of the blue after receiving a merit raise; they claim they made a mistake in hiring me because they misinterpreted my experience despite my (and my references) having been very clear about it. How do I avoid this happening again, how do I network without looking like a douche, how to I explain what happened without shooting myself in the foot, and how do I avoid allowing this to destroy my self-esteem?