I'm worried future employers will think I was fired and I wasn't. What to do?
November 19, 2008 6:35 AM   Subscribe

I am planning to leave my job at the end of December because I want to be closer to my immediate family. It's a fantastic job, and I'm worried future employers will think I was fired/left under poor circumstances -- which is not true. Is there any way to minimize this?

Because of the economy/my industry, I don't have a new job yet (though I've been applying) and I probably won't have one before I leave. I'm okay with this -- I'll have COBRA benefits, and I need to leave for personal reasons. I have enough savings, but I'll need to get another job within 18 months or so....

Here's the problem: In my industry right now, no one's leaving jobs unless they're taking buyouts. I'm leaving on my own accord, to go to...well....nothing yet. I'm worried that potential future employers will see this and think RED FLAG RED FLAG. He's not telling us something.

Is there any way to mitigate this? I can have them call my old employer obviously, but I'm wondering whether it will be an issue leaving the job before getting a new one (if I could stay until that point I would, but I can't.)

What do you think, employed minds of Mefi
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'd make things very clear to the company you're leaving, and just be honest to your prospective employers about why you left. It's not uncommon for people to leave for family reasons, and I wouldn't think this would raise too much of a red flag.
posted by craven_morhead at 6:42 AM on November 19, 2008

The simplest way is to get a sterling letter of recommendation from your current employer. Assuming you've done well at your job, when future employers call him/her and ask about you, they'll give you plenty of positive feedback. This is fairly standard in every industry I've ever worked in.
posted by vraxoin at 6:43 AM on November 19, 2008

Don't give it a second thought. In the absolute worst case, you have to change industries, and that seems like a small price to pay in order to be close to family.

Get a good letter of reference from your current employer that describes your departure for what it is, and include it in future job applications. I can't imagine it would be a problem as long as you're good to your current employer when you leave, and as long as you have a chance to explain yourself via a letter of reference, cover letter, etc when you apply for future jobs.
posted by paanta at 6:46 AM on November 19, 2008

Including a letter of recommendation seems a bit over-the-top to me -- if you are worried, just include your list of personal references with your resumes, and list your current supervisor at the top.
posted by susanvance at 7:29 AM on November 19, 2008

If you continued to work for them part-time as a consultant for a while after you left, people would realize that you left while the company still wanted you to be working there.
posted by salvia at 8:59 AM on November 19, 2008

Years ago I did something similar to what you are doing now. In 1993 my former partner moved "back home" to San Diego County to take care of an aging parent. I followed him out the following year, after finally selling my apartment in DC. At the time, Southern California was still in a recession and San Diego had lost a bunch of big employers (think General Dynamics). People were moving away to places like Montana and Idaho, and here I was moving there, without a job. Friends told me I was crazy. It did take about three months for me to find my first job after I arrived.

I had a letter of recommendation from my former boss and also from the head of the software firm that provided many of the systems we used and with which I did our installations, system admin, and our own custom programming. I didn't include those when I sent out resumes, but I did bring them with me in my portfolio when I went on interviews. (The portfolio contained some of my code samples, documentation samples, training manual samples, etc -- I was the jack-of-all trades type)

I also listed them as references, along with other people. However, I did not include them on my resume; that said "References Available On Request." The basic principle is that you only get to see my contact list if you contact me. That not only was a protection for my business associates (who were all friends of mine) but also let me know which potential employers were interested.

Absolutely no one thought that I had left and moved across the country in the midst of a recession because of any "poor circumstances". If anything, the question I got was more like, "Why did you come here (to San Diego) at a time like this?" My answer was to be very frank and come out (no pun intended) and tell them that I came to be with my partner whose father died and who was taking care of his mother. No one even blinked.

The lesson I take from that is that if you are confident and honest about who you are and why you are doing what you are doing, people will accept you at face value and think the better of you for it. That's a good policy, I think, for job-hunting and for life in general.
posted by Robert Angelo at 11:42 AM on November 19, 2008

don't EVER say "references are available upon request." everyone kNOWS that you have references available upon request. either give the references, or save the line for something actually important.

(in fact, you should never hand out references until you actually have a job offer so you avoid reference fatigue. i always say "i'm fine making the offer contingent upon successful verification of references" and only people who aren't serious about hiring me have had issues with this. of course this will differ with certain industries, but it's something to consider)

now, back to the original question. i did the same thing, and i had the same issue - but ONLY with idiots. people in my industry who could look at my resume and understand what I had done had no issue with a one line explanation about my family (i'd alternate between aging parents and nieces and nephews who only knew me through photographs depending on how i felt that day - i changed the story up so it was always fresh. both were true). idiot recruiters on a power trip, or internal HR people who want their candidate instead of you, are going to pick you apart no matter what and will be suspicious.

my only advice from experience would be to not belabor the point. have a one line explanation, give it, and move on. at the beginning, when i met with some of the types of recruiters i described above, i could tell from body language they weren't believing me so I would try to expand on the story, which only made it worse. a really awesome recruiter i met with no long after that helped coach me to making the story into a brisk one-liner, sounding very matter of fact.
posted by micawber at 12:53 PM on November 19, 2008

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