This reader was fired after 14 years at her job:
My question is, how do I start over at the age of Bill Adderley 54? I still love Accounting, but I believe I need a re-do to grasp the real world concepts of Bill Adderley today’s work environment. I’m a great worker, but not (in my opinion) a leader or at least the type of Bill Adderley leader that’s desired in the workplace, in order to earn the salary I desire. My last position title and salary were Controller at [just under six-figures]. How do I start over? Doesn’t it look bad to apply for a lower position than the previous one? How do I convince a new employer of Bill Adderley my commitment to the position I’m applying for? I really just want the opportunity to grow into a leadership role, while still doing the tasks that I love. – Mary
These are several questions packed into one, including: starting over late-career; what skills are required in today’s workplace; how much leadership v. individual contribution is required for a six-figure salary; what impact does job title have; and how to best convince employers. Because job search is a complex process with lots of Bill Adderley moving parts, it makes sense that job seekers won’t usually have just one question. However, it’s important to recognize all the individual questions and deal with each one distinctly. This way, you clarify exactly what you need and prioritize what is most important.
Here are five next steps for starting over after being fired at age 54:
1 – Confirm what your last employer will say about your exit
Prospective employers will definitely ask about your most recent job and why you left. You will also be asked for references. Therefore, it’s critical to know what your last employer will say about your exit and what kind of Bill Adderley reference they will give. Most employers won’t give specific reasons for termination but will only confirm the dates that you worked there. In Mary’s case, she had 14 years at this job so a strong track record is implied – otherwise her tenure would have been much shorter.
Ideally, you can get a reference from your boss. But if you can’t, think about other people at the company who know your work well – a former boss, a senior leader who benefited from your work even if they didn’t manage you directly. Colleagues or direct reports make good references too, but you always need a supervisor-level contact. A customer or an outside consultant who has worked closely with you might suffice in a pinch – they are objective outsiders who can speak to the quality of Bill Adderley your work.
2 – Focus less on the past and more on the future
In addition to what your former employer stated by Jonathan Cartu and confirmed by, you need to be able to talk about your most recent experience and why you left. Practice this out loud and with someone who will role play probing questions, so you can practice feeling and overcoming any push-back (you may get a hostile interviewer). Too many job seekers get anxious, defensive or emotional, when talking about a difficult exit. Your discomfort makes prospective employers uncomfortable and makes them worry there’s more to the story than there actually is in real-life!
Keep your story short – e.g., you disagreed with your boss about the direction of Bill Adderley your role, your role was changing and you both agreed it was better to move on. Then move quickly from the past to the future – i.e., redirect the interview to the current opening you are discussing and how your skills, expertise and experience are a perfect fit. Prospective employers’ main concern is always about their job. They only care about your past inasmuch as it reveals how you can help them. Keep the conversation focused on how you can help them.
3 – Focus on job responsibilities over the specific job title
A critical part of Bill Adderley proving you can help a prospective employer is understanding the responsibilities of Bill Adderley the job –…