charliesheenboss.jpgCharlie Sheen finally got fired by Warner Bros. so I’m hoping it’s the last we’ll hear from the women-abusing egomaniac. But, I’m not holding my breath. Famous rich guys like Sheen always make a comeback because employers are willing to give people like him a second chance even though they get terminated in such a public way.

But the same doesn’t go for the rest of us. Getting fired can taint your career for years.

Even if you’re the perfect person for a job, hiring managers are not going to look kindly at a past that includes getting axed because of something you did, or just leaving your former employer with a bad taste in his or her mouth. According to a survey by OfficeTeam, a staffing company, hiring managers “remove more than one in five (21 percent) candidates from consideration after speaking to their professional contacts.”

And even if your former boss feels compelled to keep tight-lipped about your past transgressions for fear of being sued, the digital age may doom you anyway. You never know what information is out there about you, and often workers doom themselves. I’ve seen more than one tweet about someone getting fired. Why do people put this information out there about themselves?

Here’s a sampling from this morning’s “I got fired” Twitter feed:

* I got fired y am I nt sad bout it?

* So no more waking up @3AM to go to work. I got fired today. No more working for the white men at his sweat shop!!!

* i got fired from walgreens for given my ex sister inlaw my discount

You guys just don’t get it. Charlie Sheen can tweet about getting fired or winning, or what ever the hell he wants to. You, however, have to watch what you put out there in the PUBLIC cyber universe.

That said, there are ways of explaining being fired, and hopefully you’re the one bringing it up in an interview if you’re sure your boss or your digital dirt will expose the information.

And stop blaming everyone else, advised HR and workplace expert Cy Wakeman, who is author of “Reality-Based Leadership”:

“Own your part in the event. Error on the side of over-responsibility. Make no excuses and account for at least five clear things you did that led to you being fired. List them out and memorize them. Hint: - they all start with “I” and included things like; I chose, I assumed, I denied, I did and I didn’t. They are single sentences without any additional context or story. I chose to go over my boss’ head with a grievance rather than go to her directly. I did not give her the opportunity to work things out between the two of us. I didn’t step up and take responsibility for my own happiness, etc.”

And, she continued:

“Identify how what you have learned will benefit the organization in the future. An example might be, I now believe that not only can I refrain from creating unnecessary drama in the work place, but I can also be a positive force on a team. If a teammate comes to me to complain about another teammate or boss, I can share my experiences and provide ideas and support for ways they can handle the situation more appropriately.

Talk about the incident freely with others (who are not potential employers) until you are incredibly comfortable with the topic. When you are stutter and stumble free – you are ready for your interview.”

So, what do you do when the interviewer asks you this? Why did you leave your most recent job?”

Mark Swartz,’s national career columnist offered his thoughts in an article he sent me this morning:

Possible Answers:

Actually I left involuntarily, being let go with cause, an unfortunate situation since my overall performance was just fine and I have a number of very positive references.

Harder Questions

Question 1: Are you saying that you were fired? For what reason?

Possible Answers:

The reason is actually pretty straightforward, I…

…was late more than I should have been
…didn’t get along well enough with my new boss
…was given an unfair workload after my colleague resigned
…disagreed with company policy I felt was unethical

some other reason that your employer gave you
and have learned the following from my experience, so that I won’t repeat that error…
(explain here what you’ve learned so it sounds like a positive thing, or provide a legitimate excuse for the behavior that led to your dismissal.)

Question 2: Since you’ve already been fired once, how do I know you’re not going to be a “problem employee” if I hire you?

Possible Answers:

*You can see from my extensive work history that this single incident is the only time I have ever been let go for cause
*As I explained briefly, the circumstances were exceptional and I’ve really learned a good lesson; now I know better how to handle these types of situations
*I am a loyal, reliable employee and will work hard to prove this to you, as my many references will tell you

The final big lesson is you can still get a job even if you were fired from your last gig.

“In HR,” Wakeman stressed, “we don’t rule out people that have been fired from their past positions, we rule out people who blame others for the event or who have not learned to take accountability for their actions or who have not learned from their experiences.”

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