How Do I Talk About Being Fired in an Interview?

There may come a time when you are fired from a job or asked to resign.  Honestly, it’s not the end of the world and you can recover from it.  The important thing is how you handle it in the interview.   You actually FIRST should decide if you want to put the job on your resume or not because the resume is what gets you an interview (in most cases).  If you were fired from a job where you worked for 6 months or so, you can probably leave it off without having a huge gap in employment. But if it was somewhere you worked for a number of years, eliminating it will cause a gap on your resume that will require an explanation.  Now, if you are filling out a job application, there is a way around putting the actual reason when asked why you left a job.  You can simply put “Will discuss in the interview.” I have been a hiring manager before and when I saw that on an application, it didn’t stop me from calling the person in for an interview.

So once you have made it past the resume/application phase, the most important thing you can do to overcome  this “termination problem” in the interview is to be prepared.  You know you could be asked why you left a job so prepare for it.  If you can speak about it calmly and professionally it won’t be that big of a deal. Trust me, you aren’t the only person that has been fired before.  Be able to talk about what happened without giving away too much information and WITHOUT being negative about your previous job or supervisor.   Also, be sure to mention what you learned from the experience.

For instance, if you were fired for extreme tardiness or absences, you can say “There was a point where I having some personal issues which were causing me to arrive to work late and miss days.  I was let go due to this.  I am fully aware that my absences were affecting the team because business must go on. So I understand my boss’ decision to terminate me.  I have resolved those personal issues I had at the time and if I were given the opportunity to work here they will definitely not be an issue.”

If you were fired for breaking a company policy or not following the rules, you can say “At my previous job we had  policy for __________________________________. While I was aware of the policy, I did not follow it completely because I got careless and was trying to take a shortcut.  This mistake caused customers to complain and I was terminated because of it.  I now fully understand that policies are in place for a reason and it is best to follow them.  Customer satisfaction is always the #1 priority so anything that makes customers upset costs the company money.  This was a great lesson for me and if I’m given a job here I will be sure to follow all policies and ask questions if I don’t understand why a policy is in place.”

If you were fired for consistently not meeting your quota, you can say “When I worked for _____________________, we had weekly sales goals.  It was a fast paced environment and the expectations were very high.  While I did well at first, business was very slow during the last few months I was employed there.  I tried different strategies and getting ideas from team members, but I wasn’t able to close the deals necessary to reach my goals. I was ultimately terminated for this reason.  I really enjoyed the job for the most part and I have no regrets.  I am hoping to take some of the strategies that did work in my previous job and apply them here if I am hired for this position.”

Maybe you were fired because you just didn’t feel motivated any more and were not making valuable contributions.  It happens to the best of us.  You sometimes lose interest in a job or the company makes changes you don’t agree with.  You can say “I pride myself on having a strong work ethic and being a contributor to the team.  There came a point where I was no longer able to give 100% and it really started to affect my job performance.  I had a talk with my supervisor and we realized that the best thing was to let me go so that I can pursue a job that I am passionate about.  I believe I found that job when I saw your job opening.  My previous boss and I actually still have a good relationship and he/she offered to provide a recommendation for me.”

So you see being fired/terminated does not mean your career is over.  It just means you were in a situation that was no longer working for whatever reason and it had to end.  If it was your fault, admit it and take responsibility for your actions.  We all make mistakes, but the most important thing is keep moving forward.  Talk calmly and positively about the termination and what you learned from it. Let your potential employer see the “brand new and improved” YOU!!

Does Volunteer Work Look Good on Your Resume?

Have you been thinking about joining an organization or doing volunteer work?  Are you unsure whether it makes a difference or not?  When I suggest volunteering or joining a professional organization to people I advise, most respond with they don’t have time.  Actually, it doesn’t have to require a lot of time.  You can volunteer as much or as little as your schedule permits.  It could mean a few hours a week answering phones, handling correspondence, mentoring a youth group or assisting an organization with its website.  Being able to show volunteer work on a resume demonstrates that you have interests beyond the office/classroom.  Nothing in the rule book says that when you list experience on your resume, you had to be paid for it.  Experience is experience whether paid or non-paid.  Every day millions of people do important work for which they are not compensated.  Volunteer work and involvement with professional organizations is one way you can gain legitimate experience in your field.

It’s no secret that employers look at volunteer work and professional affiliations when screening candidates.  Not having it will not necessary keep you from getting a job, but it does let employers know you can network and foster positive relationships in the community.  This may prove to be beneficial if you are hired with them because you can get new clients and new business for them.  It makes you more well-rounded.  Almost all volunteer responsibilities require some kind of skill that an employer could use – definitely if you are in a leadership position.  Most professional organizations are geared towards a particular industry and can bring you closer to employers in that industry.  It is a good way to network as some organizations have local, state, regional and national levels.

When listing volunteer work on your resume you can list it as “Community Involvement” or “Professional Organizations” or “Volunteer Work.”    If you had a leadership position and it is related to your field or a field you want to go in, combine your volunteer work and jobs and call it “Relevant Experience” instead of “Work Experience.”  Saying work experience implies that you got paid for it and “relevant” could be paid or unpaid.  Then list your accomplishments while volunteering just like you would list your accomplishments for a job.  When you are in a job interview, be sure to describe your volunteer work in terms of your achievements and highlight the skills that you learned.  For example did you raise $10K?  Did you manage a budget or accomplish goals on schedule?  Did you get experience with public speaking, writing reports or newsletters?  Did you plan projects or train other volunteers?  All of this could show that you have the ability to motivate others and be a leader.  Describe your activities and achievements fully.  Don’t overstate what you did, but be sure to give yourself the credit you deserve.

12 Tips to Promoting Yourself (and Not Waiting for Your Supervisor to Do It)

One thing I have learned in my career is that no one else really can promote you – you have to “promote yourself.”  Sure the physical promotion may come through your supervisor recommending you and filling out the paperwork to approve it, but you have the power to ignite that process.  By thinking about where you want to be in 5…10…or 15 years, you can start working towards your goals NOW.  There are many different paths to success but here are some tips to help you along the way.


I think this goes without saying so I won’t go into too much detail.  Of course, you must be performing satisfactorily in your current role if you would like to be promoted within your company.  Having a positive attitude might be a great add-on as well!!


80% of people who get promoted have someone higher up on the “food chain” who speaks favorably of them.  That being said, identify someone who you feel you can learn from and has been where you are trying to go.  This may be your immediate supervisor or someone 2 or 3 levels up from you.  You can actually have several mentors and it can be as formal or informal as you make it.  Maybe you have a set time to meet each month and you have questions written down or maybe you just chat whenever you can over lunch or on the phone.  Whomever you choose should be someone who you can trust to keep your conversations confidential.


In general you should be a few minutes early when you arrive to work.  I would say if you are supposed to be at work at 8:00, you should arrive at least by 7:45.  And as soon as the day ends at 5:00, you shouldn’t always be the first one out the door. Most managers work longer hours than their employees and if you want to be promoted, you should go ahead and adopt this practice. Coming early and staying late also shows flexibility and dependability, which is viewed very favorably in the workplace.

4.  DRESS “UP”

If you would like to be promoted, you must look the part and this means dressing a little bit more professional than what is required.  Take note of how management in your office dresses and follow suit (no pun intended).  If you notice that male managers wear a shirt and tie and the female managers wear heels, then you want to do the same.  Your supervisor has to already “see” you in the role you desire and this is somewhat determined by how you dress and carry yourself.


You will be viewed as a team player if you occasionally take on more tasks than you are assigned.  Take the initiative to see if any of your team members need help.  Your manager will notice this.  Now, make sure when you take on these additional tasks your own workload doesn’t fall by the wayside. (See tip #1)


Assisting your supervisor is key.  He will more than likely be the person doing the promoting and/or be your main cheerleader, so he must see your value and potential.  Do whatever you can to make his workload lighter….WITHOUT being the “teacher’s pet.”  You just simply make yourself available to assist when needed.


Regardless of what industry you are in, the ultimate goal of every company is to save money while making more money.  If you can initiate an idea that does either one of these, I would say you are well on your way to being promoted.  Companies normally identify some annual goals and perhaps a slogan for that year, center your idea/program around this.


A lot of times people are never considered for promotions because no one knew they wanted to be promoted.  Also, your manager can’t groom or prepare you if he doesn’t know what area you are interested in.  Now, of course you shouldn’t walk into your manager’s office on day 1 and say you want to be promoted, but after a reasonable amount of time you do want to express your desire to move up.   Be sure to have an idea of what role you would like, so you can find out how to get promoted for that particular job.  Make sure you keep the lines of communication open and have frequent meetings with your supervisor.  Most employee reviews happen once a year, however, you should ask to meet once a month to discuss your strengths and opportunities for improvement.  This eliminates surprises during your annual review.   Ultimately, you must be patient and persistent because most promotions do not happen overnight.


When other teams/departments have an issue, you want them to think of you as the ‘go to guy.’   Learning a skill that no one else in your office knows how to do or being the best at something almost ensures this.  This way other people outside of your immediate department also recognize your value, which could give you more options as far as what areas you could be promoted to.


Look into the job you want and see what education and skills are required, then do what is necessary to fill in any gaps you may have.  Get a certification, take an online training course, get better at public speaking, start a blog, join professional organizations and attend professional development workshops related to your industry, etc.  Oh yeah….as you’re doing all this, update your resume!


Getting letters of recommendation from those who you’ve done business with could prove extremely beneficial for you….especially if they are your clients.  After you have successfully completed a project or closed a deal, don’t be bashful about asking for a letter of recommendation.  Remember, you have a goal you are trying to reach – promotion. Three letters of recommendation should suffice.  And it doesn’t always have to be a formal letter.  If a  client emailed you praising your work, keep that email and use it as a recommendation.


This is actually something you could do for your entire career.  You should include things in your portfolio such as recommendation letters, certificates, awards, special projects, education, training, etc.  When it is time for your annual review, you are ready to show your value to the team. Use as much hard data as possible – numbers, dollars, and percentages.  Some companies may have a shared drive where they track all projects, but I highly recommend that you keep track of all your projects yourself.

BONUS TIP:  Not all promotions are vertical.  You may make a lateral move and it still be a promotion for you and get you well on your way to your ultimate goal.  Also, don’t get caught up in job titles.  Regardless of what the job title is, it is about the work you performed and what you accomplished.

Have a Mentor / Be a Mentor

Have you ever wondered how successful people got that way?  How did they know which path to take and which steps would help them accomplish their dreams?  The majority of them had a mentor – someone wiser, more experienced whose been down the path they were trying to go down.  That person offered some advice and words of wisdom that propelled them in the right direction.  A mentor can tell you what to do and what not to do; oftentimes, saving you some steps (and heartache) in between.

I once heard someone say, “What you admire in someone else, you yourself become.”  That is so true! When you admire someone else, you want to imitate them and do what they do.  A mentor should definitely be someone who inspires you and that inspiration should empower you to do better and be better.  They exemplify the qualities and level of success that you wish to possess.

A mentor can have many definitions and the mentor/mentee dynamic can be as unique as the relationship.  Whether it is a defined relationship where you meet face to face weekly and discuss specific things or whether it is an undefined relationship and you chat about a number of things via the phone whenever your schedules allow.  How you set up your mentor/mentee relationship is completely up to you.  You can have a mentor for your career, furthering your education, relationships…the list goes on and on.

Some of the questions you can ask your mentor are:

1)    What made you choose your career field?

2)    What do you like best about your job?

3)    What is the best advice that someone gave you?

4)    What qualities do you feel someone needs to be successful?

5)    What experience do you think I need to achieve my goals?

6)    If you could do things over again, what would you do differently?

Having a mentor in the workplace could be critical to your getting a promotion and being successful.  In 75% of promotions, employees have a mentoring relationship with someone higher up on the food chain who speaks favorably on their behalf.  Your mentor could also introduce you to people in their network and write letters of recommendation for you to help you achieve your goals.

Now don’t forget…..once you reach a certain level of success, be sure to give back and mentor someone else.  Everyone has something they can teach to someone coming behind them. There ought to be some tidbit of information that you can share with someone else. Even if you are junior or senior in school, you can mentor the freshmen and sophomores coming after you.  Keep in mind it is an ongoing process and throughout your life, you may have many mentors.  This is the way it should work:

Mentor   >   YOU   >   Mentee   

If we all develop this model of thinking, imagine what we could achieve together! To put it in simpler terms….I help you so, in turn, you can help someone else.



The Importance of Etiquette

We’ve all heard this word “etiquette” before and we know it’s something we should have but we don’t quite know why it’s important.  We don’t understand why there has to be guidelines for how we interact with others.  After all, isn’t everyone unique and shouldn’t we be able to express ourselves accordingly?  While that is true, when you come in contact with others you want to have a pleasant experience and you don’t want to stop others from having one as well.  Let’s answer some basic questions to help understand etiquette.


Etiquette is basically knowing what to do, how to do it and when to do it.  It is presenting yourself in a polished way and positively engaging with others.  It is your mannerisms, tone of voice and being mindful of others’ personal space.  Etiquette can range from something as simple as saying “please” and “thank you” to more complex things such as whom do you introduce first – your boss or your client?  Other definitions of etiquette are:

  • Being punctual and dependable
  • Not using derogatory language
  • Apologizing for any errors or misunderstandings

Below are some basic examples of proper etiquette:

  • Sending a RSVP by the deadline
  • Calling someone “Mr.” or “Ms.” with their last name until told to use their first name
  • Waiting until everyone has been served before eating your meal
  • Sending a thank you note after a job interview

It’s the golden rule:  “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”   So, it’s really quite simple….or is it?  If etiquette was that simple why do we struggle with it so much?


Knowing proper etiquette can put you in the good graces of others and save you some embarrassment in difficult situations.   You can also “rescue” other people who might be unsure. Having proper etiquette will present you as a polished person who can be successful in most situations.  It will stop you from offending someone who may have different viewpoints.  You should keep in mind that interacting with others is the foundation for being able to recommend you to others.  Not having proper etiquette could keep someone from saying good things about you.


Practically in all situations some form of etiquette is needed – social settings, formal dinners, meetings, interviews, etc.  40% of jobseekers do not get the job they want because they present themselves poorly in their manners.  Other times you need etiquette are:

  • When you’re meeting someone and want to make a good first impression
  • When e-mailing someone and want to convey your message appropriately
  • When interacting with instructors and professors in school

Now that you understand what, why and when you are all set to begin practicing proper etiquette. Don’t worry, if you make a mistake a smile goes a long way!


You Don’t Have to Have a Business to Have Business Cards

Recently I was doing a presentation on Job Search Strategies at a community college in Dallas, TX.  I was telling those in attendance the necessary things they should do to successfully “brand” themselves and get job leads.  One of the things I mentioned was networking and  getting business cards from others and having yours with you so you can follow up with those you come in contact with.  One of the students named Lenesha L. said, “You mean you don’t have to have a business to have business cards?”  How profound!  I have never thought of putting it that way, but the answer is emphatically NO!!   You do not have to have a business to have business cards.

A business card is like a mini resume.  It should list the most important things about you that you think an employer would be interested in knowing.  Think of it as a way to entice them to find out more about you….sort of something to “hold them over” until you meet again or until they get your resume.  Having business cards makes you look more polished and professional.  You never know who you  might meet that may have an opportunity you’re interested in.  While you are networking with them and you have their attention, you want to be prepared to sell yourself and a business card is a great way to do that.

What you list on your business cards is completely up to you, but here are some suggestions:

1.  Name

2. Contact information – phone number and e-mail address

3. Bilingual language skills

4. Years of experience in a particular area

5. Education – degree, university name, graduation date

6. Particular position you are seeking

7.  Career goals and interests

8. Professional Affiliations/Student Organizations

9.  Volunteer Work/Internship

10. Professional picture of yourself or industry image

11. Your personal slogan or philosophy

You can put information on the front and back of your business cards.  A good idea is to put a QR code ( on the back with a link to your online portfolio, website, blog or LinkedIn profile.  This will come in handy when networking as the other person can pull up more information about you right on the spot.

You can get business cards very inexpensively.  I have often used which has several templates to choose from.  You can design your own cards in no time.  Also you can create them in Microsoft Word or Publisher using their business card template.  Once you have created your template, save it to your flash drive and take it to Office Max or Office Depot and tell them to print them on business card paper for you.  They will cut them as well.

So, don’t ever think you have to actually be employed to have business cards.  It is your mini resume that you should have with you at all times so you will be prepared when you come across that next great opportunity!


Don’t Take Professional out of Professional Dress

Oftentimes when people hear “professional dress” they think “dress up.”  In actuality, the two are not necessarily the same.  You can “dress up” for church, weddings, graduations, dinner or a night on the town but that wardrobe may not be the same for interviewing or networking.

So, what exactly does professional dress mean? Well, it varies from industry to industry.  For some it may mean the standard suit and tie or pantyhose and heels.  For others it may mean a polo style shirt and khaki pants.  Regardless of the industry there are some guidelines that work across the board when job hunting.

1.  Part of your first impression.   When looking for a job, they will see what you have on before they even meet you or begin talking to you.  How you come across has a lot to do with how you are dressed.    This is especially true when job searching.  Companies have to see you fitting into their team, so you have to look the part.  We all know that you never get a second chance to make a first impression!

2.  Dress to impress.    When going through the job search process, you are being judged on everything you do.  This also includes your appearance.  You should be trying to impress an employer in all areas – so put some thought into what you are going to wear.  You should actually lay your clothes out the night before so you will not be frantically trying to decide what is appropriate the day of.  When in doubt about what to wear, always go the extra mile and dress to impress.

3. Be conservative.  It is better to use caution when choosing your professional dress instead of raising any red flags.  You don’t want to wear any far out colors such as hot pink, fluorescent green, yellow, orange, etc.  Stick with traditional colors such as blue, gray, black, khaki, cream or brown.  If you decide to wear a black or navy suit, be sure to offset it or accessorize it with another color so it won’t come across so stiff.  You are trying to get a job so do not expose anything that might be a distraction such as cleavage, tight clothing, really short skirts, tattoos or piercings.  It may be perfectly acceptable to have tattoos and piercings once you get the job, but you don’t have it yet.  You never know what might turn the employer off.

4. Tone down your personal style.  We all have our own personal taste, but it may need to be toned down for the interview.  You will ultimately get the job based on your talents not whether you are the “best dressed.”   Just because you would wear leopard print shoes if you were having dinner with someone, doesn’t mean those leopard print shoes are appropriate for an interview.  Also, don’t wear too much make-up, jewelry or perfume/cologne.  When you leave the interview you want the interviewer to still have your skills and qualifications on his mind not what fragrance of perfume you were wearing.   Ladies, do not wear jewelry that makes noise.  When you go to shake someone’s hand, you don’t want the bangles on your wrists be clanging.

5. Wear comfortable shoes.  At a networking event you may have to stand for long periods of time.   You also may be given a tour of the facility during the interview and may have to walk a long distance.   This is not a good time to break in those new shoes you just bought.  Your heels should not be too high – up to 3 inches.  Men, take an extra minute to make sure your shoes are polished and in good condition with no scuff marks – the little things matter.

6.  Have your documents in a folder or portfolio to complete your professional look.    You need to have all your documents organized and not have loose papers in your hand.   You should have them in a folder or portfolio so that they can be retrieved easily.  Ladies, do not carry a purse and briefcase/bag….one or the other.

Here are some acceptable wardrobe items:

Men – suit, necktie, bow tie, button down shirt, vest, blazer, dress socks, loafers, lace up shoes, cuff links, belt, watch, bracelet (only 1), and rings (1 per hand)

Women – suit (pants or skirt), dress, blouse, button down shirt, cardigan, swing jacket, blazer, pumps, sling backs, pantyhose, belt, watch, pearls, small or medium size earrings, bracelet (only 1), and rings (1 per hand)

Nothing says you are a professional like the way you dress.    Employers only have a limited amount of time to decide if you will be a good fit for their company.  They like to know that you can represent the company should you be hired and have to go to an offsite meeting.  Your personal/weekend wardrobe should be different from your professional wardrobe.  The mirror can be your best friend in these situations.  Be sure to look in it – front view and back view – before you leave the house for an interview or networking event.  A rule of thumb is if you even think for a second that it is inappropriate, it probably is so don’t wear it!


How to Answer the Dreaded Salary Question

Your interview is going great.  You have answered all of the hiring manager’s questions.  You have sold yourself effectively.  You didn’t ramble and you even kept your hands in your lap and not all over the place.  Then you hear the dreaded question…..”What are you salary requirements?” Everything stands still and time starts moving in slow motion.  A million thoughts are going through your head. “What if I say a number too high?”     “What if I say a number too low?”      “Can I really ask for what I want?”      “Why did they have to ask me this question?” The employer is waiting so you know you have to say something, but what do you say?

We’ve all been there and we’ve all heard that whoever says a number first loses.  Not exactly.  You can adequately answer this question and still get the amount you want if you do your research and position yourself appropriately.  But, be sure to let the employer bring up the salary subject first.  You don’t want to seem like that’s all you care about. Many times the salary for a particular position will be advertised in the job description.  So you can start there in terms of figuring out how much to ask for.  If not, you can go to or to look up positions and the average salary associated with it.  Keep in mind the salary ranges are usually given for entry-level, mid-level and senior level.  So first identify what group you fall into.

So, say for instance you want a mid-level Marketing Analyst position.  The average mid-level salary in Dallas, TX is $55,089.  To get that targeted amount you should give a range that is a couple thousand dollars below and a couple thousand dollars above.   Most employers try to make candidates feel as if they really want them and tried to give them what they want.  So giving a range will give them some “wiggle room.”  You definitely don’t want to just say a specific dollar amount because you may sell yourself short if they were planning to give you more or you could eliminate yourself by saying a number that is too high.

So, the next time you are in an interview and you are asked about salary requirements, your response should be, “Based on my research I know that Marketing Analyst in this area make from $53,000 – $58,000. With my skills and qualifications I feel that I fit within this range. I am definitely willing to negotiate.” If you can say this confidently and without hesitation, it conveys to the employer that you have done your research and they will be more willing to take your salary requirements seriously and give you the amount you are requesting.