I graduated in May 2012 with a Bachelor’s in Business Administration: Management and International Business. I successfully completed an internship with a local company and was offered a part time position after that. A few weeks later, I was terminated because I accidentally saw a document that was of confidential nature. I had no clue it was of confidential nature and asked one of the employees if I was supposed to have access to such document. That was the only reason why they decided to let me go. I never had any problems or any warnings at all. I am worried about what they might tell potential employers when they call for a reference. Although, I am always honest about the situation and tell them what happened, I am afraid I have not been able to get a job because of their reference.
Please let me know what should I do in order to demonstrate to potential employers that I am a very honest and professional candidate.
Hi Juan –
If only one voice speaks, only that voice will be heard!
Sure, that advice is a little general, but it rings true here. The only way you will be defined solely by the comments and opinions of one individual or company is if you allow it to happen.
Now – I do not know any of the details of your circumstances, so I cannot (and won’t) comment on the specifics of your situation. I can, however, give you some general advice:
It’s not how you act, it’s how you react
Everyone makes mistakes! Sometimes how you react when something goes wrong says a lot more about your character and integrity than how you act when things are going well.
How you react to adversity defines your character in many ways. Be prepared to tell the story – honestly – about how you reacted to this adversity in your life. If you can tell a story about how you handled this adversity with maturity, perseverance and a positive attitude, you will show employers that you are mature, that you persevere, and that you can maintain a positive attitude during tough times. These are all characteristics that employers value.
Here’s the catch – employers will only learn that about you if you tell them!
Get your story and storytellers straight
From what you told me in your question, prospective employers who don’t get to hear the “whole story” about who you are and what you have to offer may find you untrustworthy and unprofessional.
You have to be ready to tell them the rest of your story, and you have to have your other references in place and ready to back up your story with their comments and observations regarding your capabilities and integrity.
If the rest of your story is good (strong in the classroom, good experience, demonstrated professionalism and trustworthiness, etc,) and your other references back your story with their comments, most employers will see your one-time mistake as a one-time mistake and not a defining moment.
Be honest and authentic
Know this – employers can tell when you are blowing smoke, so be honest and authentic in your communication and conversations with them. Employers like authenticity and cannot stand BS! Be honest in describing who you are and what you offer.
Acknowledge mistakes, but focus on what you learned from them
Be honest in sharing your mistakes, but don’t spend too much time on the details. Move immediately on to what you learned from the mistakes and how that experience makes you an even stronger candidate.
Dwell on the details of your mistakes and potential employers will do the same. Focus on how you have grown, matured and improved through the process, and most potential employers will do the same.
Remember, this will not always work!
We live in an imperfect world. Perceptions often trump reality. Even the very best of intentions and most sincere efforts will sometimes result in frustration. Do not let that define you or how you interact with the world. Some people will listen to your whole story and see you as a viable candidate, some will listen only to the voice of criticism. There is little you can do about that.
All you can do is be prepared to tell employers why they should consider you, why you want the opportunity they are offering, why you want to work in their industries, and why you want to work for their companies.
That’s it! Expect no more of yourself. Demand no less!