Dear Mr. Walberg: After 28 successful years in federal law enforcement, I took a position as head of security for a banking organization. Although I did not receive any performance reviews, I was called into my superior's office after a year and was told that I was not performing to his satisfaction.
I was confused because all of my areas of responsibility were exceeding company expectations and everyone seemed more than happy. Six months later I was given a warning by the same supervisor, with no details as to why I wasn't meeting his expectations.
We met quarterly, and after another year, I was suddenly released from my position with no other explanation than I wasn't meeting my supervisor's expectations.
Now, what do I say in my resume and in cover letters as to why I was released from my last job?
-- M. G., New Hampshire
Dear M.G.: While it's good to be prepared for obstacles in a job search, it is possible to over-plan. Anticipate, but don't forecast. With that concept in mind, do not refer to why you left your last job in your resume or in cover letters, and only respond to it when asked in an interview.
So, the question is, how do you respond. Be honest. If there was a personality conflict between you and your supervisor, own up to it. You can state that you exceeded company expectations, but apparently conflicted with your supervisor's interests.
Make your answer brief and positive, not blaming anyone or bad-mouthing your ex-supervisor. You did your job and was proud of your results.
There is a possibility that your old employer was pulling a payroll trick used in the early '90s and continuing today. To reduce payroll and benefit expenses, positions are terminated, then contracted out to temp services or contract labor firms who supply the labor and furnish the benefits. It's a possibility in your case, but more likely it was simply the wrong venue for you in spite of your positive performance.
Stay with the facts, be brief, and then move on to your obvious talents and long history of experience and knowledge. You will survive if you stay positive and focused and remember to do what others fail to do!
Marvin Walberg is a job-search coach based in Birmingham, Ala. For contact information, see marvin-walberg.com.