Traditional fantasy fiction has a tried and true plot line: the underdog is thrown into the deep end, has to battle the ultimate bad guy and then saves the world. That pretty much sums up everything from The Hobbit to Star Wars. Game of Thrones author George R. R. Martin has messed with this formula by regularly killing off the good guys and having the bad people rise to the top. Let’s face it: this is what happens in real life. No matter how good you are, bad things can happen. This phenomenon also applies to your working life. Very few people will go through their entire working life without having a terrible experience, where, perhaps through no fault of their own, things have just not worked out the right way and they are left with sour tastes in their mouths. What's even worse is trying to find a way to explain the situation to future employers. Here are my tips for people who have had a bad working experience:
1. Never lie and pretend that the job never happened. Someone somewhere will find out you have omitted a job from your resume, and their perception of your honesty will be tarnished.
2. If you are asked about that time, never sound bitter and twisted about it. Going off on a rant about how you were treated badly will change the tone of the interview, and the interviewer may focus entirely on your anger and bitterness. Simply put, you could be thrown into the 'no' pile.
3. Try to find the silver lining for that cloud – every job offers something, even if it's just to help you focus on the type of business or team you DON'T want to work for.
4. If you were at fault in whatever situation arose, you will need to own that responsibility and be prepared to detail what changes you have made to ensure that the same mistakes are not repeated.
5. Never fake your references. You know someone will want a reference from the company you worked for. Never overcome the situation by having your mate fake it (we have had experience discovering such situations!) and pretend to be your referee. If you are caught, then at the very least you will face dismissal from your new employer or having your recruiter refuse to work with you any further. Criminal charges could be laid if you have knowingly provided false information or impersonated someone else.
Recruiters and employers are not stupid; we KNOW that good people can go through bad times and that they can make mistakes or be stuck in a situation where they have been treated poorly. But it is how you deal with the situation that makes a difference. Things will always be challenging for you if you do a Sansa Stark and play the eternal victim. The Sansa Starks of the world will always put people off because they whinge about how terrible their lives are, and how, through no fault of their own, they are in a bad situation. Whinging is terribly unattractive. You are much better off being like Bran Stark – you might have been thrown out the window and left for dead, but you don't focus on revenge or hatred; instead, you focus on moving on and finding peace. Now that I have said that, George R. R. Martin will probably kill off all the Starks, bar Sansa, just to teach me a lesson.