Career Advice Tuesday – Recovering from a Slump

December 1, 2009

Dear Lee & Mike

I recently started a new job in a Security Operations Center and I’ve had a run of bad luck. Immediately after I started, I had a death in the family that kept me out of work. Because of that I missed a few of my first days (including orientation and training), and I’ve been feeling disoriented and confused for most of my first three months. And, on top of that, all the stress ended up with me getting sick.

I’m worried that I’ve dug myself a pretty deep hole with my colleagues and my management. I’m afraid that I’m not going to manage to be successful and I was wondering if you guys had any advice on getting out of this situation unscathed.

And if I do get fired what do I put on my resume? How do I explain it in the interviews I’m going to be going on?

Thanks,
If It Wasn’t for Bad Luck, I’d have No Luck at All

Dear Bad Luck,

Sometimes we all go through a slump. And, often, a slump is through no fault of our own – we get sick, people die, and things happen. Life sometimes takes you away from focus and work just takes a back-seat. As a manager, Mike’s actually had a couple of employees go through this at different times – one of his team members a couple of years ago missed two full months of work, and getting back into the swing for that guy was extremely hard.

But it can be done.

The key to staying employed is what we talk about during our Career Incident Response series: a good employer judges on how much value you create. Regardless of the circumstances, it’s your job to figure out what value is for your employer and to create as much of it as possible. In the training classes, they would have spelled out what value is – you just have to figure it out for yourself now.

That’s how you get out of the quagmire that you’re in – you need to find a way to create value. The trick is that value isn’t what you think it is… it’s what your employer thinks it is. Some employers value attendance at meetings. Some value being in the building early. Some value that you spend your time doing a bunch of technical work. And some value that you send a lot of email.

Figure out what it is that your employer values and then provide that in spades and you’ll be back to an even keel in no time.

As for your other questions, let’s suppose that you do get fired. You have to put it on your resume. Because you will be asked in interviews about what you have been doing during the time between your last job and your next interview. Since lying to a potential employer is bad, you’ll have to tell them about the job, which will make it look extra suspicious that you didn’t have it on the resume.

And, when asked, just tell the truth. That you had a run of bad luck and got behind, it’s not like you, and that you’re not usually like that.

And, if it comes to that, let us know… we’re here to help.

Lee & Mike

Posted by lee | Filed Under Career Advice Tuesday 

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