Recovering from Termination that Involved Personal Issues

Anonymous writes:
After almost 20 years of employment with the same company I was fired
last September due to excessive tardiness. I have read “Getting Fired: An
Opportunity for Change and Growth” and found it very helpful. However the
circumstances that led to my termination are very personal. It involved a
divorce and a bout of depression that required psychiatric help and medication.
Leading to my termination. I have a very good resume 11 consecutive years
of perfect attendance awards and good references from my former employer. I am
physically and mentally fit for employment and I am eager to get back into
the work force. How can I explain this to a potential employer?

The Career Doctor responds:
First let me offer both my condolences (on the divorce and loss of your job)
and congratulations (for seeking and getting the help you needed).
I think the first thing you need to do in terms of your job search is bury all
the bad stuff as deeply as possible. Prospective employers do not want to
know any of the personal stuff so ideally no explanation is necessary.
Certainly never — and I mean never — raise any negative issue yourself.
But you do need to be prepared to discuss why you are without a job and
why you are currently seeking a new one. But the story you present does
not have to mention your personal issues. I would suggest volunteering
consulting or temping as ways to get some new experience on your resume –
and thus avoid having the question ever raised. And if it were raised you
could say you were fired for some issues that have since been resolved.
By the way unless you have a very spiteful boss your former employer will
never give a reason for why you were fired… but that does not mean you
make up a lie about it either.
As for references why not ask some of your former co-workers whether they
would feel comfortable providing a reference for you? References do not have
to be former bosses or supervisors. And again by temping or volunteering
you’ll be able to get some new references.
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