Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Ask the Administrator: How to Explain a Termination
I am back on the job market after getting three years as a full-time English Instructor. At my most recent school, I was on the tenure-track, probationary status. I was informed at the end of my second year that my contract would not be renewed and when I inquired into the reason, I was just informed that I was not a good fit.
Here comes the tricky part: my dean, the one who decided to let me go, disclosed to me that the school had actually fired him and that the school told him he would be done after he completed the next term, so they kept him on a term after notifying him that he would be done. During my appointment at the school, this dean harassed me sexually, verbally, broke my contract multiple times, scheduling me overtime without my permission, having me work on projects unpaid for which I was contractually due compensation.
Because I was probationary status, I was reluctant to bring these issues to human resources and when I brought them up to my union rep, on the local and state level, I was told that I had no recourse.
After I was let go, I had a lawyer investigate for a possible unlawful termination case and I'm pretty sure my former dean knows of the allegations made. I decided to drop them so I could focus on finding a new position, but now I'm not sure how to explain why I was let go to new hiring committees.
I don't want to look like someone who stirs up trouble, or plays the victim card, but I don't actually know why I was let go: I had strong evaluations.
How can I explain my past employment situation if it comes up? Is it likely that my dean may say bad things about me retaliatorily if he knows about the (true) allegations I made against him?
Have a question? Ask the Administrator at deandad (at) gmail (dot) com.
I once had an interviewer tell me that he only had one question: "why did you leave your former employer?" This individual was not satisfied with "personal reasons," as you might imagine.
Should you get an interview, you WILL be asked to elaborate on those personal reasons, and you'd better have a brief but satisfying story. Whatever you come up with should be practiced to the point that you are comfortable saying it, without being glib or robotic. Rehearse with friends or trusted colleagues until you can "own" your narrative.
You don't want to come across as petty or personal, but I think if you then move on to emphasize that second part (that you got along well with everyone else) it won't seem that way.