An Open Letter to Former-FBI Director James Comey (and anyone else who has ever been fired)
Dear Former-FBI Director Comey,
We heard you were fired and we want you to know that we can help you during this stressful time. The first thing you need to know is that you’re not alone – plenty of people get fired (although most people don’t hear about it on TV, so that’s pretty unique) and they still go on to have great careers. Like other people who have been fired, you’re probably dealing with a lot of conflicting emotions and meanwhile starting to worry about where your next job will be. So, we’ve put together a list of Dos and Don’ts for you to help you get through being fired and get on with your life and your career.
Don’t sign anything without a lawyer present.
Whether you were fired because you weren’t doing a good job or because of political differences or downsizing or any other reason, you may be asked to sign a severance agreement. We would strongly encourage you to refuse to sign anything without first having an employment lawyer look over the document. Even if HR says “it’s standard” or something like that, anything you sign might take away your ability to negotiate the terms of your departure.
Do try to get a reference.
Everyone knows President Trump probably isn’t going to give you a great reference after firing you – he’s already said publicly that you were doing a bad job. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get a reference from someone else. For instance, you served under a former boss – President Obama. Even though he is no longer with the organization, he may be able to offer you a positive reference. You can even seek out someone else still working for the organization who might offer you a good recommendation.
Do fill employment gaps.
Unfortunately, it’s easier to find a job when you already have one. So get busy! Volunteering is a great way to fill employment gaps on your resume. For instance, you might want to testify in front of Congress for a few days, which will of course take some prep time, too. So, on your resume, you can list that after your position at the FBI. We also hear you enjoy gardening. Even though gardening isn’t related to your career path in law, it’s perfectly acceptable to say you took a break from your career to perform service for your community when you volunteered at an urban farm for a few months. Not only does volunteering keep you from sitting at home and watching Judge Judy all day, you will appear all the more noble for wanting to spend some time helping your community.
Don’t use the F-word.
We know you were fired by probably the most famous boss of all time. After all, the President literally made a career based on saying “YOU’RE FIRED.” That doesn’t mean you need to use the “F-word” when describing what happened to you. Instead, try using one of these phrases:
- We had differences in opinion.
- We had different working philosophies.
- We had differences in creative direction.
The great thing about these descriptions of what happened is that they are vague about whether you were fired or left voluntarily. While it seems unlikely, former-Director Comey, that anyone doesn’t know you were fired, it’s possible! So be vague and let them wonder whether you were fired or left voluntarily.
Don’t badmouth the boss.
The President has made it known that he thought you weren’t doing a good job. He’s claimed some things about a few conversations the two of you had that seem…questionable. He’s even sent a few Tweets that have a hint of a threatening tone. So we understand why you might harbor some negative feelings toward your former boss. But you need to work through those feelings on your own because new employers don’t like complainers, even if they may be understanding of your point of view.
In some cases, you may be asked on an application or in an interview if you have ever been fired / let go / asked to leave a position. Don’t lie. Even for people who have experienced less public firings than you, lying is a bad idea because if your new employer finds out you lied, even after they’ve hired you, they could take back your employment offer because you deceived them during the hiring process.
Do turn a negative into a positive.
If you’re asked whether you have involuntarily left a previous position, you can use the question to demonstrate that you can be honest (use one of the descriptive phrases in #4) and then turn the discussion to you positive attributes. For instance, if you say you were let go over differences in opinion, you can follow-up by talking about how you’ve spent your career valuing impartiality and fairness and abiding by the law. You could point out that you’ve worked for both Republican and Democratic administrations, showing that others have viewed you as impartial and non-political. Do all of this by talking about yourself in positive terms – and not speaking negatively about President Trump.
So, former-Director Comey, we know you’re probably still feeling all the emotions, so do grab yourself a pint of your favorite Ben and Jerry’s flavor and spend a night Netflix and chilling. Sleep late. Putter in the garden. Indulge a little and rest up for a few days because we have a feeling you’re about to get really busy – and that’s the best thing you can do after being fired.
In the meantime, if you have questions about how to revamp your resume to shift into a new career, we’d be happy to help. For instance, you might want to move out of government and into private industry. While these kinds of career moves can be tricky, with a little tweaking of your resume, we can set you up for success on the job market and get you back to doing what you love faster than President Trump can say “YOU’RE FIRED.”