You're Fired! What a High-Profile Termination Means to a Career and Tips for Rebounding from Controversy

You're Fired! What a High-Profile Termination Means to a Career and Tips for Rebounding from Controversy

Executive recruiters say a public firing such as Microsoft's ex-CIO Stuart Scott endured can seriously injure a career but doesn't have to end one.

SIDEBAR: Stuart Scott's Background

Executive recruiters say that Scott, ousted from his job as Microsoft's CIO, may be able to rely on his executive track record to rebound. That track record includes:

Education: Bachelor's and master's degrees in engineering, mathematics and computer science from the University of Louisville. MBA from Vanderbilt University.

Employment: 2005-2007, CIO, Microsoft. 1987 to 2004: Positions at General Electric, rising to divisional CIO. Other accomplishments: Scott is a Six Sigma black belt and a graduate of GE's Leadership Development Program. Note: Scott took a short break from his employment at GE to work at now-defunct before returning to GE.

Source: Microsoft, CIO reporting

SIDEBAR: Tips for Recovering From a Firing

To rise above a high-profile termination, redeem one's reputation and ensure one has a career moving forward, an executive has to handle the aftermath and the consequences of the termination with care.

1. Tell the Truth Executives who've been fired often try to keep such negative facts about their work history secret because they know how difficult landing a new job will be. But not being honest with executive recruiters and potential employers will backfire. The truth always comes out; executive recruiters say executives should fess up to the truth, no matter how unsavoury it may be.

Harvey Nash's Gordon knows of a CIO, whom he declined to name, who lost his job his first day because he never told his new employer during the interview process that he had been fired from his previous job. The employer found out about the termination when, that day, an IT employee searched the Web for information about the new CIO and uncovered the circumstances surrounding the CIO's departure from his last company. Gordon says the company retracted the job offer because executives there felt they couldn't trust the new CIO.

2. Don't Point Fingers Of course, there is a dignified way to present the unpleasant facts about your career, and that's by taking the high road and avoiding finger-pointing, says ZRG's Heller. Blaming others won't earn you much respect, she says. "Everybody understands that it takes two to tango, and getting fired does not necessarily mean that the executive [in question] is at fault," adds Heller.

3. Take Responsibility for Mistakes Some "mistakes" are easier to rebound from than others. For instance, if a CIO has to play the scapegoat for taking a risk on a technology investment that had a potentially high upside but that didn't play out, he can walk away from the experience with his dignity intact, says Gordon. But if the CIO's integrity comes into question or there's any hint of a scandal surrounding his actions, a recovery will be much harder, he says.

4. Keep All Options on the Table Whether a CIO has botched an ERP implementation, burned political bridges or violated HR policies, his best bet for finding a new job is relocating (possibly to a new country, depending on the extent of the damage) and/or switching to a new market sector, says Gordon.

5. Keep That Network Humming The strength of an executive's relationships with individuals in his network can also help him weather a storm and transition to his next position. People who know the executive well can vouch for his character, expertise and ability to learn lessons.

Gordon also has advice for companies doing the firing: "If it's not handled delicately, and they don't let that person go with their professional dignity intact, it's going to reflect badly on the company and reduces their chances of hiring someone of high calibre into that position in the future."

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