Question: Dear Luise: I have an interesting dilemma on my hands. I was terminated from my last job because I needed to take time off to care for my infant daughter that I had just adopted. Since I had been with my employer for less than 1 year, I did not fall under the FMLA protection. My question is how do I approach filling out job applications when they ask, “Why did you leave your last job?” If I just say “Termination” that doesn’t necessarily look very good. If I say “Termination due to family obligations” an employer may think that I am going to have problems with childcare and I won’t be able to get in to work on a regular basis, which isn’t the case at all. I have since been able to get good reliable childcare for my daughter. I have heard that people say that one shouldn’t mention that they have small children, but I don’t know how I’m going to be able to successfully convey to a potential employer that this will not be an issue. Many online job applications will not allow you to submit if you leave the “Why did you leave your last job?” field blank. What can I do? I feel that if I can get into an interview with someone I can explain my circumstances, but I don’t want to be shot down before I can get to that stage. Otherwise, I feel that I am a competitive candidate in my field. D.
Answer: Dear D.: Talk about unfair! Having to apply online keeps you from making a good impression, personally. Handy for Human Resources, I’m sure, and it’s the industry standard…but it is so terribly sterile.
You have to say you were terminated. (Too bad your last employer didn’t let you quit when the chips were down.) I think you should be very candid about you and your adoptive child needing time to deal with the process. Let them know that you did not know when, or even if, that would ever happen…so there was no way to plan ahead or foresee what might be required.
You may meet with some understanding, if you approach it that way. Many of us are really touched when a person chooses to take a child out of the system and into a loving home. They may understand. If they do, be prepared for questions regarding why you couldn’t work it out with your former employer and why you aren’t returning there.
You can be a new Mom and still be competitive in your field. It’s being done every day, as you know. Good for you for believing in yourself. You convinced me of that. Just approach a new employer as candidly as you did me. They won’t all respond in a positive way. You will find unspoken prejudice, I’m sure, but there are warm, caring people out there in all walks of life. Blessings, Luise