Moving from Job Loss, to Temp Jobs to Permanent Employment

By Martin Yate November 5, 2019
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​Best-selling author Martin Yate, a career coach and former HR professional, takes your questions each week about how to further your career in HR.

I worked for 11 years as the administrative assistant at my church. The work relationship was very muddy as I worked, worshiped and lived in the same place. Two years ago, I was fired due to some very personal circumstances (depression and complicated personal relationships).
I have since worked in three long-term temporary HR jobs. I have applied for permanent jobs, but I'm concerned about two things:
  1. Does the fact that I worked so long at a church make employers think differently of me or my job experience?
  2. Does the fact that I have worked temp jobs reflect negatively on my employability, and if so, how do I change that? 
Also, should I give an explanation to prospective employers as to why I'm no longer employed at the church other than "it was a mutual agreement that it was time for me to move on"?

When things aren't going well professionally, people can end up with a tattered ego. To lose so much in one fell swoop, as you have done, is devastating and not something that is quickly overcome.

But you seem ready to move forward. Keep a few things in mind as you get your professional life back on track:

You Are Worthy

You asked whether your work experience at the church would color employers' impression of you and your capabilities. Yes, it will; your long service shows you were a competent and reliable employee. There is nothing to worry about there, so don't turn your dedication and reliability into a negative.

Temp Jobs Are Not a Strike Against You

You have nothing to be worried about here, either. Temporary jobs do not affect employability. Many people take temp jobs in their careers.

If the temp jobs came through one or two employment agencies, list those companies as your employers and the jobs as assignments. This can give you more employers' names to reference. You can list your profession between these jobs as "freelancer," if you like.

You Don't Need to Give a Complex Reason for Leaving

You will be asked your reasons for leaving each of the four jobs. Interviewers are looking for a succinct and acceptable answer. For your current temp job, you might try something like this: "The project is ending. I've tried the temp life for three years, but as my background proves, I am best suited to working for a single employer over the long haul."

For the prior two temp jobs, you can say the projects ended. For the church job, employers are going to wonder why you went from secure, long-term employment to less-secure temp work. You can credibly answer, "Eleven years is a long time in one job. I loved the job and people, but I felt it was time for new challenges." This is true and defensible.

What you should not say about the church job is that after 11 years, it was agreed that it was time for you to move on. This simply waves a big red flag that there was dissatisfaction on the employer's side, something you don't need to say and an insinuation you want to avoid. Rehearse your answers so that you don't ramble or stumble when you are asked this question.

You are an experienced, loyal and competent professional. You've experienced a tough challenge in your professional life, but you can rise again and move forward with your career.

Have a question for Martin about advancing or managing your career? From big issues to small, please feel free to e-mail your queries to YourCareerQA@shrm.org. We'll only publish your first name and city, unless you prefer to remain anonymous—just let us know.

Packed with practical, honest, real-world guidance for successfully navigating common HR career challenges, Martin Yate's new book, The HR Career Guide: Great Answers to Tough Career Questions, is available at the SHRMStore. Order your copy today!

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