9 Ways to Clean Up Your Image After You’ve Been Fired

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Receiving a pink slip from your employer doesn't necessarily mean your career is in jeopardy. Here's why.

Life is grand, work is great and then, before you know it, you’re handed a pink slip, which instantly turns your world upside down.

To make matters worse, you’ve been let go because of a violation of the company’s handbook.

Depending on the circumstances and whether you actually enjoyed working for the organization, you could suffer a major blow to your self-esteem. But there’s no need to spend months or even weeks wallowing in self-pity and feelings of hopelessness. In fact, it’s best to start planning your next move soon so your emotions won’t get the best of you.

You may have the option of submitting an appeal to the human resources department if you insist on returning and have adequate evidence to make your case. Otherwise, here are some tips to help you get over the hump and move forward with your job search:

1. Be honest

When a prospective employer finally pops the big question about why you left your last job, answer it in the most straightforward manner possible. Lying about your departure could potentially be found out, eliminating you from consideration for the job. Lying about being fired is not one of CNBC’s “acceptable job interview lies.” Come clean and explain what you’ve learned from the experience.

Also, you definitely want to avoid throwing the previous employer under the bus. No prospective employer will want to hear you bad-mouthing your former boss. You’ll create a very negative impression.

You may feel alone, but plenty of other good employees have been fired and went on to find perfectly acceptable jobs.

2. Accentuate the positive

Shift the focus by emphasizing the major contributions you made to the company and how you were an invaluable asset during your stay. Be as detailed as possible and quantify what you accomplished with numbers and statistics. For example, if you were employed as an account manager and helped implement policies that reduced the delinquency of payments by 12 percent, state this accomplishment in the interview.

Don’t forget to mention that you’ve been steadily improving your skills since your departure. Because you have, haven’t you?

3. Don’t ask, don’t tell

If you’re lucky enough to dodge the bullet, don’t voluntarily disclose information not requested in the interview.

However, you’ll want to be honest on the job application by disclosing accurate start and end dates or you risk losing the prospective employer’s trust. Lying on an application can also get you fired.

4. Carefully select references

If you were canned because of an ethical violation and not a mass layoff, it’s probably not a good idea to ask your former boss for a reference. However, you can approach others you worked with who will speak well of you.

Know that many companies, to avoid lawsuits, have policies that limit a former employer to confirming when you worked there and what your job was. In fact, the oldest trick in the book is listing the general number to the human resources department so when the prospective employer calls, the employment verification information will be stated without any extras.

But, in the absence of such a policy, there’s nothing to keep your former boss from saying you were fired and for what, as long as it’s truthful.

5. Participate in self-improvement activities

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