Question: I'm having trouble explaining why I left my last job. For three years I worked in a residential treatment facility for youthful offenders. Everything was fine until I was assigned to the third shift, which lasts from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. Adjusting to this schedule was extremely difficult. Because I could not sleep well during the day, I was always tired at work. I began falling asleep in the middle of my shift, which was obviously unacceptable. Since I was never able to break this pattern, they eventually let me go.
Now, when I apply for a job, I'm not sure how to answer the "reason for leaving" question. If I put "terminated" on the application, I never get an interview. If I tell an interviewer I was fired, I never get called back. I want to be honest, but I also want to be hired. How should I handle this?
Answer: Since you should never lie during a job search, you will need to be truthful without being self-destructive. For example, when applications request "reason for leaving," you might give an ambiguous answer like "shift difficulties." This is a true statement that can later be explained during an interview.
When talking with potential employers, focus on the physiological challenges of third-shift work. For example: "I could never seem to reverse my sleep patterns. Since I didn't get enough sleep during the day, I kept dozing off during my shift. I was never able to adjust, so unfortunately I had to leave."
Of course, this explanation only works if you are applying for positions with regular daytime hours. But I assume there's no question about that.
Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach; visit yourofficecoach.com.