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I was employed in a senior position to take over a role that, before I started, was played by very expensive external consultants. I contributed massively, launching several important projects and drawing a very specific strategy for further development. These were all highly recognised and accepted to be implemented. The pressure was extreme for me to work hard to finish quickly and I worked crazy hours to manage that.

Then I was fired. I could be as I was still in my probationary period.

The more I think about it, the more I have the impression this was the plan from the beginning. I was employed to do a very specific job, which the company needed to be done just once (or: just once in a period of time). The fact that the company is now seeking to employ just much more junior (cheaper...) people fortifies my impression. I feel used and in not a nice place given I need to explain that during job interviews.

Is there anything I could do to prevent this from happening in the future?

  • So the project was highly recognised, but how about you? Did you ever get feedback about yourself and your way of working? Was there any hint that they would have fired you earlier, if the project wouldn't exist? – Chris Jul 7 at 10:43
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    Before assuming this is the reason why you were fired, you should look into and eliminate every other possible reason. Feeling extreme pressure and working crazy hours would be fairly strong signals that something (else) was wrong. – Dukeling Jul 7 at 11:16
  • If they come back to you then renegociate a different severance package... – Solar Mike Jul 7 at 11:21
  • Fixed period contracts exist for companies that want an employee temporarily. Was this an option for them? Did they even consider this? Did they know the period they wanted someone for? Did they expect what you did to take significantly longer? These are all things we can just speculate about. – Dukeling Jul 7 at 11:24
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    @Dukeling, using a metaphor: I was given 3 apples, some cabbage and some water and told to cook a dinner for 5. I've managed. But working on that wasn't fun or easy. – caramba Jul 7 at 15:09
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Is there anything I could do to prevent this from happening in the future?

Your best shot is to do research on the company and their leaders and weave in some relevant questions into the interview. Examples are "when do you use consultants and when do you prefer permanent employees?", "what is your current employee turnover rate?", "how long people typically stay at your company?", when was the last time you did a major reorg and what happened"?

Check out glassdoor, linkedin profiles and other public sources of information.

It's not perfect, but once you are sensitized to a particular problem, you can actively look for it, which will significantly reduce the risk.

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No - a reasonable firm will not hire you as a permanent employee with the intention of letting you go unknowingly.

The scheme you describe likely isn't the case. There are much better alternatives to hiring and firing - in terms of cost, morale, and reputation - for short-term work. The total cost savings you suggest your employer may have realized is likely too small to be relevant when compared with the project's total cost.

If you're confused as to why you've been let go, ask for a specific rationale from your previous manager. He or she will be able to describe the reasons, whether it was related to your performance or you just got unlucky and got hired right before unexpected layoffs.

Probation is an internal process that forces managers to review your work early in your tenure. It doesn't make it any easier or harder to fire you later (in the US, when you're not part of a union). It seems more likely that your manager had misgivings about your performance or behavior when asked to make a decision about keeping you on at the end of your probationary period.

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    Note: getting laid off and getting fired are 2 different things (legally as well, in some places). If you were laid off, you shouldn't say you were fired, and vice versa. – Dukeling Jul 7 at 14:38
  • Key word here is “reasonable”, did this sound like a reasonable employer... – Solar Mike Jul 7 at 14:51
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    "He or she will be able to describe the reasons": understood literally, this may well be true. But will he or she be willing to describe the reasons? I doubt that very much, especially if the reasons are close to what the OP suspects. I think it is very naive to expect a straight answer from the previous manager. – TonyK Jul 7 at 22:12
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It is often done at the executive level. However, people usually understand it as part of the job. Come in, turn the company (or department) around, and then be replaced, with some nice package.

The reason for it is that changing something will bruise people's ego and the person making large changes will often make too many enemies, or accumulate too much resentment. Once the turn-around is complete, your hire a nice friendly new exec that appears nice to everybody.

If this happened to you, either the CEO/board thought you understood it, and were ok with it, or you were not up to their standards.

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