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I didn't get my contract renewed. The final motivation was lacking soft skills such as:

  • Being able to understand the requirements and asking questions if something is not clear
  • Being proactive and able to negotiate / propose ideas when discussing the requirements during sprint refinements

I was told that my technical skills were fine but that the most important thing for my job was not to have technical skills, rather being reliable and thinking from a client perspective (e.g, thinking about the delivery).

This happened for a junior position after being criticised for 8 months. I recognised the problems and tried to improve, but in my opinion the manager didn't see my improvements, and his negative bias prevented him from having a clear view on my performance. And frankly, I think that even small problems were perceived as gigantic, and at some points he was just counting my mistakes without considering my positive contributions.

But now the question is: how to sell myself again to other companies? how is it bad for a company a junior who was fired after only 1 year and 7 months? I have a few options:

  1. Don't mention my first job in the curriculum at all. Maybe I would get more chances than if I mentioned this first experience?
  2. Deliberately lie and claim that I was fired because my company had too many juniors and not enough seniors, which is true but it is definitely not the reason why I got fired -> what about the risk that they find out if they contact my previous company?
  3. Sugarcoated and slightly altered version of the facts: 'my company had too many juniors and not enough seniors, so they had to fire someone. They opted for me because I lacked soft skills'
  4. Full story: I have to explain my shortcomings and demonstrate that I have turned this negative story into a learning experience. But also point out that in my opinion I didn't deserve to be fired

Maybe there is another option that I didn't see? in any case, what would you choose and what suggestions can you give me to sell myself again and land a new job?

  • 5
    You mentioned that you were fired and that your contract was not renewed. Which one is it? – sf02 Jan 17 at 21:10
  • @sf02 it's effectively the same thing. – Old_Lamplighter Jan 17 at 21:33
  • @RichardSaysReinstateMonica in practice yes, but it determines what you might get away with telling an employer afterward. – Matthew Gaiser Jan 17 at 22:28
  • I didn't get my contract renewed, and I was using it as a synonym of "being fired". – Boh Boh Jan 18 at 11:19
  • How are those "soft skills"? I thought "soft skills" was being well-behaved at employee parties, active listening, getting invited to weddings, etc. What next? Will commenting code be considered a soft skill? – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jan 18 at 17:44
5

You asked,

But now the question is: how to sell myself again to other companies?

The same way everyone else does (ideally): Be honest, but filter your message to help focus on your strengths and your fitness for the job.

For this particular situation, if you felt the need to elaborate, your fourth option is probably the best:

Full story: I have to explain my shortcomings and demonstrate that I have turned this negative story into a learning experience. But also point out that in my opinion I didn't deserve to be fired

Although, leaving off the last part is a good idea: employers don't like it when candidates blame their past employer, because it makes you look like someone who is likely to blame them the next time something goes wrong. But, if something negative does come up in the interview, it's always a good idea to:

  • show that you actually understand that this thing is negative
  • show that you're able to put effort into improving your negative trait
  • show that your improvement efforts worked

So, if you do have examples where you were able to do a good job of being proactive in requirements negotiations, you can have one of those stories ready to go. If you feel that you still have growing to do, make sure you put effort into growing, regardless of how your job search goes. One of the most desirable types of employee is an employee that goes out of their own way to improve themselves. Even the "best" employee won't be a good long term employee if they're totally stagnant, but someone who's always growing will always be a good bet.

But, all that said, telling a new employer "I was fired because I have no soft skills" is almost certainly a bad level of detail. Since you mentioned your contract ended, it is fair to simply present that: tell the employer that you're looking for a new job because your last job was on a contract basis and the contract ended. If they push for details, be ready with the advice given above.

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  • The full story includes also that I was working with a senior that considered my performance negative for lacking soft skills, but then when I switched team and worked with another senior, the new senior considered my performance 'fine', but it was too late to convince the manager that I was a fit in the company. Do you think it's wise to also include this part or it looks like I'm blaming the company? – Boh Boh Jan 18 at 11:23
  • @BohBoh - that's starting to get way down into the details. Keep it high level and generic if you can. You shouldn't have to be explaining scenarios like that. Where possible, steer the interview towards your future not your past. – dwizum Jan 21 at 13:48
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Obligatory Disclaimer: I am mildly autistic (Asgerger's Syndrome) and had HORRIBLE soft skills.

The best thing you can do is to buy and read a book on salesmanship. Every last soft skill you mentioned is covered in closing sales. Develop those skills, and when you get hit with the obligatory "What is your greatest weakness" you can answer:

Well, my soft skills have gotten in my way in the past, and were the principle reason my previous contract ended. To address this, I've been boning up on my soft skills by reading xyz.

For a junior, getting let go after more than a year and a half is not a badge of shame. I was once let go after 3 days. It happens, and everyone has a story. Future employers will not think it a big deal if you do not think of it as a big deal.

The important thing to do is to address those weaknesses. and improve. Bring the new and improved you to your next job.

Any book on closing sales is good, but I also recommend the following:

How to Win Friends and Influence People By Dale Carnegie

Brag, the Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing it by Peggy Klaus

The Hard Facts About Soft Skills by Richard Anthony Celestin Esq

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2

Your options 1 to 4 are about equally bad. You can't ignore a job that you stayed in for 1 1/2 years in your CV. And saying you were fired is bad, as is telling about lack of soft skills.

Let's first clear up why your contract wasn't renewed: There is the

Being able to understand the requirements and asking questions if something is not clear

Have there been situations where you went off and did the completely wrong thing because you didn't understand the requirements and didn't ask questions when something wasn't clear? That would be a problem if it happened more than once. The other reasons are bull____. There is no need for everyone to be deeply involved with sprint refinements. It's nice, but not needed. "Thinking from a client perspective" is equally bull____. "Thinking from the client perspective" is your PM's job, not yours.

As a junior developer, if you do as you're told, don't make too many mistakes, and you learn and improve, everything should be fine. Now you were told about the importance of

being reliable

Were you unreliable? How so? That could be a reason not to renew your contract. But then it is quite possible that the company employed too many people and somebody had to go, and your boss didn't like you. So don't beat yourself up.

Present yourself in the best possible light without lying. So in your CV you put where you worked for 19 months, what you did (without company specific details), what you learned, what experience you have. No need to put anything negative there.

If you have to discuss your previous job in an interview: You worked for 19 months, your manager was happy with your technical skills, but your contract wasn't renewed. Might be because there was a large number of junior developers compared to senior developers.

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  • Indeed my company at the moment has 4 juniors and 3 seniors, one of which is busy doing backend work so every team would have 1 senior, 1 medior and 2 juniors, which is way too much. And we are also missing a tech lead. But I am not the most unexperienced junior, so I wasn't the first one on the list. And I was let go after being on a PIP for months, so I really think that I was let go for not convincing them that I was reliable. – Boh Boh Jan 19 at 19:33
  • My first thought was to go for the option you suggested. But I am only concerned about something: how much is likely that the company will make a background check and find out that I was let go for other reasons? – Boh Boh Jan 19 at 19:35

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