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My friend is a grad student at an US institution studying Computer Science. During the internship season, they got an opportunity to work at a mid-sized company in the cyber-security domain. Although the role was in that domain, it did not need cybersecurity knowledge as it was mainly related to some automation of activities/processes in that domain.

They performed satisfactorily during their internship they believe, because they received a return offer for a co-op. Now, while working as a co-op, the company underwent sweeping re-orgs and this landed them in a project that needed in-depth cyber-security knowledge. Given their lack of knowledge of the domain, they were asked to undergo some online trainings which they did to the best of their capacity, but unfortunately, they got fired for underperformance.

Now they are worried if this could affect their full-time employability:

  1. Could they discuss with the HR and have it considered as a normal termination of employment instead of a performance-based firing? Is such a request even a thing? Any chance such a request could be entertained?

  2. Since this is a co-op, they could avoid listing it on their resume? (There would be no "gaps" visible, should they choose to drop it) Would this be acceptable? Having said that, they are very tempted to list it, since it counts as their "US experience" being an international student in the US. There have been few interviews in which the recruiters have specifically focused on this employment and asked them (non-technical) questions about their experience working for a US employer.

  3. If they end up not listing it on their resume, should they still bring it up and mention this to the recruiters themselves in the future? They are primarily looking for full time roles in Software Engineering (not necessarily in the cyber-security domain), so they believe bringing this up themselves is not necessary, unless it is an opportunity in the cyber-security domain.

  4. Should they ask for an experience certificate or some employment proof from the organization? Any downsides of doing so? If they plan to list it on their resume, they need some employment proof.

  5. Irrespective of whether or not they add it on their resume or a background-check form, would this come up in their background checks? Could it affect their potential future employment?

  6. Could it affect the status of their current student visa?

It is an unfortunate situation they are in and they regret it. With their studies, assignments and exams along with a job search in this economy, they apparently couldn't focus as much on learning about cybersecurity for the job. And now they worry if they have put themselves in a difficult situation with respect to their future employability.

We don't have any friends or relatives in a similar situation and so we greatly appreciate any feedback or suggestions that you have. Thank you!

4 Answers 4

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If I've understood correctly - they had an Internship, the Internship changed into something else, then they got fired?

In which case...

No one cares

And here's why: An Internship is generally accepted that you are brand new, know nothing (in a business sense) and are there to get Experience.

The other thing that's generally accepted with an Internship is that they are one of the first things to go if business needs change.

So, I wouldn't worry too much about it.

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  • Thank you for your response. Their job title remained the same; but the actual work that they did, changed. Their main concern is that since it is cybersecurity, whether it is still related to computer science and if it could affect their future.
    – Someone
    Nov 12, 2023 at 0:05
  • If the job title was the same e.g. 'Intern' then yeah - absolute big non-event. No one will care. I know it seems major now, but an internship will end-up being a footnote/minor detail in your employment history once you have even 1 year of real-world experience. Nov 12, 2023 at 0:13
  • I believe the title was "SecOps intern" and it remained that. So it would still remain a non-event, right?
    – Someone
    Nov 12, 2023 at 0:14
  • Yep. It's an Internship. Nov 12, 2023 at 0:16
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    I've personally never dealt with interns, but I have trained fresh grads. Co-op interns are not even fresh grads so I can't imagine it being better.
    – Nelson
    Nov 13, 2023 at 1:53
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Could they discuss with the HR and have it considered as a normal termination of employment instead of a performance-based firing?

I highly doubt that you can convince HR to change the reason for termination.


Should they ask for an experience certificate or some employment proof from the organization?

In the US, we don't have this kind of certificate or employment proof to hand over to the departing employees.

However, you can list your past employments on your resume, and when some potential employers call your old companies to verify your past employments, the old companies will confirm your employments with them.


Could it affect their potential future employment?

Don't worry too much. I have seen people who get fired from a professional job, and still can get hired later on for other professional jobs.

Every job you work on is a learning experience.

So, try to learn from your past experience to do a better job the next time.


Could it affect the status of their current student visa?

I don't see why it should affect your visa status since it is only an internship while you are still in school.

Check with your university if you want to be sure.

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they could avoid listing it on their resume?

In the United States you decide what items to put on your resume. As your experience grows you can skip some jobs without hurting your narrative related to that position. Also realize that any interviewer can ask about what was in the gaps.

(There would be no "gaps" visible, should they choose to drop it) Would this be acceptable? Having said that, they are very tempted to list it, since it counts as their "US experience" being an international student in the US.

Listing and describing a position is done to help you get a job. It sounds like the job does provide important experience. Therefore the general advice is to include it. Care must be taken to demonstrate what was accomplished while not emphasizing how it ended.

If they end up not listing it on their resume, should they still bring it up and mention this to the recruiters themselves in the future? They are primarily looking for full time roles in Software Engineering (not necessarily in the cyber-security domain), so they believe bringing this up themselves is not necessary, unless it is an opportunity in the cyber-security domain.

Jobs provide opportunities to grow related to the domain, and to the skills necessary to accomplish the tasks. The position is relevant to positions unrelated to cyber security.

Should they ask for an experience certificate or some employment proof from the organization? Any downsides of doing so? If they plan to list it on their resume, they need some employment proof.

There are no experience letters in the United States. While conducting a background check, or validating the list of previous positions the employer (or usually a 3rd party) will contact previous employers. Most former employers will only provide dates of employment and job title. If they can't get a response the new company will ask for either pay stubs or W-2 forms as proof of employment.

Irrespective of whether or not they add it on their resume or a background-check form, would this come up in their background checks? Could it affect their potential future employment?

If they don't put it on the background check form, it could be discovered. If it was discovered then it would look like they were trying to hide it. I have also seen background check forms where they specifically asked for the reason the employment ended. If they were terminated for something like workplace violence, or theft, they would have to say they were fired. In the situation described in this question, they could easily explain it as they lost their position due to the reorganization. If asked they should explain why it ended.

Could it affect the status of their current student visa?

Depended. Are they required to be in a co-op or internship? If they are required to be in one they need to find a new one. If they aren't required to be in one, then the only thing they are missing is money, or class credit.

If they are required to list any off campus work, then they should list it.

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In addition to the other answers: These days, if a company is called to confirm information on a resume, their lawyers will almost certainly tell them to only acknowledge that the person worked for them and give starting and ending dates, and not say one word about how and why the employee departed. That applies even to positive comments about the employee; if they are in the habit of giving those, the lack of same could imply something they don't want to be in the position of saying.

If the new employer wants evaluations rather than dates, they will contact the references.

So I agree: Don't stress about it. It really isn't likely to come up before the interview, and in the interview you can control how it is spun.

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