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I was recently fired from my janitor position because I drew the SS (Schutzstaffel) logo on a teacher's whiteboard. The teacher reported me because he assumed it was a hate crime (it wasn't, I didn't even know the guy). It was just a joke. They have me on camera and everything, though.

How do I explain this to future employers? Do I just not list this job on my resume?

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    just for future reference, jokes like that, not for the workplace. – Amy Jul 24 '12 at 7:39
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    Yeah, I guess I learned that the hard way. – Jacob Jul 24 '12 at 8:57
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    Fyi, in Germany you might land in court for drawing that stuff in a public place. – ThiefMaster Jul 24 '12 at 14:11
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    What about this did you think was funny? It's not that I don't personally find it funny, but I don't even see why it could be described as a joke. Did the teacher happen to be Jewish? – psr Jul 24 '12 at 17:35
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    Possible duplicate of In a job interview, how do I explain why I was fired? – Dukeling Jun 16 at 10:06
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You have an odd sense of humor and an unfortunate lack of judgement but I feel sorry for you, because I have been fired before for making an innappropriate joke to the wrong person. I know how it feels for a small lack of judgement to define and haunt you for a long time. Anything with schools lately is a hard job and it is very easy to get fired for seemingly small things. They are like prisons, nobody wants to be there, the weak kids are always getting threatened and beatened up, and the employees tread on thin ice doing just enough to not get fired and prevent kids from killing each other.

When I was in high school I worked at McDonalds, we were playfully going back and forth over who should take the drivethru window and who should work grill. I made a comment to the woman that she should work grill because a womans natural place is in the kitchen. I thought I was coming off sarcastic, but she took enormous offense to this and I was fired.

I honestly felt very bad about this and what I did was acknowledge that I hurt somebodies feelings and own it. I wrote a letter to the woman telling her I was sorry for hurting her feelings, and a letter to the restaurant owner apologizing for the whole situation. It gave me closure and that in turn gives you strength to face future prospective employers and be upfront and honest about everything when they ask you why you left X.

On interviews:

  • Be Honest

  • Exude Strength and Resolve

  • Display Confidence that you are a smarter and stronger person because of it and that you are confident that you will do a good job and not disappoint anybody.

I am the anti-thesis of a person who takes the literal interpretation of a persons words to heart, I always try to uncover what somebody really means or feels before assuming the worst about what they said. Events like these in my life taught me that I am in the minority, most people will take your literal words VERY seriously and can be greatly pained and troubled by them. I still put my foot in my mouth from time to time but I am altogether more cautious of what I say now.

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    +1 for the bullet points and the anecdote. you might not get forgiveness for apologies, but at least closure and peace of mind are two things which will help you on future interviews. – Spoike Jul 24 '12 at 14:11
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First things first, the questions:

Do I just not list this job on my resume?

If it is a recent job then no. This is usually a bad idea.

Not listing jobs on your resume tends to be a bad red flag once someone finds out you've purposefully left out information. You should list jobs that you've done and answer truthfully on why you were discharged.

How do I explain this to future employers

Be frank. In your case you made an "inappropriate joke" and have learnt from it not to do it again. If pressed for details, state that it is embarrassing to talk about unless you've done enough self-reflection and soul searching to be able to do that.

I sure hope the joke was worth it

Secondly; you really could use some self-reflection. Preferably in a setting where your ability of judgement is not clouded.

This might be difficult to grasp, and it might seem unfair to you, but:

  • Getting fired for inappropriate jokes that have an enormous social stigma attached to it without any way to back out of it (such a sincere apology), is more of a good reason to get fired rather than bad reason. Not doing a proper apology is also a sign of bad and bullish attitude, lest to mention if it isn't a sociopathic tendency.
  • Playing distasteful pranks instead of doing your job is not really professional behavior.
  • Some people (like the teacher) genuinely want to do good things in their line of work. Destroying the work of or undermining your co-workers this is always a bad thing.

You're most likely a good person but do take a step back and think it through before you say you were fired for a "bad reason". Was there anything else during your employment that you did that was unprofessional? Write these down and ask yourself why you did it and what could've be done differently.

If you've done enough self-reflection or soul searching, you'll be better prepared on how to explain this mess to your future employers and that you can give confidence that you will work professionally in the future.


Edit:

Just so you know, I've been fired several years ago with slanderous references that would've effectively ended my career. It initially felt unfair at first but since then I've learnt from my mistakes and moved on. At least now I know I've learnt that I should be more careful and mindful of others. :-)

@maple_shaft has an anecdote on how to resolve and own your mistakes.

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    In fairness to the OP, I think by "a very bad reason" he meant that it was a very bad thing that he did. – eggyal Jul 24 '12 at 9:43
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    You still need to do self-reflection though or else it'll gnaw on you and you'll look bad regardless of what the "bad thing" you did – Spoike Jul 24 '12 at 10:57
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Unless you were only there a few days there will be hole in your resume.

In addition many companies will specifically ask you why you left each position. They may be using this determine why you leaves positions, they may also be using it to compare notes with what your old employer said. If you lie about it, they might catch you, and then they can fire you for not being truthful during the hiring process.

You will need to be able to tell them why: inappropriate message written on a whiteboard, and you will have to show remorse. Your excuse that it wasn't a hate crime because "I didn't even know the guy" will prove that you still don't get it.

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