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I am currently writing up my Resume yet again, and again I'm trying to decide whether I should go about my entire strategy in a different way. (U.S. Resident, if it matters)

After about 3 years at one company, I encountered personal issues which severely affected my work - specifically the time I was arriving. This company is well known within certain circles, and it was my first job out of college. I was fired for tardiness. Other than that, I always had great reviews and got along with everybody well.

I have made a lot of changes in the 8 months since then, and I can confidently say that it isn't going to happen again. Since the timing of the firing lines up well, I don't mention being fired and say instead that I moved to my current location, which is why I am now looking for new employment.

However, there are two issues I have concerns about:

  1. I wouldn't say I made any "real" friends during my employment. There were tons of "work friends", more like acquaintances, but I don't have anyone I can depend on to give me a good reference without mentioning the reason I was fired. Instead, I list friends from college who worked on projects with me.

  2. The work I did is private company property, so I lack a portfolio that shows my real level of experience. I do have things I could show from college. As you might expect, there is a ton of difference between my level of skill now and 3 years ago, and I don't think that work even comes close to actually portraying my current skills.

My resume otherwise looks fairly good. I find I get the interviews, but I suspect my lack of portfolio and references after the first interview makes me a rather risky candidate.

I have started working on a portfolio, but regardless I desperately need an income. Should I be taking a different strategy in order to secure my next job? How should I minimize the impact of my previous termination, lack of references, and portfolio?

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    "Should I be taking a different strategy" -- what is your strategy now, do you want people to comment on your choice to conceal that you were previously fired? Or something else? – Brandin Oct 10 '16 at 18:18
  • In 3 years of work, you don't have anyone who would be willing to vouch for your work and not mention your being fired for tardiness? It wouldn't be good to lie about your last 8 months. – WorkerDrone Oct 10 '16 at 18:18
  • @WorkerDrone I keep to myself and get my work done. My communication was primarily about work-related tasks. I do conversate politely to others but never go to company events or reach out during non-work hours. I may be able to track one person down through Facebook, but that isn't guaranteed. – DoubleDouble Oct 10 '16 at 18:40
  • @Brandin I suppose my strategy now, extracting from my post, is saying that I moved away from my previous job for my new marriage, and have been searching for a new job in the surrounding area. I present references from college, and I tell them the truth that my work is company property, so unfortunately I don't have a relevant portfolio. – DoubleDouble Oct 10 '16 at 18:50
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    References aren't friends. References are people you worked with that can talk about your work performance. The fact that you don't consider them friends is actually a good thing-- it gives the reference a level of professional detachment. Someone with multiple years of experience providing references who were not just from college but friends from college as opposed to professors or previous supervisors would be a huge red flag. – Justin Cave Oct 10 '16 at 20:23
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As opposed to other opinions here, I think truth counts for a lot. Getting fired is a big stain on your record, but most companies insist on a reference from your last employer, and volunteering is great but it does not help as they are not your employer.

Tell the truth. Face it head on.

"I worked successfully for two years but in the final year my personal life became difficult for reason x and I made the mistake of letting that affect my professional life. I will not make that mistake again."

The problem with lying, is it will all sounds a bit fishy. Especially when you have a face 2 face interview with a good interviewer. Covering up or even giving the suspicion of covering up is the worst thing you can do. "I liked this candidate, he had some strong skills, but there was just something about his story that didn't make sense".

Ring your previous company and ask HR, can I put you as a reference and will you say I had 2 successful years before punctuality became a problem?

Because otherwise the story does not make sense. You can try to tie it all in to make a pretty picture but what exactly are you covering up? You were late. You didn't steal, you were not negligent, you were not insubordinate, you had a difficult phase that is now over and you have changed your personal situation, you have learned a lesson and developed personally and moved on.

Be honest, be positive, take responsibility, and do not be ashamed. We all make mistakes, we all have difficult times. Some employers actually appreciate that, and they will definitely appreciate the openness and honesty.

PS List what you did professionally, describe it in detail, student stuff pales in comparison to commercial professional work. Even if you cannot show it, tell them about it.

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    Definitely staying positive is very important. Even better, since OP mentioned changes he made with regards to OPs situation in past couple of months, if it were me, it would be a lesson learned and I could potentially used it to spin positive - there was a problem, trouble, here's what I did to resolve the issues that caused that, here's what I learnt and here's how I would handle it differently now that I had time to reflect on it :) – Cthulhubutt Oct 11 '16 at 15:47
  • Great points there, and how much better, stronger, more positive and above all honest and open does that sound. Without any spinning, covering up, having to double think, he can just be forward, open and display the ability to self improve etc. – PaulD Oct 11 '16 at 17:33
  • I just read my comment and first I have to apologize for incoherence and poor command of language, it was stressful and tiring day. Yeah, if you reflect and more importantly acknowledge your mistake and show you took steps for improvement - call me crazy but that sounds awful lot like problem solving right there. Right off the start I would love to hear from such candidate how he or she tackled the issue. – Cthulhubutt Oct 11 '16 at 17:57
  • But discussing and explaining your past life is not a problem, even if it contains failures and life issues, health or relationship issues or anything else. It is only a problem if you start to cover up things or try to hide things. If you cannot explain how you dealt with and learned from a mistake, you should probably do some more self-reflection just simply to grow as a human being. Deception or lying is not the way to deal with it, especially as it will almost certainly be uncovered, and that is 100 times worse than the reality. – PaulD Oct 12 '16 at 9:21
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First, start volunteering somewhere ASAP. Volunteer work can minimize resume gaps.

Second, don't worry about the references, it's too late. Again, volunteer, you can get references there.

Third, volunteer. It will build your portfolio.

Lastly, just keep going. Dust yourself off and apply, apply and apply. You got a job once, you'll get another one.

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    As a developer you could always go help with an open source project. You will hit all of these points. You do relevent work (you could spend hours on it daily) while being unemployed. You actually could get good references from the open source community (they give feedback on your work that employers could read) and you are building a portfolio. As it is open source, you can easily show your work to employers. Plenty of projects out there and most likely one that hits close to home. – Jeroen Oct 11 '16 at 14:56
  • @Jeroen spot on. Building portfolio and improving as you contribute, not to forget flexibility these out of work projects provide. You can pick whatever tickles your fancy and there is no artificial pressure. Of course you would have to make it consistent but from what I read so far motivation shouldn't be a problem here :) – Cthulhubutt Oct 11 '16 at 18:04
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It sounds like you're going down the right path. While you shouldn't lie about being fired, it's generally accepted to say that you're looking for work because you moved. That is true, even if it omits parts of the story. If someone asks directly about your last job, then say you were fired, and why, and what steps you've taken to prevent it from happening again.

Many people don't make close friends from work. I wouldn't worry about it, and I wouldn't bring it up.

Many people work on things that they can't show publicly. I wouldn't worry about it, and I wouldn't bring it up.

Focus on what you do well, and sell those qualities to potential employers.

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