A reader writes:
I was just terminated from my job. I was five days before being off probation and two days away from my first big job event (I plan and run conferences). Without any prior notice, meeting, or confrontation, I was ushered into my department head’s office and told that in order to make a strong team, she needed to let me go immediately. I asked if there was any particular cause or option for a re-negotiation, but was told that since I was still in my probationary period, they were within their rights to terminate me at any time. At that point security came in and ushered me to my office to collect my things and leave the building. It was all quite dramatic.
Of course, I understand the rules. I am, however, at a bit of a loss on how to move on from here. I had been out of work for five months prior to this position and worked there for 2.5 months before being terminated. In those weeks I did not rack up any accomplishments I would typically list in a resume -- summer is a downtime for conferences. And, until I receive a copy of my file with my termination letter from HR, I do not want anyone contacting them. I also cannot speak to what happened or how I plan to improve whatever it was they found lacking in my performance until I have a better explanation, if I ever am to get one.
So, my question is, do I leave this job off my resume, which shows that I have been out of work since March? Or, do I include it? I don’t know if I ever will find out the "real reason" I was fired, and I know that a short stint in this job looks suspicious. I would be suspicious of me. Or, does being out of work, even in such an economy, look worse?
Leave the job off your resume.
It was only two and a half months, which means that it's not useful in showing any real accomplishments or advancement. And in addition to not doing you any good because of that, it will actually do harm -- by raising questions about what you were fired or left so soon. Those are questions that can be addressed if it's absolutely unavoidable, but it's better to never raise the questions at all if you can.
In general, I'd suggest leaving any short stints like this off a resume, unless there's a way to paint them in a flattering light (and to do so honestly). For instance, short-term consulting is fine. But leaving after two months because of fickleness or dismissal aren't things that strengthen your candidacy.
Your resume is not required to be a comprehensive accounting of how you spent each month of your professional life. It's understood that the whole point is to present yourself in the strongest light.
Now, of course you may get questions about how you spent a period of time that your resume left unaccounted for. In your case, you had already been unemployed for five months before. You didn't say why, but let's assume for the sake of illustration that you were laid off. When asked about the period of time since your last job, you would simply say that you, like so many others right now, were laid off and have spent the time since job-searching and doing ____. (Fill in the blank with freelancing, caring for family members, taking a class, or whatever happens to be true in your case.)
Regarding your question about whether being out of work looks bad: Show me a hiring manager who hasn't been spending her days talking to strong candidates who are out of work because of the economy, and I will show you a hiring manager who just started her job this morning. Great candidates who are unemployed have become normal right now, unfortunately. Any hiring manager who would discard a candidate for being out of work right now isn't living in reality (and is a jerk you don't want to work for anyway).
So leave that job off your resume, and good luck.