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I Got Fired, Do I Need a Reference Check?

Dear J.T. & Dale: A few months ago I was fired from my job as a surgeon, basically (according to them) because of some continuing limitations caused by an injury at work that required two surgeries and was covered by workers' compensation. After returning to work after my second surgery, and doing a darn good job, if I may say so, officials of the hospital started harassing me, and finally fired me. As if that were not bad enough, I have been looking for work, and my old employer has done everything they can to blackball me. Any suggestions? - Thomas J.T.: First, get someone to do a reference check on you. You need to find out exactly what is being said by your former employer. If they are wrongly damaging your reputation, a cease-and-desist letter might solve the problem. Meanwhile, connect with colleagues, and let it be known that you want to be working again. Tell them the experience has taught you how much you value working, and now you are fully recovered. By spreading the positive message, you can help offset the negative press you are getting from your former employer. DALE: Yes, the answer is networking, as it so often is. But here's a twist: Don't network only about new jobs, but also about the old you. Just maybe there was something else going on besides the injury. When you approach old colleagues, tell them that you are not just looking for a new job, but a new start. Ask questions like, "I'm trying to figure out how to improve my relationships and my skills - what two or three things should I work on first?" Most people will automatically say some version of "Don't change a thing," so follow up with: "Thanks, but we can all get better. What could I work on?" Make your colleagues into allies in your personal evolution, and they'll help you in surprising new ways. Feel free to send questions to J.T. and Dale via e-mail at advice@jtanddale.com or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th Street, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019. © 2012 by King Features Syndicate, Inc. Fired reference check image from Shutterstock