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He graduated last May in engineering, took an intercorporate sales job with a small, (now he knows) struggling company. Facts:

1. Hard for the company to break into the industry, even though patented product undercuts competition with price and performance. Can't break through loyalty of potential customers to dominant competitor.
2. DS not supported by any PR budget, such as revamping website (#24 on Google), other forms of publicity with moderate cost. He's the only intercorporate sales person.
3. Previous, more experienced guy was fired because not doing enough. Now he suspects this is due to undercutting of sales by manufacturing manager (everyone's under one roof).
4. No performance reviews, except for a general impression that he was doing OK under the circumstances.

Recently he was put under probation with a letter accusing him of various kinds of misconduct, giving him 2 weeks to meet various objective performance goals, mostly met after one week. Probably won't rate unemployment (otherwise qualified) if fired under the terms of the letter.

A couple months ago, a paycheck was issued, and when DS didn't immediately pick it up right away due to a combination of inexperience and focus on the job, the boss destroyed the check--it took a month to get the money back.

DS feels that the job is not a good match, and that the company could go under. He is wondering whether he should meet the rest of the probation terms over next week (just a three day week, and he still may not meet all the probation terms), or level with the boss that the job is not a match to his personality, and that the company would be better served by looking for a replacement. In short, he wonders if it would be better to negotiate a layoff instead of a firing.
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Oops, forgot to state the question:

Should he quit, quit with notice, or allow himself to be fired, sooner or later?

Should he level with the boss? If so, what should he share? The undercutting, for example, which he thinks happened to the previous guy as well?
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I am sorry your son is having such a rough time... I would suggest the following.

1. Your son is clearly being set up to get fired. I would wiithout doubt make certain any personal items have been removed from the workplace, the company computer, the company car, etc. He must immediately retrieve anything that is his and get it/them away from the company control/company location.

2. He should make very certain he is in possession of any paperwork regarding his performance. This includes all his sales calls sheets for places he's called upon, phone bills or call sheets for calls he's made on his cell, etc. It is very easy to fail if you aren't told what the goals are and your son wasn't apparently made aware of some requirements. (I"m assuming this last thing since if he was able to make the performance corrections in a week, he very likely would have completed them long ago had he been told of them.)

3. He needs a copy of the probation letter that accused him of misconduct. If this was the first he's heard of the rules, that is a huge red flag that they are trying to get rid of him. The fact that now they have given him less than two weeks to correct everything strongly suggests they will fire him "for cause." Now that cause doesn't sound from what you've posted like it would stand up with the unemployment folks, but that is why he needs to be in CYA mode currently.

4. He needs all the paperwork regarding any pay, reimbursed expenses, commissions, overrides, etc. In sales it can sometimes happen that commissions due are mysteriously reverted back to the company or sales manager. As an aside, if your son does go into sales again, he needs to negotiate how commissions are handled up front at the next position.

5. If your son can negotiate a lay-off with unemployment, then great, but the fact that his company looks like it is trying to fire him for cause, I doubt that will happen. If he is fired, then he needs to head straight to the unemployment office or website (here in Florida you do everything online) and file for benefits. It isn't up to the company to determine if he gets benefits and announcing a problem that he has two weeks to fix or else he is fired is not in the spirit of the law. At least here in Florida he would quite likely get benefits for these games.

6. If he likes sales, then look at positions at the places he was trying to sell to. If he hates sales but wants to use that engineering degree, (that was mechanical?) he might have to relocate. If I remember your posts from the engineering board, but not the circumstances for no engineering position. Were there no ME positions or did he realize that being an engineer wasn't quite what he thought?


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Thanks for the advice, and I'm impressed by your recall.

So you're saying he should go with the flow and let the firing happen if it happens. I'm just a little concerned with having a firing on his work record.

Additional things I have found out: no 3 month performance review as per his contract, and two months ago he was given additional responsibilities.

Texas won't give unemployment if fired for misconduct.

He found out that (mechanical) engineering is not what he thought, and he burned out as a senior in college. He knows that his real skill lies in writing, and he much prefers the outdoors and moving around to a desk job.

I'm going to do some parental career counseling with him, greenlighting jobs that meet some of his parameters (technical writing, fire fighting and inspection, overseas relief such as with World Vision--we've pretty much ruled out the military), then help him start networking to get leads on getting a foot in the door.

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Texas won't give unemployment if fired for misconduct.

There's misconduct and there's misconduct. I'm sure Texas has a specific definition of what types of misconduct disqualify you from unemployment insurance payments. Don't assume anything.

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My heart goes out to your son (and his parents). It's hard enough to figure out what to do with one's life without being sabotaged and sand-bagged.

Your son sounds a bit like my son--technical, loves being outdoors, an excellent writer. He's happy with his career choice as a science teacher. In the summer he goes hiking & canoeing, reads heavy-duty science tomes. His winter breaks are mostly for cross-country skiing. He gets to use his writing skills every day and develop his speaking, management, and other people skills. And he says there's a great need for male teachers at the middle school level.

I enjoyed being a technical writer and editor--a relevant engineering background is an asset for that career. The most important qualities in a tech writer are technical curiosity, devotion to organizing info and writing clearly, and audience sympathy. It helps to be organized, persistant, and somewhat assertive. He might have to start as a low-paid intern, though.

There are many overseas options, especially in civil engineering and teaching English (perhaps for him at a technical school). His college should be able to help him connect with alums in fields and organizations of interest. I think there's an engineering board here at TMF, plus I'm sure he can google for careers for people with his major. Has he ever done a Myers-Briggs personality profile? You can take a test online and find suggested fields for each personality type. Turns out that writing and editing were a good fit for my type (INTP), teaching for my son's (INFP).

I hope your son can enjoy this Christmas weekend free of worry.
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I also endured this treatment from the FEWMNBN&trade. I was accused of not working to the terms of my job description, although they acknowledged I did what was asked of me by my manager. This was after 11 years. I am sure they had hoped I would leave on my own, but they finally had enough.

I reiterate that DS should remove all personal items and scour the computer for any data that is his, and remove any software that is not the companies. He should do this at once. Don't wait for the other shoe to drop. If he can get into the office on Christmas Day, then he can probably depersonalize it without running into anyone who might ask questions.

Second, DS needs to prepare himself emotionally. It is not easy getting fired. Many managers readily place the blame squarely at your feet rather than admit that they were ineffective themselves. Read over any documentation they provide. Sign only those documents where he is acknowledging that he received copies. Do NOT sign anything DS does not get a copy of, and do NOT sign anything that states DS agrees with the description of his termination.

Sitting for an exit interview is for their benefit, not his, so it is up to DS if he wants to do this. What are they going to do if he refuses, fire him? They may give him an information packet detailing issues with COBRA and any retirement savings plan in which DS may be enrolled, or they may mail it to him later. He should receive a separation notice at the time he is fired which lists the reason for his termination.

He should take the information and walk out the door with his head held high, saying goodbye to friends and resisting the urge to express what is really on his mind. He might be tracked by his manager or security. Ignore them and don't be rushed in getting your things. It will be very emotional. It is not possible to be told you are not good enough to work at a place and not take it personally.

In most cases, an employer does not want to create more trouble for themselves, so they may just list the cause for separation as not having any more work for him. The probation and such is simply legal justification should DS consider filing a labor grievance. For example, if they have a file that says you are a bad employee and you claim you were a victim of sexual harassment, they are letting you know they have ammunition against you.

DS should take one day to veg out. Do not get drunk. Alchohol just drains your savings. Get a good night's sleep and then go immediately to your nearest Department of Labor facility and file for unemployment. Bring your separation notice. The DOL will have you state why you were terminated: Be honest but do not be self-critical. They will attempt to contact your manager and get the company's side. Some companies will appeal, most will let it slide.

The supplimental income will help but will not replace your lost income. DS can not let the ground get cold under his feet. He should update his resume and work out what kind of career (not job) he wants at this stage of advancement in his life. This is his chance to move forward with his goals and dreams. He should expand his network, join professional associations, attend events with peers. He should have business cards with his name, phone number, email address and desired job title and he should hand them out every chance he gets.

He should also look to the DOL career center for assistance. They may require he attend classes. He is probably smarter than government employees teaching those classes, but it is an opportunity to learn what resources they may have to helping. The DOL works with more than just blue collar workers. I learned a lot from the professional networking group at my DOL during my many months of unemployment. One important lesson: never disparage your former employer. Simply say that the company no longer felt yours and their interests were mutually served, and then go into how your interests and theirs could be served by the prospective employer.

Above all, DS should treat looking for work as a full time job. He should get up each day at his regular time and dress as if going to work. Even if he is just sitting in front of his computer scanning job search sites (which don't work, even though I found two contract opportunities this way which led to Fuskie's New Direct Employer™). If he is doing a phone interview, he should act as if he were in the same conference room; your voice will betray the fact you are in a bathrobe cooking mac'n'cheese.

DS should set up a special email address for employment inquiries so as to separate the personal and professional correspondence. If he has a cell phone, that becomes his business phone. Home contact information should be held back until he actually applies for a position, as sometimes a company will hold geography against a candidate. If there are recruiter/placement services for his industry, he should make contact with them so that if opportunities cross their desk they might think of him.

Hopefully DS has been Foolish and built up an emergency fund. He needs to look at cutting his expenses way back. Digital cable? Out, even if he just purchased that HDTV. Look for things he does not absolutely need, like the newspaper or magazine subscriptions coming up for renewal. Hike the deductibles for insurance to lower the premiums. Pull his credit reports to see if there are any incorrect entries that might negatively affect a background check. It is hard to live like a hermit, but DS should have one focus in life, and that is re-energizing his career.

I have been fired twice in my 18 years of professional life. The first time my employer appealed my UIB claim, saying to an arbitrator that I maliciously did not live up to my potential. I explained that I was not prepared to advise clients to drop their from computer 6" above their desk as a method of technical support. I won. I was out of work for 8 months, where I decided to provide myself with the network engineering background that resulted in being hired by the FEWMNBN™.

The second time, the manager failed to respond to DOL's inquiry and I received full UIB. This time I was out of work for 10 months during an IT recession. After 9 months, I refocused my career direction on a particular niche that got me two 9 month contracts and an independent project, with only 4 weeks of unemployment in between. In January I start direct employement with the company in which I as placed with my last contract.

I say this to explain that it is not the end of the world. In fact, when I left the FEWMNBN™ I was relieved and my friends and family congratulated me, saying it was about time. A positive attitude, supportive friends and family are key to seeing this as an opportunity, not the end of something. But DS must take charge of his professional life. I wish him the best of luck, a Merry Holidays and promise him that the New Year will be a Happy one.

Who has been there, done that, gotten the t-shirt, and could write a book, but then again, so can many others...
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<<Texas won't give unemployment if fired for misconduct.>>

As an employer in Texas, I am well aware that even if we fire someone for cause we may have to pay unemployment. Basically he can file his claim with the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) and then they have a hearing. If the employer doesnt have enough documentation and he has a good story he will win and they will be forced to pay.

As an employer sales is pretty cut and dried, if you dont get the sales then you get fired.

I agree with the folks who mentioned that he start getting his affairs in order. I would recommend not using any company resources (i.e. email, phones etc) to initiate the job search. is a pretty good place to look for jobs.
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I would caution you that you are only getting your sons side of the story and even if he is being totally honest with you and if there were misunderstandings at his work, you will only be hearing the situation, as he understood it.

I wouldn't be so quick to give up on engineering; there are lots of different types of engineering jobs with some involving outdoor work and/or writing, or at least working in more or less wilderness locations.

As long as he isn't looking for another sales position, I would think that he should be able to explain being let go as just not being cut out for sales. Not a real big deal, it happens all the time. It would be best to not blame the company too much since even if it was a bad situation, he had the chance to interview and research the company before he took the position. Nobody wants to hire a whiner.

In his job search he should also contact his college placement office since he graduated so recently.

A couple months ago, a paycheck was issued, and when DS didn't immediately pick it up right away due to a combination of inexperience and focus on the job, the boss destroyed the check--it took a month to get the money back.

At all the companies I have worked for if you didn't pick up you paycheck within a reasonable amount of time they would eventually just put a stamp on it and mail. At most you would get a reminder not to make the company waste money on postage in the future. With automatic deposit this really isn't all that uncommon since often the "paycheck" isn't really a check, just the pay stub. A very odd situation indeed.

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