I just returned from a secret mission.  I was sent into Damascus, Syria to assess healthcare operations for quality and Joint Commission compliance.  I told everyone I was at my weekend house but in fact I was being smuggled into a war zone.  I just got back Monday night.

iStock_000015313031XSmallThis is a total and complete lie, a fabrication of the worst sort.  I certainly have been to the Middle East on numerous occasions for recruitment engagements, but never Syria, and I am not interested in trying to go there, either.  This whopper of a story was not really believable, right?  The same can be said for some of the stories candidates tell about why they are no longer working for their last employer. 

The moral of the story is that if you are going to go to the trouble and take the significant risk of lying about your current employment situation, there are four rules to remember: 

  1. Make it reasonably believable
  2. Believe the lie is the truth but remember the difference
  3. It will always be the little things that trip you up
  4. Healthcare is a small industry.  News about career stupidity travels fast, thanks to Google.  Why go to the trouble of significantly misrepresenting the truth when getting caught is a worse outcome? 

I have a novel idea: tell the truth with a favorable perspective.  Unless you committed a crime at work or are guilty of the worst sort of moral turpitude, the truth is a better bet in terms of career management strategy. 

The late O.A. “Bum” Phillips, a former NFL head coach for the Houston Oilers and New Orleans Saints, once said that in the NFL there were two kinds of head coaches: “…them that’s fired and them that’s gonna be fired.”  As healthcare enters a period of prolonged transformation, there will be more than a few executives who succumb to the challenges of running a complex business in a turbulent environment. 

There is no sin in getting fired unless you are a serial offender.  In that case, a career change is probably a good idea.  The fact is that there are a lot of good people who will be pushed out by mergers, acquisitions and expense reduction initiatives.  Deal with it.  Be honest about it, and then be prepared to demonstrate to a recruiter or prospective employer that you are capable of delivering value by emphasizing your strengths and quantifiable accomplishments.

In other words, invest your time in strengthening your brand, not coming up with some story that can easily be vetted through Google or in reference interviews.