Skip to content

“Why did you leave your last job?” and lazy, lying freelancers

Now, listen I’ve been finally working on creating an exhaustive “back room” look into my experiences. I’ve only been working working for three years, but I’ve done so much I wanted to express that fully.

This exclusive long-winded resume of mine is finally complete, but not before driving me right into memory lane and making me rethink everything that went wrong at my past positions.

I shared the following question in one of the online communities I’m part of:

“As a freelance writer, I now find resumes frustrating. So I’m finally taking the advice of some brilliant people here and creating a portfolio explaining what went into each piece. (Did I work with editors? Did I come up with the topic? Why did I write this piece? etc.).

I’ve also started working on a sort of “backroom experience” document, explaining exactly what I did at my previous FT positions, what I learned in the process, sizes of the teams, proudest work; no buzzwords, just vibes. (I’ve finally decided to get on LinkedIn and just get over what stopped me so far: the absurdly high amount of marketing Gary Vee bros and faux deep stories on there. I want to include some of these “backroom” experience descriptions on my LinkedIn.)

My question is: Transparency is really important to me and at this point, I’m only looking to work with/write for ethical companies or organizations. So I want to include a “Why I left” section for each position I’ve held since the most I’ve stayed in the same position has been a year and I realize that’s far from ideal. Would the cons of writing such sections outweigh the pros? *redacted information* Now, as I’ve written this whole thing, I realize maybe the cons outweigh the pros, but I’d like to know what you think.

Obviously, I won’t send this to people looking for a single article, but if an org/agency is looking for a long-term freelance collaborator, I’d like to offer a deeper view into my experience. (For example, I’d love to make use of my content marketing and psychology knowledge for opps beyond “just” writing.)

TL;DR Honest Answers for “Why Did You Leave Your Last Job”?

I had some pretty thoughtful answers that I thought I’d share with you.

Honest Answers Why Did You Leave Your Last Job slack

Someone advised against including 100% honest answers as to why I left, then someone else did as well.

Honest Answers Why Did You Leave Your Last Job slack

I really respect this person and the work they do. I was ready to reply thanking him for taking the time to respond and say that they were completely right.

But as you’ll see below, I’m trying to be honest, even when that means disagreeing with people I admire. I said:

Honest Answers in hiring

I spoke my truth, practiced what I preached even though I know how woo-woo what I’m talking about sounds.

Then, the person who first disagreed with the idea of honest answers reached out:

Honest Answers for “Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?” – other helpful ways to frame it:

“In my current job search, I’ve also tried to be very transparent about my values and ask questions to figure out if a company’s values align with mine. Perhaps if you look at the reasons you left previous companies, and then frame questions to get at those issues when you are interviewing. That has really helped me.”

Another also was super helpful:

“Hi Delfina, I think it’s a great idea to set values and boundaries for potential clients! Had an idea that might be helpful. Maybe split your portfolio in two:

  • A ‘what you get from me’ section highlighting your work, so your client gets an idea of what you bring to the table.
  • A ‘what I expect from you’ section, where you detail your values and how you expect your clients to live up to that. I think this could help set clear expectations, without going into previous employers and will not turn this into toxic positivity.”

I eventually decided against it, but I will take the advice of my gut and these brilliant people, and speak my truth.

Hiring horror stories: Meeting at a hotel, slacking off for not joining their book club and being called a liar

I didn’t share this when it happened, but I quit my full-time job in December. Now I’m literally a full-time self-employed freelancer. That’s a mouthful.

Here’s a little story from December. Even though I wanted to give freelancing a real go, I still did a few interviews for full-time jobs.

One of them was quite strange.

I was recommended by a former manager.

The company’s hiring manager sent me a Google Form. It included some slightly offensive-to-my-intelligence grammar questions and no reference to what the company was or what it did.

Since I could form coherent sentences in English, I was accepted to the next stage. I messaged my former manager to let them know and thank them for thinking of me.

The hiring manager sent me the location on WhatsApp. Our meeting spot? A hotel.

I thought their offices were nearby and they were using the hotel as a reference. I was wrong. A few fancy cars were parked outside. I’m not materialistic, I just pay attention to details, especially when they look like 2019 convertibles.

I shared my location with my boyfriend, hoping this wouldn’t be the last I saw of him.

Then, reluctantly, I walked inside and sat uncomfortably in the lobby. I was fuming, for not having checked everything through beforehand. I was fuming for being the kind of person who didn’t want to let down the former manager who referred me.

My fuming thoughts were interrupted, not by the hiring manager, who was now officially late, but by the hotel receptionist.

“Greetings. Can I help you?”

“Hi, I have an interview.” In the quick nanosecond before we’re in control of our facial expressions, she looked at me like I was nuts. An interview? A job interview, honey? Then why are you in a hotel?

As I started contemplating the kind of person I was and why I wouldn’t just up and leave, how warranted the look on the receptionist’s face was, my rage was now interrupted by the hiring manager.

Okay, she didn’t look like someone who worked for a human exploitation group. Then again, what does such a person look like? It’s part of their job to appear convincing to unsuspecting hypothetical victims like myself. I would be taken to their room, tied up with a rope, transported in the trunk of the car (probably not the convertible). Then, my life would be ruined forever.

“Follow me,” she said.

I didn’t. “Where are we going?” I said.

If she mentioned a room, I would literally start running. “Just right here, they’re waiting for you at the bar.”

Well, someone had been watching too much Mad Men, but okay.

Two people, who seemed like they’d been interviewing people, were sitting there. They were drinking water and cappuccinos. Okay, so it wasn’t a Mad Men thing.

They didn’t introduce themselves, what the company I was interviewing for was, or ask if perhaps I wanted a glass of water or an explanation why a Writer job interview was setting place in a hotel.

But I was there, right? Might as well try to relax and make a good impression on these strange people. Now, in their defense, I think they were American, so not very in touch with our customs. The hiring manager was Albanian, though. She knew how much we pay attention to manners. She could’ve easily guessed interviewing people in a hotel for a nameless company would have raised many red flags for every Albanian woman. (To be fair, the company had a name, but it sounded very made up. Nothing intelligible showed up online.)

But I was there, and now, I was under questioning. I had to do my best to “sell” my experiences and present myself favorably so that I’d be the main contender for the job, even though less than two minutes ago I’d been fuming and thinking on which car trunk I’d end up.

They fired their hot seat questions away. Professionally, everything went fine. It was obvious I understood and could take on the job’s duties and responsibilities. There was no pause where I could ask WHAT I was interviewing for. I finally did and received a slightly cryptic answer including words like “international brands” and “brand management.” That didn’t give me much to work with, but still, I was excited.

Below, I go on a tangent about shifting the need to romanticize, from relationships to work opportunities

Something about me which is positive (for the most part) is that I need very little to get excited about projects I work on.

Now that I’ve found my life’s person and the need to romanticize his behavior doesn’t exist, since I already love who he is without needing to interpret his words and actions in ways that better suit the idea of him in my mind, I’ve transferred it to work.

romanticize – deal with or describe in an idealized or unrealistic fashion; make (something) seem better or more appealing than it really is.

I refer to this as being very, very committed to not ruining the idea of someone’s potential with the reality of them. Read Why Do We Romanticize Our Ex-Partners? or What to do if you over-romanticise potential relationships if you struggle with this.

I may romanticize professional opportunities, which as I said, for the most part, is very good- I can’t imagine dull workdays where I just go through the motions. But in some cases, I may take it too far, again focusing on potential rather than cold, harsh truths in front of my face.

So, I got excited about this faceless company with the hotel interviews and the rapid-fire questions and the unthoughtful interviewers. I could always refuse the position, right?

*Tangent over*

Now, we get to the strangest part.

I quit my full-time job on Friday. On Sunday, I was assigned a great article for a topic I’d love to research and write about. Plus, it was long-form (2000+) words and exactly what I’d been wanting to write.

This is what I call a sign. Don’t get me wrong, I ignored it in the pretense of “keeping my options open,” which is why I did ~4 interviews in this period.

This was before I realized “This shit don’t make no sense.”

When they asked me what I was working on now and whether I was still at my last full-time job, I said I’d quit a few days ago and proudly mentioned the article I was writing for my client in the UK. They asked point-blank how much I was being paid to write that.

I gave an honest answer. My hourly rate was $35 and I’d estimated it’d take me 8-10 hours to write it. (It took 10.)

Then, they asked why I left my last full-time position. I gave an honest answer. The rapid-fire questions continued, as the person who was seemingly in charge asked abruptly what my pay structure was like there.

“I had a monthly salary.”

He turned to the other two people: “Salary, what’s that, how much is that?”

Like many other people, I hate it when people talk about me like I’m not in the room.

The two women asked what my salary was. I told them, 70,000 ALL.

“Are you lying to us just to get a better offer? Other people we interviewed from there said they were being paid less.”

Writing this, I understand how incredibly absurd it sounds, having your honesty questioned by people who had yet to show one ounce of transparency.

Even more absurd was that I explained myself: “Well, if you’d hire me, you’d request my social security booklet, which is based on the number I just mentioned, so it wouldn’t make sense to lie and start a professional relationship on the wrong foot. Plus, just because other people were compensated differently doesn’t imply anything. I brought a specific skill set and experience to the position and I was paid for it. That’s all there is to it.”

Continuing on the absurdity, the man (seemingly) in charge asked: “Have you had freelance clients when you worked full-time too?”

“Yes,” I answered proudly.

“And do you intend to continue working with freelance clients in other full-time jobs?”

“Well, yes, I don’t see why not.”

Their faces changed. Jokingly, I said: “Why, is that a dealbreaker?”

“Yes,” they said, almost unanimously.

I was genuinely confused. I thought they were about to compliment my time management and organizational skills for maintaining a demanding Head Writer position in charge of 9+ companies and having the time to find and work with freelance clients, and not to toot my own horn, but also have a life, you know? A rich inner life, a social life, and an amazing romantic relationship. In the middle of a pandemic. Okay, I am tooting my own horn.

The person seemingly in charge explained: “See, we have very clear roadmaps for our employees and we want them to be 100% invested in the company. For example, we read. We all read the same book and then we discuss it and suggest how to implement the book’s solutions in the business.”

I couldn’t help letting out a stifled laugh at the book part. He thought I couldn’t make the time to read books? I explained that I read many books and that I had a great work-life balance, and while I’ve always been ambitious, I’ve also always found a way to read and do the activities I care about.

I mentioned how in Albania, at least for me as a writer and content strategist, clear career growth roadmaps are lacking. Now, if this secretive company was willing to provide such a clear path to career growth, I’d be willing to compromise on my freelance gigs. If the company could provide a full-time salary that covered what I was making as a freelancer, I’d be happy to negotiate working full-time only if it mattered so much to them.

We exchanged the above points at least three times.

They’d say “we pay above market rate,” but weren’t willing to explain what that looked like. For context, according to Albania’s Institute of Statistics, “during the fourth quarter of 2020, the average gross monthly wage per employee in Albania is 54,951 ALL.” My pay was already above market rate since I’ve seen many Albanian companies offer less than half of what I was making.

I said that if they provided clear career roadmaps and better pay than I was getting at the moment, I could drop the freelance side gigs. But they just continued talking in circles, not providing a number.

He thought slacking off at work was the thing freelancers did best. “Plus, they never build anything of their own.” the person in charge who was definitely not the CEO, said.

This continued for quite a bit until one of the women kind of yelled at the seemingly in charge man to stop trying to convince me. They’d made up their mind that they didn’t want a freelancer and she had no idea why they were continuing the conversation.

I thanked them and left, feeling more confused than I’d been in the beginning.

Companies can have preferences. Those might include not hiring people who aren’t dedicated to their job. In my experience, though, people who work full-time and freelance do the most rather than the least.

They might have big dreams and know that achieving them usually takes working 3X hard (or being born into wealth).

In many ways, they wanted to dictate what I did and didn’t do during my free time. Respectively, join their weird book club and not make more money. If I’d be high all weekend, you wouldn’t have a say in that. If I choose to work on the weekend, as long as my FT work is top-notch and my freelance clients aren’t competitors, you should have no say in that.

As I navigate career waters, I’ll keep sharing my experiences and bringing as much honesty as I can to hiring, growth, freelancing, and everything in between. 

As I mentioned in that message, a future of 100% honest professional conversations, especially during the talking stage (lol) seems very, very far. It seems:

  • like it requires more HR resources than ever
  • chaotic
  • hard to pull off on both ends.

I do have a tattoo that says honesty simplifies things. Whether we apply it in small or big doses, at work or at home, we could all use some more of it, no matter how difficult it might be to make it happen.

2 thoughts on ““Why did you leave your last job?” and lazy, lying freelancers”

  1. Your general philosophy aligns with mine to the point I’m screaming ” Coming in loud and clear!” Stay true to yourself and don’t doubt your decisions and the pro’s will always out weigh the con’s. Just live the way you write and write the way you live. No brainer Delfina! 🙂 And yes I would answer why you left your last job. Declutter thy brain with useless stuff!

Add a comment...

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *