Ask a Recruiter: I Quit Because of Sexual Harassment
Question: I worked in my last position for 6 years. During that time I experienced regular sexual harassment. When I reported it to my supervisors, they blamed me for the harassment. I could not see any end to the harassment so I quit. Now I have been looking for a job for the past nine months and I don’t know how to respond when potential employers ask me why I left my last job. How should I respond? (P.S. I filed a lawsuit against my former employer about two years ago, but it hasn’t gone to trial yet.) - Between a Rock and a Hard Place, a Workforce1 Career Blog reader
This question was submitted by a Workforce1 Career Blog reader. If you have a question for a recruiter, ask us. This reader’s question was answered by Angie Kamath, who overseesWorkforce1 as the Deputy Commissioner of Workforce Development at the NYC Department of Small Business Services.
Answer: First, I am so happy that you got yourself out of what seems to be a terrible situation. It is a tough bind when your financial security is also tied to such a complicated situation that impacts your emotional and physical well-being.
My advice (and I recognize that there are multiple viewpoints on this given its sensitivity) would be to approach the answer in the following way:
1. Recognize the positive attributes of the work and your experience – maybe you learned a great deal, connected with the mission or vision of the firm, had lots of responsibility, helped to grow a business – whatever the case might be. Start out positive.
2. Transition next in your response to the fact that 6 years was a good and long commitment to the work, that you felt you made a significant contribution, and that you felt you hit a ceiling in terms of your personal growth. You decided to look for a new role and firm that connected better to your long-term personal goals. Reiterate that you resigned and were not laid off.
3. Lastly, talk about the future. Talk about that you have taken the last 9 months to think hard about what you want in a job, how you will be fulfilled, what your strengths are, how you are self-aware of what environments will be most supportive and beneficial to you.
While the context of harassment is awful, this 3 step response is what should work in any situation about transition. Be positive, acknowledge you made a decision to move on, and describe what you are looking for.
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