When I got a call last December asking me if I’d accept a state appointment, I turned it down even though I wanted to say yes. I was worried about the scrutiny I’d suffer in the vetting process. For this same reason, I’ve never run for office even though I’ve wanted to.
The problem started four decades ago when I returned from Vietnam and started a career in state government. When I was interviewing for my first job, I made myself out to be a Vietnam War hero. That wasn’t true; I was a clerk in the war and miles from any real action. No one ever checked my stories, and over the years, I added to them. I never put them on paper but they’re something many people know about and would come up in any discussion of my history or qualifications.
Two months ago, I decided to leave state government and move into the private sector. I don’t have a position yet; however, the executive search firm that researched my background learned about my hero stories from one of my references. Apparently the chief executive officer at one of the companies who might hire me has a history of preferring veterans and I’ve been told to bring up my bravery. How do I get around this?
Tell the truth. Isn’t it about time? Your war story embellishments have cost you opportunities you really wanted.
Learn from what happened to “NBC Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams. When viewers learned he lied multiple times about his helicopter coming under fire in Iraq and seeing a dead body floating past his hotel after Hurricane Katrina, his falsehoods torpedoed his otherwise stellar career. Williams’ attempt to fix the problem by alleging he’d misremembered further damaged his future by prolonging the scandal.
You can’t afford to tell your bogus story one more time. The man with whom you plan to interview honors the military. What happens if he asks you questions because your story interests him? Will you provide him fake details? If you land the job, what happens if he knew someone who served in the same area or battle in which your heroism allegedly took place? You’ll get fired.
On the other hand, you won’t lose anything by confessing to the executive search firm. They won’t out you. Instead, you’ll free yourself. It’s time.
© Dr. Lynne Curry is author of ”Beating the Workplace Bully” and ”Solutions” as well as owner of the management/HR consulting/training firm The Growth Company Inc. Follow her on Twitter @lynnecury10 or at www.bullywhisperer.com.