You Didn’t Tell the Truth Before; Start

Question:

I lied seventeen years ago, never dreaming how one simple would haunt me.

My lie caught up to me this week.

The problem started when I returned from Iraq and started a career in state government. When interviewing for my first job, I made myself out to be a war hero. At the time, I felt I had to. I’d never worked in my life. I wanted the job. I didn’t think they’d hire “just me.”  

Here’s the truth. 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 whenever I needed small boost to my self-esteem.

I never put any of these lies on paper but they’re something many people know about and would come up in any discussion of my history or qualifications.

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.

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.

They called two days ago and told me the chief executive officer at one of the companies who might hire me has a history of preferring veterans. I’ve been told to bring up my bravery. How do I get around this?

Answer:

You tell the truth. Isn’t it about time?

Your war story embellishments have cost you. You admit you tell them to boost your self-esteem. But they don’t do that.

All your lying does is tell the world and yourself that that hero you created was a great guy. But that’s not you and you know it.

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 tried to fix the problem by alleging he’d misremembered. That 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.

2 thoughts on “You Didn’t Tell the Truth Before; Start

  1. I like the advice to tell the truth. What I’m not as sure about is that it will free the person. It may well free the person from further employment in desirable jobs, because information about telling the lies may also get out about the person and be findable in background checks. The story the person explained in the post–that it seemed the thing to do: portray oneself as a war hero and a solider in combat–may help, but it may also look like the person succumbs to pressure and values surfaces over deeper truths. Any further advice on these possibilities?

  2. Susan, great questions. And what suggestions would you give? I know you have wisdom to share from having a variety of work experiences.
    My belief is that when someone finally owns up, it truly frees them. And when they admit to the right people what they’ve learned, it’s powerful. I think, and I could be wrong, that the executive search firm will shield this applicant, because it’s in their interest as well.

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