Life after legal action: Ask the Expert

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A: We asked around several discrimination lawyers and numerous headhunters to see if anyone knew of City employees who had been re-employed in their field after taking a discrimination case. Our legal expert Makbool Javaid, knew of two people but both had lined up new jobs before starting legal action.

Everyone agreed that employers don't like people with baggage and a discrimination claim is BIG baggage. It's unfair that the victim should be stigmatised, but that, unfortunately, is the reality. With high profile discrimination cases, victims generally accept that they won't work again in the City - and many of them don't want to.

Where does that leave you? One obvious thing is not to mention it "at a very early stage," the way you currently are, advises Philip Beddows of HR consultancy Rialto, "It just spooks people."

Your basic aim should be to focus on your skills and what you can bring to the job. You want to impress your interviewers, get them to like you and get as far into the recruitment process as possible before getting this particular skeleton out of the cupboard.

When you do mention it, keep it brief and factual. If you signed an agreement with your previous employer about what you would say in public, stick to that. Say as little as you can without being dishonest, defensive or evasive.

Practice what you are going to say in front of the mirror and with your friends or family, until you are quite relaxed about it. Finish with a simple positive statement that looks to the future. That will give you the best chance of reducing its potency for the employer. You need to subtly reassure them that you are not a serial litigant - because that's what they are really afraid of.

Consider getting some career counselling or coaching, says recruitment consultant Tony Tucker. "You need to address any feelings of bitterness you may have about the whole business that might be coming across. Recruiters want upbeat employees." Career counselling will also be useful for exploring alternative career options and for helping you discover if it really is this discrimination case that is holding you back.

There might be other problems too. If you've been out of the market for two years, for example, that could actually be the real issue. (To find a counsellor or coach go to:

Finally, says Beddows, get in touch with other people in the same boat. Ask your lawyer or go to the relevant anti-discrimination body (The Commission for Racial Equality, Equal Opportunities Commission or Disability Rights Commission) who should be able to point you to useful networks.

Next week's question: I have been temping since May in an investment bank. The permanent role is now up for grabs and I am to be interviewed for position. I am currently being paid on an hourly rate equivalent to 52K pa. The role is being advertised at 55k-65K externally. Should I get the job I would like the highest salary possible, so how do I negotiate this minefield?

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