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Published 24 July 2012 13:08, Updated 23 April 2013 10:32
Born again: Former Yahoo! CEO Scott Thompson has resurfaced at ShopRunner just two months after he left his old job. Photo: AP
Former Yahoo! CEO, Scott Thompson, has become the new poster boy for career comebacks, landing a job as chief executive of a small new IT company, ShopRunner, only two months after a posse of disgruntled investors discovered a falsely claimed science degree on his resume.
When he was forced out of Yahoo! in May, he was in disgrace and few were listening to his defence that the erroneous degree had been added by an overzealous recruiter.
But Scott Thompson has been recycled.
Few fallen leaders will rise phoenix-like from the ashes of their careers to roles of equal status but they can still put their skills and knowledge to good use if they are prepared to swallow their pride.
Thompson will be back working in an industry he knows well, using his contacts and experience to boost a company less than two years old.
The managing director of headhunter Michael Page International, Simon Meyer, says rehabilitation is possible for those whose careers have imploded and it can put top-tier talent in the reach of second-tier organisations.
“They become accessible,” he says.
Former David Jones CEO, Mark McInnes, for instance, was picked up by Solomon Lew’s Premier Investments about 10 months after leaving his former employer amid sexual harassment allegations.
While there was a cloud over McInnes’s behaviour, few doubted his skills as a retailer.
There is generally more forgiveness of personal failings and poor behaviour than outright criminality, but Australians can be harsh judges, says Meyer.
“The Australian market is more conservative than the American market in respect to people who have done something wrong,” he says.
“We are more in tune with the UK market. We tend to be a pretty tight business community that frowns on unacceptable behaviour, or people who lack an ethical approach. It is also a small market at the top.”
Faking qualifications can be a particularly troubling issue because it tends to be a long-term breach of trust.
“People feel the wool has been pulled over their eyes,” says Meyer. “When it is uncovered, it sends shock waves and people don’t forget in a hurry.”
Some people try to resurrect themselves by moving to another state or country. “It is pretty hard to hide from that [embarrassment] in Sydney or Melbourne.”
Particularly talented people have an advantage when it comes to “getting back in”. Hotellier Patrick Imbardelli is president and chief executive of the Pan Pacific Hotels Group in Singapore - a job he landed immediately after resigning as Asia Pacific CEO of the InterContinental Hotel Group.
Imbardelli had lied about a degree on his CV but was very well liked and respected, having recently been named Asia Pacific Hotelier of the Year by Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels.
Meyer says that when rehabilitated leaders find themselves back in a job, they should be open about their past. Everyone will know about it anyway.
Some may make a presentation to staff or send out an email, addressing potential concerns, perhaps in terms of “I have learned from may mistakes”, “I am making a new start”, or “I appreciate the fact that you are giving me a second chance”.
“There are lots of situations in life where an upfront approach is really important,” he says.
Putting the record straight might be possible if there are false rumours swirling, but some would be constrained in what they can say by legal proceedings or the possibility of law suits.
An crucial thing to remember in the new job, however, is that their actions will speak louder than their words, says Meyer.
“The Australian business community would really expect that.”