Most Important Things To Do if You Get Fired From Your Job

Published: Apr 13, 2018

Laid Off

It’s likely your worst-case professional scenario – being fired from your job. But being fired doesn’t always have to spell failure for your professional life or your morale level. Sometimes, people are let go for absolutely no fault of their own. And, more often than not, being fired can give you the clarity, focus, and motivation to find another opportunity that is more suited to your skill set and career goals.

Here's how to turn being fired into a valuable learning exercise that can actually help you to become more successful in the long-run:

WHEN IT HAPPENS, KEEP YOUR COOL

  • Don't fly off the handle: Regardless of how bad the circumstances of your exit might be, it’s important to avoid getting hostile in any way. Once you’re on your way out, there’s really no point in venting your anger. In fact, it can only reflect negatively on your character and even possibly hurt your reputation in your field and among your colleagues (affecting your chances of future employment). Never forget, people talk.
  • It’s ok to ask questions: In order to understand what you need to improve, you need to know exactly why you’re being let go. Perhaps it didn't have anything to do with you after all? Without appearing pushy or aggressive, be sure you come away with all of the answers you need to learn and grow from the experience and to formulate a good response to future potential employers. You don’t want to badger your boss or make things worse, but it’s ok to expect a detailed answer to why you’re being let go.
  • Try to leave on good terms: If you’re being fired for reasons other than poor performance on your part (maybe the company is downsizing or changing focus and there is simply no business case to fund your position), this is a great opportunity to leave on good terms with your boss by showing your understanding and willingness to help on future projects should the business needs change. By ending things on a good note, you are in a better position to ask for a favorable reference or even a recommendation for other jobs. You can start networking before you’ve even left the building.
  • Stay classy: In general, you want to make your exit as dignified as possible. You never know who you will work with in the future, and your behavior during sensitive times can leave a lasting impression of what kind of a professional (and person) you are, so make sure that it’s positive. This also includes how you react to your firing after the fact. Refrain from bad-mouthing your old company or your ex-boss on social media or to anyone outside of your very immediate circle. Your reputation is most on the line during times of great transition, so take great care to ensure that you’re acting with integrity, dignity, and class.

AFTER YOU'RE FIRED, PAUSE TO REFLECT

  • What went wrong? Be honest with yourself about what happened. If your firing had nothing to do with you and is a larger business decision about your role/position, then don’t let that affect your morale or confidence level as you go onto the job market. If, however, your performance is largely to blame, take an honest stock of your strengths and weaknesses and how you can improve in your next position. Remember that even highly successful people get fired, and approach your firing as an opportunity for more self-awareness and growth.
  • It's probably good for you. Poor performance means you were very likely unhappy too, so it’s probably best that you move on to a new opportunity. When someone is unhappy at work, it’s inevitable that their performance will eventually suffer. If you’ve been slacking off on your tasks, not getting along with colleagues or your boss, isolating yourself, venting your frustrations about where the company is headed, racing through your work and not paying attention to detail, or perhaps even taking more and more time off… these are all signs that you’re unhappy in the position and no longer motivated to give it 100%. So, look at your firing here as mutually beneficial and a great opportunity for you to find a position or organization that you can really get excited about.
  • Where do you want to go from here? Take your firing as an opportunity to re-evaluate your career path and priorities. Use it to sharpen your focus. Being knocked off kilter, so to speak, can have a sobering effect that actually helps you to realize (or remember) what’s most important to you and where you’d like to be in one year, five years, ten years, etc.

TIME TO 'GET BACK ON THE HORSE' AND RE-ENTER THE JOB MARKET

  • Get your social media ready: Clean up your social media accounts and make sure all of your information is updated. Basically, get your social profile and your online “brand” (whether that’s your social media accounts, online portfolios, publications, etc.) ready, updated, and optimized for the job market.
  • Start networking: Don’t just connect on LinkedIn and call that “networking.” Make a commitment to get out of the house and stay active and engaged with people and potential employers in a face-to-face way during your job search. Not only will this increase your chances of getting a good lead on a new job, but it will help you to stay motivated and involved in your field.
  • Decide how you’ll communicate the firing to future employers: While you certainly don’t want to ever lie about your past job history or misrepresent in any way your background, you do need to formulate the right answer for when you are asked “why were you fired?” Ideally, an answer that makes a good impression on hiring managers and helps you to get your next job (or, at the very least, doesn’t keep you from it). A few rules of thumb… Keep it short. Be forthcoming if the firing didn’t have anything to do with you and was more of a wider company move. Don’t be too negative about your old employer or company or come across as bitter about being fired. Try to put a positive spin on it wherever you can. Perhaps you and your old boss decided it wasn’t the “right fit” for you, and that’s why you’re so excited about this new position that is better suited to your skills and experience. As always in an interview, focus on the positive aspects of your background and emphasize the value, experience, and wisdom that you can bring to the new position. 

 

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