Don’t Panic: 5 Things to Do After You’ve Been Fired

You got fired. This earth-shattering truth makes your insides ache. You feel rejected; like you’re a failure. But, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Some of the world’s biggest names, like Oprah Winfrey, J.K. Rowling, and Lady Gaga, have all experienced being fired, and yet they’ve flourished in the face of adversity, fiercely rising to the top without a second glance back.

Whether your company was downsizing, you completely dropped the ball on a critical business project, or your work style didn’t align with the company culture, there are zillions of reasons an employee can be handed the pink slip. Rather than crawling into bed, snuggling up with your childhood teddy, Mr. Snuffles, and hiding away from the world because you feel ashamed, treat this experience as a learning opportunity. 

What you need now is a game plan. Here’s what to do after being fired.

Have an Open Dialogue & Ask Questions

You have your termination notice in hand and it feels like it’s glaring up at you with eyebrows raised, as if to question, “So, what now?” Take advantage of this moment by engaging in an open conversation with your manager. While this may seem like a tough pill to swallow, this is your opportunity to ask why you are being let go.

By posing this question, it’ll help shed light on areas you can improve upon, ultimately helping you to grow and develop as a professional. Sure, having your flaws put on display is not exactly going to elicit feelings of joy. However, it’s important to remember that by getting some insight on where you went wrong, you can make a conscious effort to not repeat these behaviors in the future. And, there is also a possibility that company downsizing or structural changes were the reason they let you go, which means your performance wasn’t a factor in the decision.

Don’t be afraid to ask some other important questions, like “Are there other internal opportunities available that I may be a fit for?” or “Would you be willing to write me a letter of recommendation?” Additionally, make sure you are clear on instructions moving forward and what’s expected of you before you leave.

Research Unemployment Benefits

If your termination was a result of lying, failing a drug test, stealing, or any similar misconduct, there’s a strong chance you won’t be able to access unemployment benefits for a certain time period. Because laws vary from state to state, it’s important to hit the internet and conduct a little research to get a better idea of what you’re entitled to and the guidelines for collecting unemployment benefits. Take advantage of state offerings as a supplement to your loss of income while you begin searching for your next employment opportunity. 

Connect with Your Network

Hopping on the internet to see what openings are posted on job search sites like Indeed is a good starting point when you begin scouting for new opportunities. However, tapping into your network and connecting with former colleagues and people you’ve built professional relationships with can provide a wealth of unseen opportunity. You can also leverage sites like LinkedIn to establish your personal brand and online presence by joining groups, engaging in conversations, and posting valuable information related to your industry.

While you don’t have to openly publicize that you got the boot to your network, you should begin thinking about how you want to frame your story and explain why you were fired – which you’ll need to be prepared to discuss during future interviews. In an interview with Glassdoor, career expert and author of Love Your Job The New Rules for Career Happiness, Kerry Hannon, talks about how you should never speak negatively when explaining why you left your last company. Instead of going on a 15-minute rant or bashing your previous employer, Karen suggests the following: “It’s always reframing it into what you learned from that experience, not why it was a bad thing. Don’t blame them, and don’t blame yourself — just say it wasn’t a good fit.”

Spruce up Your Resume

Before you begin applying for a new role, set aside time to tidy up your resume. Besides adding your most recent job to your roster, make sure your formatting is clear, grammar is immaculate, and you’ve included specific examples of how your work and achievements have made a measurable impact on the company. For example, instead of saying you oversaw the company’s training program, you should say something along the lines of, “Implemented a new training program for a 40-person team, decreasing labor costs by 18%.” In addition, make sure you tweak your resume for each new position apply for, using specific keywords from the job description and tailoring your experience to match the needs of each position.

Being Fired Can Actually Benefit Your Career

Many people fear getting fired; afraid that they won’t be able to foot their bills and support their family. Or worse, that being terminated will hold them back from reaching their career goals, believing no one will hire a person who was canned. Let’s put those fears to rest.

In the book, The CEO Next Door, 2,600 executives were studied over a 10-year period and of those who were fired, a staggering 91 percent wound up finding a new role that was as good, or better, than their last one. What’s more, the authors shared their findings in a recent Harvard Business Review article, revealing that 78% of these executives eventually climbed up the ladder to a CEO role. Pretty crazy, right?

Getting fired isn’t the end, it’s only the beginning. Not only will the experience make you stronger as a professional, but it’ll allow you to reevaluate your career and figure out what steps you need to take in order to achieve your goals.

Michele Loizzi Written by:

Michele Loizzi is the Director of Recruitment Marketing Services at Human Edge.

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