I Got Fired. Now What?
“Don’t worry, there is so much more out there! You’re going to be fine.” I hear my friend as I stare vacantly into my salad. I think to myself, “How am I ‘going to be fine’? How do I tell future employers that I was let go? I’m the breadmaker, what am I going to do?” while simultaneously wondering if she will pay for this salad, because, ya know...I was just fired. As someone who is from DC where we ask “what do you do?” before we ask “how are you?”, this was especially difficult. My worth was directly tied into my career, so now what?
Getting the pink slip is like going through a breakup, whether the writing is on the wall or it seemingly comes from nowhere, it is a punch to the gut when you’re told you are no longer needed. Many people feel as though their value stems mostly from their financial contribution and to not have that is devastating. To be told that “things just aren’t working anymore” is a major bruise on your ego and can in some cases damage your self worth. If you don’t take the right steps after getting fired, it could cost you jobs that you may have been a great fit for. It could make you desperate and put you in a job that you don’t like because, “Hello! I need to pay the bills!”.
I have been there, and have coached clients through it. Here is exactly what you need to to do to help get through your job break up. So get out of your depression blanket burrito and get ready to dive in!
Give yourself time to grieve
When I was researching the topic I didn’t see enough about dealing with the pain of losing a job. There is plenty of information about how stressful it is, but being fired can feel humiliating, infuriating, scary, or harrowing. This is not the mindset you want to be in when you are applying for a new job as you can come across as bitter, needy, or unstable. Give yourself at the very least a full day to just feel, or more time than that if you can afford to, but one day is a minimum. Yes, job searching is important but right now, but your mental health is even more important. Call a friend to vent to, write a scathing review of your company (and delete it, of course), just allow yourself to fall apart a little.
Get clarity on your next steps
Now that you are feeling a little better, let’s get clear on what you need next in your career. I am a big fan of meditation, so that would be my first suggestion. It may seem counterintuitive because you are ready for action, but just sitting with the intention of finding out what you need next, and letting it flow to you, may be one of the most powerful things you can do for yourself.
Spend some time thinking about your last position, what did you struggle with the most? What did you love doing? What do you wish your company did better? The goal here is to make sure when you start applying to jobs that they are the right fit for you and a place where you can feel secure and do your purpose lead work. Once you’ve got clarity on what you need on a new position, it’s time to get ready to start hunting for something new.
Start the hunt
Job hunting can take time, but if you do it intentionally, you can really get into a position that you love. Start with your network. Let people know that you are currently looking for something new, but be specific. “Really, anything is fine”, may seem okay right now, but “fine” is not enough when you know your true worth and value. Let people know the specific types of jobs you are looking for. Update your LinkedIn headline to do the same. Share your resume with friends who work for companies you are interested in working for. Be intentional in your messaging. Talk about how excited you are to find a wonderful place to work for, as opposed to talking about how you just got the shaft and you need to work for wherever there aren’t jerk managers. No one needs that kind of negativity in their lives, yourself included.
Take your time on the application process. Write a note on every job you applied for just in case they get back to you after they remove the job posting. Edit your resume to perfectly compliment the job posting. Write a cover letter to highlight that you don’t just want any job you want this job, and why you are right for the role.
Interview with confidence
It may feel like you have a scarlet letter on your chest screaming, “I am damaged! I was fired!”, but you aren’t. You don’t need to humble down your greatness because things have ended badly at your last position, you need to be forthright, but polished.
Before you go into an interview get clear with yourself on what happened at your last job. Did you make a mistake that got you terminated? What did you learn from it? If you could do things over again what would you do differently? If you were let go, what could you do this time to make yourself more of an asset?
This is important: do not bad mouth your old company. These people do not care if you think your old boss was a horrible micromanager or if the company culture was toxic. When you complain about your last position, no matter how right you are, you are labeling yourself as a complainer. “My last company was so toxic, everyone was so afraid and nose down all the time” does not sound as good as, “I saw on your website that your company values creativity and collaboration, I really think I would shine in that kind of environment because…”
Focus on gratitude and forgiveness.
You need to be able to let the sting of being fired go, and the only way you can is by finding out what out of that last position is something to be grateful for. This is HARD, I understand, but staying hurt is a major waste of energy and you need this new start to be completely positive. Think of at least 3 things to be grateful for. Maybe it’s as simple as, “That old position makes me appreciate my new job even more, I’m grateful for that” or “I now realize that I need to figure out some secondary streams of income so I don’t have to rely as hard on my paycheck. Now that I know this can happen, I can get better prepared rely on myself financially outside of my occupation and for that I am grateful.”
Forgiveness is even harder. However, there is so much power in letting go. You can’t start something fresh well if you’re holding onto something that is festering. Wish that company well and move on. Maybe you need to forgive yourself if you played a role in your termination. Give yourself some grace, remind yourself that this is just a part of your story and that it doesn’t define you. As a great friend once told me, “sometimes disappointment can lead to an appointment even better”.