History is filled with trailblazers who were fired — often publicly — before finding success in their chosen field.
Steve Jobs was a wealthy, global celebrity when he was forced out of the billion-dollar company he had sacrificed everything to build. Oprah was fired from a reporter role early in her career, which led her to a more junior role. Walt Disney had a similar story, being fired from the Kansas City star for “lack of imagination and no good ideas.”
We read these stories, and so many more like them, and hope the best is likely yet to come. But finding out you are being forced out of your job is difficult, no matter how many inspirational stories you hear.
How to Process Losing Your Job
Hearing the words, “You’re fired,” or “We have to let you go,” can be devastating.
It’s not easy, but as you walk down the hallway with a cardboard box containing your never-used stapler and mug full of pens you’re entitled to, keep your chin literally and figuratively high.
It’s natural to feel a sense of loss, lack of control, anger, fear, and devastation. Take the time and space to process these complicated emotions so that they don’t come back to haunt you. Feel sorry for yourself; let it out. Your routine has been interrupted, your relationship with former colleagues changed. It’s a lot to take in, give yourself a break.
But, once you’ve taken time to process your emotions, focus on what you are going to do next and how you are going to find your next job. Continuing to sulk, remain angry, or dwell on the unfortunate situation won’t help you change what has happened.
Ways to Bounce Back When You Get Fired
Here are a few ways you can move forward and get your career back on track:
1. Try to figure out what went wrong
It’s likely you weren’t made privy to the precise reasons your employment was terminated, but try to evaluate and understand as much as you can.
Think about the performance discussions you had while in your role — what were your shortcomings? What were you praised for doing well? How can you improve? If you have trustworthy former colleagues, ask them for their input.
Now’s the time to gather as much candid feedback as possible to improve your performance moving forward.
2. Think about what you want your next move to be
You’ll likely be in a hurry to secure another job and get back to a normal routine, but you shouldn’t blindly commit to your next position. It’s important you first consider everything you want and need out of your career.
Perhaps the path you were on wasn’t the right one; it’s OK to use this detour to take a different direction.
3. Make a plan of action
Once you’ve decided what you want your next move to be, it’s time to get back in the job search.
Before getting in touch with anyone or sending anything their way, make sure your resume, social media profiles, and other personal branding pieces — your portfolio website, for example — are up-to-date.
Start by letting people in your network know you’re looking for a new job, and work on broadening that network. Ask your connections to put you in touch with anyone that can help, go to networking events, or join alumni associations.
4. Create a list of references
Before you start applying for any new positions, contact your former managers and colleagues and ask if they would be willing to talk with potential employers about some of what you accomplished while working with them. Depending on the circumstances, you can reach out to the employer you were forced to leave.
What’s most important is that you choose references who can vouch for your positive performance.
5. Spend your time outside of the office wisely
It might take a little while for you to fully be back in the driver’s seat, so make sure you spend that gap period wisely.
Freelancing, volunteering, continuing education, new certifications, or taking time to build your skills show a potential new employer you didn’t let this time go to waste.
Help is Available if You Need to Talk Through Job Loss
Getting fired isn’t easy. Even if you were struggling in the position or not satisfied, losing your job can feel like a personal failure. After all, so much of your identity is tied to what you do for a living.
If you feel a storm of emotions after being involuntarily forced out of your job, consider talking to a therapist. A licensed professional can assist in processing the loss and help you approach your job search in a healthy way: working through issues you might have had at your last job and ensuring those issues don’t arise in the future.