Congrats on Your Failure

written by: Jane Helpern

At first glance, getting fired is...not ideal. In many cases, it's completely unexpected, and can render your ego and bank account severely depleted (a special thanks to last week's #spenderbender for helping slide into that unemployment office in style). There's no denying that being canned is a tough blow. We're talking emotional, professional, and financial damages -- especially in the short term (First rule: don't wallow! Get proactive with our essential job hunting tips here). But, as you'll read today, getting the ax can also be incredibly liberating, and function as the much-needed impetus for progress, growth, and change. Below, hear from four unstoppable women who masterfully manifested getting fired into their best career move yet. Because when life gives you pink slips, make pink lemonades.

Name: Allie Greenberg

Occupation: Brand Marketing Manager for Richer Poorer

HOW IT WENT DOWN: The way I was fired was actually pretty fucked. There had been rumors swirling around for weeks that there were mass layoffs coming down the pipeline. Since my company was so nepotistic, there were a ton of people there who spent more time at the free coffee bar or playing ping pong than actually doing any work - so this didn't seem that shocking to me. The week it happened, they sent out an all staff meeting invite where the big boss basically told everyone some people were about to be fired and how bad he felt about it. In retrospect, it was VERY Hunger Games. Since I worked on one of the busiest teams (generating content for a social audience that was over 10 million people at the time) working 50-60 hour weeks, I assumed my job was really safe. They had actually just brought on an agency to help support us because we were so busy and social media, in general, was exploding. I thought I was fine. Little did I realize they brought on the agency to replace us and the weeks prior when I was walking them through my piece of the puzzle I was actually training them to take my job.

“When life gives you pink slips, make pink lemonades.”

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HOW YOU FELT: I think there were about 60 people fired that day. Initially, I was really shell-shocked. My job paid quite well, I worked ten minutes from home, and I had become best friends with two of my coworkers. That said -- I hated that job. HATED. I had a boss that created a glass ceiling for me and stood in my way from any true growth or promotion. Plenty of ideas I pitched got killed and anything that didn't, I never felt like I actually got credit for. I loved the mission but didn't feel like what I saw on the other side was true to what we messaged.

THE TURNING POINT: I think while I felt supremely fucked over, I felt the massive relief of not having to get up and go to a job I hated. I also realized I kind of hated social media altogether and that I should take some time to think about what it was I actually wanted to do. I got a bunch of jobs offered right after I got fired but lived off severance, unemployment and rando freelance jobs while I waited for the right opportunity to come along. There were times where I thought it would never come along but yay, it did. Honestly it took awhile but THANK GOD I held out. 

WHERE ARE YOU NOW: Honestly, nearly two years later at my current job I could not be more grateful for what happened. I have the most incredible boss who values me and my strengths and challenges my growth. She cares about making me better at my job and sees that by me being awesome at what I do I make her look more awesome. I truly, truly, appreciate the opportunities that come my way every day at Richer Poorer and the ownership I get to take in working towards a common goal. I never ever felt that at the job I was fired from. 

Name: Kim Lash

Occupation: Sr Manager of Brand Marketing + PR at Nasty Gal

HOW IT WENT DOWN: I was working at a men's clothing brand to launch their women's brand. I was around 26-29 yrs old during my time there. I had dedicated almost all of my time and the majority of my energy towards this job. In some ways I lost myself in it. I was surrounded by mostly males in the hip-hop/action sports industry and often felt a lot of pressure. I got to experience some incredible moments and work with really talented people, but I also faced a lot of challenges. I sensed that some company changes were being made. Then one day they called to tell me the female division of the brand was being outsourced and they were letting go of the internal team immediately. At the time it felt extremely disappointing to be losing something I had worked so hard to launch. I knew it had taken over my life excessively, but being let go was still upsetting. 

HOW IT FELT: Immediately after the job ended, I had a migraine for a week. I went to the doctor and she told me it was just stress. I had all this built up tension and it all came out when I stopped working there. I decided to take a couple weeks off before looking for a new role. During that time, I went to museums in LA I had never been to. I went to the beach alone. I felt my eyes were truly opened for the first time in a while. Then I started to interview for new jobs and was finding a lot more opportunities in New York. So after being in SoCal since I was six years old, I got up with no secured job and moved to NY. Shortly after being in NY, I got a job that was somewhat similar to my previous role. Then I decided to freelance. Most importantly I turned 30, I grew up, I found myself and I had a new perspective. 

WHERE ARE YOU NOW: I am back in-house with a fashion brand in LA. And I am more grounded, while still being extremely dedicated to my job with a strong work ethic.  By losing that job, I found how to respect myself. Ever since I have been much more fulfilled and better at my work.

“By losing that job, I found how to respect myself.”

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ADVICE FOR WOMEN WHO ARE STRUGGLING TO REBOUND FROM GETTING FIRED: I know it's cliche, but I think everything happens for a reason. Even if it feels horrible at the time, you will learn from the situation and grow while figuring out your next opportunity. There are always going to be positions that aren't a fit and positions that are a fit. I would say to go with your gut when making decisions regarding a new role. And that the people in your network who know you best are a great way to land new promising work.

Name: Sable Yong

Occupation: Freelance Writer & Beauty Editor

HOW IT WENT DOWN: I was working for a women's site that I like to dub the poor man's Refinery29, as an associate beauty editor. I was mined-off LinkedIn from a recruiter at that company and met with the Editor-in-Chief of the site. I wasn't super hot about the site, but as a freelancer, I figured it'd be good experience and a "legit" resume builder and career move. Anyway, she left the company three months in and was replaced by the living incarnation of Regina George, who in my eight months at the company managed to systematically pick off everyone on the team who wasn't on her agenda. After about four straight months of conflicting direction from the now three supervisors above me, I was pretty much always made to feel like I wasn't doing enough. Anyway, some weird Wordpress glitch about unsaved edits was blamed on me, and I was unceremoniously let go one Monday afternoon being told, "you've been asked to improve your work many times and we aren't seeing it so we have to let you go."

HOW IT FELT: It was a sucky feeling, but I'd be lying if my first reaction didn't involve great relief. I couldn't really get into it at the time, and there was a stern HR lady present to mediate or witness, so I was just like "OK" and got my things and left. It was ultimately for the best because it was confirmation that I should stop trying to get into an industry I want to be a part of the traditional way (i.e., starting with grunt work from the bottom and grovel my way up) and use my actual skills. When I wasn't distracted by my daily existential dread I could actually use my energy towards doing something fulfilling and career advancing. 

THE TURNING POINT: When I went back to freelancing it was leagues better. I had greater insight into the inner-workings of the media/editorial world and way more editor and PR contacts. I was even, weirdly enough, mined from Google for a Dove campaign after their casting director found a story I wrote about dyeing my hair blonde. Generally, the pattern goes that any good opportunities that have come my way have been because of my own work that represents me, not a publication.

ADVICE FOR WOMEN WHO ARE STRUGGLING TO REBOUND FROM GETTING FIRED: Examine what you're really good at. Enjoy and do as much of that as you can, of your own volition. Marketing or positioning yourself to be perceived as someone experienced in whatever that thing is helps. Either way, I think when you approach what you want to do by playing to your strengths it works out better than trying to fit into someone else's mold. Also, always be saving your contacts.

Word to the Wise: “Always be saving your contacts.”

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Name: Nicole (No Last Name Given)

Occupation: Screenwriter

HOW IT WENT DOWN: I was fired on January 8th, the Friday after the 2-week winter break that is the only obligatory hiatus that the entertainment business collectively takes. During this hiatus, my mom had intense back surgery and I got in back-to-back car accidents; I knew something in the universe was off. That Sunday, the last day of winter break, I walked into my mom's room and told her, "I hope I get fired tomorrow." Low and behold, that Friday, I got the boot. Sometimes I wonder if I willed it. That entire week I noticed I was being dropped off inter-office emails. Things were being scheduled I wasn't privy to, only to find out that they were interviewing my replacement right under my nose.

HOW IT FELT: Getting fired is a shock to the system, even if you do will it. You immediately feel inadequate and useless. Stressors like money and career come flooding in. You rack your brain about the things you did wrong (in my case, not many) and you think about what you could have done better. I was very close with these women, and one of them actually cried in the room. When I reflect on that, I think they knew they were losing a good team member, but ultimately we had to go our separate ways. I always felt grateful for the job and I worked for a team of creative and smart women who were running a big network television show. A door into Hollywood is a door. I felt very lucky, and I still do. 

“Getting fired is a shock to the system. You rack your brain about the things you did wrong.”

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THE TURNING POINT: When I was called in for the actual letting go, they gave me very vague reasons. "You know's just not a good fit anymore." Months later, it couldn't have been more clear. I hadn't written a single page of a screenplay. I hadn't been creating for TWO YEARS. My creative brain is a driven one and I needed to take the leap to see if I could actually thrive on my own. I would have never quit my job; a paycheck somehow always trumps the real work that needs to be done. I realize now I should have quit a long time ago, but I never had the courage. Despite by my affection for the women I worked with, I knew that they didn't value me creatively. I brought them a book that I thought would make an incredible animated series. They very quickly turned the idea down. It was then I knew that perhaps we just didn't vibe creatively. So I wrote a treatment for the series, kept it to myself, and now 8 months after being fired I am very happy to say that I am turning that same idea into a television series.

The week that followed my firing I made a full 9 to 5 commitment to screenwriting. I popped out two pilot scripts, finished my film, and got a series into serious development. I made a deal with myself: every single day, even on Sundays, I send at least one professionally intended e-mail, text or phone call. My main professional takeaway is to trust your own taste. Getting fired ,if anything, was just fodder for another good story.

Jane Helpern is a freelance writer, copywriter, and founder of Jane Says Agency. She enjoys helping brands find their voice, writing about fashion and feminism, and walking-at-an-incline-with-wine™