Getting fired can seem like the end of your career, perhaps even the end of your world. It can severely rock your confidence and lead to fear and anxiety for what the future might hold, with questions like, “How could this happen?” “Will I be able to get hired again?” “What will my family and friends think?” racing through your mind on a loop. Along with sadness and fear comes anger, a common and very understandable response to this highly unfortunate (but more common than you think) event in one’s professional life, particularly if you feel like your termination wasn’t warranted.
Of course, nobody wants to find themselves in their boss’ office having that uncomfortable “you’re being fired” conversation. The fact is, though, getting fired is far from the end of the line in your career development—and your life. As horrible as it feels, most people who get fired bounce back. A 10-year study that tracked over 2,600 executives discovered that of those that got fired, 91% of them bounced back and found a new position that was just as good or better than their last. There’s no reason why you can’t join their ranks and come out of the situation stronger than before!
There are a few important things to consider if the fateful day comes where you find yourself being fired. How you react immediately and in the long-term aftermath can say a lot about your character and how successful you’ll be as you forge ahead in the professional world. Here’s what to do if you get fired (and what not to do.)
1. Never speak disparagingly about your previous employer.
When trying to find a new job, avoid spewing any *disses* toward your previous company, in-person or on social media. Speaking or posting negatively about your old employer can reflect poorly on you to potential employers, painting you as ungrateful, immature, or as having a bad attitude. Remaining respectful when explaining why your relationship with your last company wasn’t ideal demonstrates real maturity. It’s even better if you can put a positive spin on things, like explaining how much you learned from the experience.
2. Never retaliate.
Retaliation post-firing can manifest in several ways—blasting your colleagues or company in an angry Tweetstorm, initiating a confrontation, stealing office equipment, etc. Don’t do this. We promise you, it won’t be worth it, and will more than likely make the whole situation worse by potentially burning any bridges you still have at the company.
It’s very possible that future employers will conduct thorough background checks before deciding to bring you on, and if they seek feedback about your performance, your former employer is much more likely to speak poorly of you if you retaliate after your termination and much more likely to give you a positive recommendation if you handle yourself professionally.
3. Don’t be afraid to discuss the why behind your termination.
We get it, when you’re in the middle of being fired, you may feel like fleeing the scene as fast as possible. Keep in mind, though, you’re owed an explanation for your termination and a thorough one at that. It’s likely that you’ll receive some sort of feedback during your termination conversation—your work ethic is lacking, you’re unfocused, you have an attitude problem, etc. (ICYWW, these are a few of the most common reasons people are fired).
However, you have a right—by federal law—to get a more in-depth picture of where you went wrong. For example, where were the specific areas your employer sees you lacking? What could you have done better? This type of detailed feedback will be invaluable to you in your next position to avoid making the same mistakes twice.
4. Never shy away from asking for help—you just might get it.
There is no harm in asking your employer or colleagues for a recommendation before you leave. It may seem counterintuitive, but it’s still likely they will say yes, making your life easier as you re-enter the job market. You should also ask about how the company will handle any inquiries from potential employers about your time there.
You are entitled to know whether they will provide details about your departure, the dates of your employment, or any other related information surrounding your tenure with the company. You may be able to negotiate with them about the details they disclose, which could really help you protect yourself from unwanted hardship during your job search.
5. Never believe this is the end of your career—you will turn this around.
Getting fired can make you doubt your abilities and potentially question your self-worth. It is important to give yourself the time and space to grieve and feel your feelings—anger, sadness, fear; these are all completely normal, and there is no shame in allowing yourself time to go through them. But don’t let this one unfortunate event derail your future. Come up with an action plan for your next steps, including what you are going to do to find your next job. This downtime is also a great opportunity to network and develop a list of references to list as you apply to new positions.
Though it’s cliché, there is some merit to the saying, “getting fired was the best thing that ever happened to me.” This is an opportunity to make a fresh start and take the time to find a new position that suits you, rather than jumping right into the same situation that could lead you to similar negative patterns. Take the necessary time to collect yourself and recognize that getting fired does not define you, and then commit yourself to moving on in your career, seeking out the opportunities that align more closely with your skills and passions.
About the Author: Susan Levine is the president and founder of Career Group Companies—a leading recruiting firm based in Los Angeles, with offices in New York, San Francisco, Orange County, and Greenwich. Their divisions are comprised of Career Group, Syndicatebleu, Fourth Floor, Avenue Pacific, and events that span a variety of industries. They specialize in executive and administrative support, marketing and design, fashion, events, and C-level placements. As a widely recognized industry name, they pride themselves on placing top-tier direct hire and freelance talent in their dream jobs. They use their expertise to impact the lives of their candidates and improve the company culture of their clients, one exceptional match at a time.
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This story was originally published on August 28, 2019, and has since been updated.