What Do You Do If You Get Fired?

Youre Fired

To Be Fired

It is said that the term “fired” came from the founder of NCR, John Patterson, ordering that the desk and chair of an executive who had displeased him be ‘fired’–set on fire on the company grounds. His actions seemed to be focused on public humiliation.  Luckily, today most firings/lay offs are NOT focused on humiliating the person being terminated.  (Oh, and by the way, another of John Patterson’s claims to fame was that he fired Thomas Watson who went on to run what was to become IBM–not such a great track record on management decisions if you ask me:-))

There is very little chance that you won’t be fired during your career.  Back in the day (a long time ago, because it was before my day), people only got fired because they did something wrong.  It is certainly still true that people get fired because they did something wrong.  Most people, however,  get fired (or the easier to swallow “laid off”) for lots of reasons and most of them have little to do specifically with the firee and much to do with the circumstances that the organization finds itself in.  While it doesn’t make it any easier to take, getting fired/laid off today is usually not about you–it’s about the organization.  You have every right to get angry about this.  It IS YOUR life.  Get it out of your head, though, that it is your fault.  It is so common now that most hiring companies assume it isn’t your fault too.

The normal human reaction to being fired/laid off is this:

Losing a job

The good news is that you come out the other side, almost always better.  I’ve had many people tell me that it was the best thing that ever happened to them.  They can see (in hindsight) that they never would have made the move themselves and that the reflection and activities that it took to find a new (and almost always a better) job was one of the most powerful learning experiences they ever had.  This is NOT to say that it isn’t painful.  You go down the left side of this curve and frequently people do things that make it worse.

Don’t Make It Worse!

You are legitimately angry, feeling betrayed, stunned, devastated, humiliated.  It would be nuts for you NOT to feel these things.  Make sure you don’t burn bridges initially, though, while you’re feeling these things at their most intense.  When someone tells you that you’re fired (and don’t assume that that person wants to be the one doing this–probably they feel almost as bad as you), LISTEN.  Ask questions.  Try not to say any of the angry things that come to mind.  You can say them later.  You can say them to your wife or your job coach or your best friend.  DON’T SAY THEM RIGHT THEN AND THERE.

If you are asked to sign something, it is perfectly ok to say that you’re not ready to sign it or that you want to consult with someone before you do.  Be careful not to sign away any rights you may have. Ask more questions.  Ask for details.  Ask if it is ok to record the questions and answers–you won’t have a great memory of what is happening.  They may say no and if they do, don’t record it.  Without permission it is illegal in several states.  Write down what they are saying about reasons (they’ll likely be light on that detail), severance package, insurance, outplacement, etc.  Writing it down can help to give you something to concentrate on while you are experiencing the confusion and shock of the experience.  Ask if you can call them tomorrow if you have questions–you WILL have questions because only a part of what is being said is going in.

It’s really important to get your head right:

  1. It isn’t your fault
  2. The company screwed up somehow to make this an organizational necessity
  3. Most people (recruiters, hiring managers, friends) assume it is not your fault

The sooner you can wrap your mind around these realities, the sooner you can more to the next step.  If you blame yourself and if you think everyone blames you, you will not approach your job search with the necessary clarity.  You are now in the boat with millions of other people.  And, yes, it is awful.  And yes, it is hard to find another job.  But it is possible and you can do it and you need to approach it like an adventure.  I know, I know, that sounds ridiculous.  You’ll be surprised what this journey brings.  And the sooner you get to it, the sooner you will get the job you need and the one that is better for you than the last one.

Quick! Quick! Build Your Network

LinkedIn:  Occupy your first couple of days–while you’re getting your head right–building your network.  Go to LinkedIn.  Connect, connect, connect.  Ask for references. Fix your profile.  You don’t need to change your job yet, but make sure your profile is as inviting and professional as it can be.  Make sure your skills are clearly listed, especially the ones that recruiters are out there looking for.  ASK people to endorse you–people who know you have those skills.

Reach Out:  It might be hard.  Do it anyway.  Reach out.  Call people.  Let them know that you’re looking.  Pick a very select few to whine to.  To the vast majority of your contacts be positive, open, cheerful and matter of fact.  Remember–not your fault.  They don’t think it is.  The more people who know you’re looking the faster the right match will happen.

Make Your Plan

Outplacement:  If you have access to outplacement, USE IT!!!!  Forget your pride, your anger, your embarrassment.  The faster you start with outplacement, the faster you get a job.  They will help you in all kinds of ways.  If you don’t have access to outplacement, then do it for yourself.

Create a project plan.  You know how to do this:

Set your goals–be specific:  NOT ‘Find a job’, but rather “Find a great job as a Business Analyst in a great company with more than 300 employees and a career path for me to move up.’

  • Identify your critical path tasks–for the above goal, you’d have to do research–
    • What companies fit your criteria?
      • What does “great’ mean to you?
      • What is your ideal career path?
      • What kind of culture do you want to work for?
    • Who do you know with connections into those companies?
    • Create and tailor your resume for those companies.
    • Skill development-what skills do you need?
    • How will you get it?
    • Etc.
  • Identify the resources
    • Whose help do you need?
    • How will you get it?
  • Set your timeline
    • Taking into account the items listed so far–the tasks and resources, what does your timeline look like?
    • How much time–each day, each week–are you going to focus your efforts on finding a job?
  • Do a kick-off
    • After you’ve created a plan–have an official start.
    • Have a way to measure your progress.
    • ‘Getting a job’ isn’t the only measurement you should use–identify ALL the measurements you should be tracking.  What are the things that fill up your funnel that get you to offers that get you to the RIGHT job
      • Network growth
      • Resumes sent
      • Recruiter contacts
      • Requests for references, endorsements, conversations
      • Phone interviews
      • Second interviews
      • Offers
  • Reevaluate regularly

You Will Be Fine.

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September 2, 2014 · 8:27 pm

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