By Lillian Childress
NBC News, Know Your Value, March 6, 2019 —
Getting fired is not only emotionally taxing, but it can also be difficult to navigate logistically.
Here’s what you do when the unthinkable happens.
In the moment, getting fired can feel earth-shattering. But for such a seemingly catastrophic event, getting fired is actually quite common. Business icons like Steve Jobs, Anna Wintour and Oprah Winfrey were all famously fired at some point in their career. In fact, in 2010 Wintour told a conference audience, “I recommend you all get fired. It’s a great learning experience.”
There are also a whole slew of reasons why the firing might not have even been your fault. Setting reasonable boundaries in a chaotic work environment, raising “elephant in the room” issues that management is afraid to address or even delivering such stellar results that you embarrass your boss can all be hidden reasons for being handed the pink slip. And if getting fired was really your fault? This is an excellent learning opportunity.
Once you get the news, you need a game plan. You’ll want to carefully plan your next moves while at the same time ensuring that you have an exit that is seamless for all parties involved. Here are seven steps to take to smoothly propel yourself from your current situation into a cushy new gig.
1. Ask the right questions
Once you receive notice of your termination, a good first question to start with is: Why was I fired? While it can be painful to have your shortcomings laid out in front of you, ultimately, learning about your flaws will help you grow. That way, you’ll be less likely to repeat the same mistakes and risk getting fired again in a successive job. Plus, it’s great fodder for the ever-common interview question about what your weakness is! And if you find out that the company is letting you go because of structural changes that have nothing to do with your individual performance, then it’s a weight off your shoulders.
You’ll also want to ask questions about whether there are any other positions available internally at the company, whether your employer would be willing to write a recommendation for you, what the final date of your departure is and anything else the company expects from you before you leave.
2. Negotiate the terms of your departure
Ideally, you’ll want to negotiate the maximum severence pay you can muster. As a general note, severance is common in layoffs, but far less common when you’re fired for a cause. Except in certain cases, it’s not required by law for employers to give it. If you rely on the company for health insurance, it’s also important to put a focus on extending your health benefits for as long as possible. Be sure to negotiate all of these aspects before signing any documents like a non-disclosure agreement.
If the company hits you with a pile of documents written in legalese, or all of this seems like an insurmountable task, you might consider retaining an employment attorney to help you with the process. Shelling out a bit for help in the short-term might save you headaches (and money) in the long-term. If you think you were wrongly terminated — for reasons like discrimination, whistleblowing or if the company breaches their contract with you — then an employment attorney is particularly helpful, as they can help you build your case towards getting the compensation you deserve.
3. Check if you qualify for unemployment benefits
If you were terminated for misconduct — such as failing a drug test, stealing or lying — you will likely be frozen out of unemployment benefits for a time, although laws vary from state to state. However, being fired because of reasons like company cutbacks, being a poor fit for the job or a lack of skills likely means that you’re eligible for unemployment benefits.
4. Reach out to your network
Your network is a great place to start scouting for future opportunities. You can start by sending check-in messages to former colleagues, scheduling informational interviews in companies or industries you’re interested in working for and building your online professional presence. While you should make it clear to people in your network that you’re in the market for a new gig, there’s also no need to openly broadcast that you were fired, unless you’re asked directly.
Especially in the week after you receive the news, take time to consider how you’re going to present the story of why you were fired to others. When you are presenting a rocky employment situation to others, Kerry Hannon, career expert and author of “Love Your Job: The New Rules for Career Happiness”, advises: “It’s always reframing it into what you learned from that experience, not why it was a bad thing.” Turning the story into a blame game is often less than professional. “Don’t blame them, and don’t blame yourself — just say it wasn’t a good fit,” says Hannon.
5. Start brushing up your resume
After you receive notice about your termination, it’s never too early to start prepping for job applications. Start by sprucing up your resume with the details from your most recent job, as well as any skills you obtained during it. And, if it’s been a while since you last updated your resume, you might want to consider a complete resume overhaul — [resume] templates are a great place to get inspiration.
6. Set job alerts
Although you still might have a few weeks to finish up at your current gig, the job search doesn’t need to wait until after you leave. While you might not have time to do an in-depth search while still heading to work every day, using job alerts can save you time in the job search and get a headstart on finding your next gig. You can even filter the results based on categories like company rating, location, company size and more.
7. Have faith in yourself
In 2018, a 10-year study of over 2,600 executives published in the book “The CEO Next Door” revealed that of the executives who got fired during their career, a remarkable 91 percent found a new position that was as good — or better — than their previous one. Getting fired is by no means the end of your career. In fact, it’s an opportunity to do a sober assessment of what your career goals are, and the elements you need to shift to achieve those goals.