Getting fired: How to deal, and how to make it count

This story first appeared on Kalibrr. Visit this page for more on the ups and downs of navigating your career. 

“You’re fired” is not exactly a fun sentence to hear. One’s professional career can be quite the rollercoaster ride, filled with a mix of highlight-worthy highs and disappointing lows. Getting fired, however, could be considered hitting rock bottom. Or make you believe the sky is falling in your work life.

No one ever talks about getting fired but if you ever find yourself in this situation, here are a handful of proactive things you can do. 

Remain professional

Under no circumstances are you allowed to do the following “burn-the-bridge” type of behaviors: 

The shock and hurt of being let go may fuel your urge to go on a Hulk-like rampage. But it’s the opportune time to take 10 (or a hundred) deep breaths and imagine you’re at sea. Do you want to be remembered as that former employee who lost his temper?

Do your best to stay on good terms as much as you can. Organizations on your “apply-for” list are sure to contact your former boss and company for feedback about you.

Clarify the reasons that got you fired

Learn why you’re being let go straight from the horse’s mouth – your immediate supervisor. 

Was it due to a failure in meeting performance-based standards? Was it because you had displayed an attitude or conduct detrimental to the team? Is it a cost-cutting move?

This gives much-needed clarity, rather than doing guesswork on what drove their decision. It also helps in the process of taking responsibility for one’s actions. Resorting to giving out bitter-tasting “blame pies” is never a good parting gift. 

Get to the negotiation table 

Each company has post-termination guidelines in place. 

Such guidelines offer soon-to-be-ex-employees a negotiation window on termination terms centering on a number of pertinent matters. One item would be your severance package. Another is finding out how the remaining employment benefits and privileges will be utilized. Most importantly, it is a window to negotiate with your boss and/or HR on how your firing will be positioned to companies you have chosen to apply for or that will call. 

Just make sure that whatever reason (i.e. labeling it as a resignation, rather than a firing) both parties have agreed upon is properly documented on paper.

Searching for the lesson

After the dust has settled, it’s time to look at the man in the mirror. What can you possibly learn from this episode? Sometimes, the big lessons we need to learn comes to us through what looks like daunting adversity. At this stage, it is a time to be fully honest. Whatever realizations comes up, strive to come up with solutions and put into good use in your next job. It is also perfectly fine to reach out to your support system to help lighten your load.

Plan the next steps 

On to the next journey, which is embarking on a job search. You know the drill. It’s time to polish your resume, dust off those job-hunting skills, and get in touch with your network. Do all of these with added motivation. And after all you may have gone through, take extra time to consider the best job opportunity that presents  a new chance at becoming a better person all-around.

When an employee gets fired, it may seem and feel like the end of the world. But – and it may not be obvious at first – it may also act as a bridge to new opportunities. That's not just of the employment variety but also for self-improvement and realizing your untapped potential.

Yes, it can be the break that can propel you into the career heights you are aspiring for – if you let it and work hard for it. Who says going back into the unemployment line via termination spells the end?

Have you had any experience with being fired? How did you handle it? Any lessons to share? Please share in the comments section below. –

Joseph Cueto is a diehard Boston sports fan who still manages to find something new and exciting about the teams he roots for every day. He writes, too.

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