Oh $#*T, I just got fired!?!

Got terminated? It happens. It sucks. But there are things you can do TODAY.  

1. BREATHE 

Maybe you’re angry. Maybe you’re embarrassed. Maybe you’re worried. All totally normal, and you need to let yourself feel it. But despair not. This might just be the best thing that ever happened to you. 

While you’re breathing…

  • Remember that before they ruled the world, this happened to Oprah, Walt Disney, and Anna Wintour, the latter of whom famously said “everyone should be fired once” because it’s character building. 

  • Ask yourself...were you actually happy? Are you a teeny bit relieved? Were you already asking ‘what’s next’???

  • You may be worried about perception, but you’ve got a lot more control over that than you think. Which is why you can breathe a little deeper and should….

2. WATCH YOUR MOUTH

How you speak and behave now is critical. It shows volumes about your character and will and influence who has your back in the coming days.

  • Their lips are sealed. Chances are, your former employer is going to say as little as possible on the matter to protect themselves legally. If someone calls to verify your past employment, most companies will only give your start date, end date, and title, and can only disclose salary if you sign paperwork to give access.

  • Know who does talk??? Your PEERS. So...before you storm out, start talking smack, or telling everyone that you got “fired,” you need to check yourself. First of all, fired probably isn’t the right term to use. Secondly, what impression do you want to leave those colleagues with?

  • Your Best PR Move is probably showing grace and saying something to the effect of: “I honestly didn’t feel like this was the right fit either. I learned a lot, wish everyone the best, and am excited about what’s next.”  A positive narrative makes you look good and benefits you far more than trying to make the company look bad. 

3. READ THE PAPERWORK 

Let me guess, the actual ‘sit down’ of the termination was a bit of a blur? Once most people hear ‘letting you go’ they experience the Charlie Brown effect (“wah wah wahnnnn”). Now that it’s sinking in, it’s time to review the paperwork, carefully. 

  • Your paperwork should cover your severance (if applicable), final pay, unused vacation, benefit continuation, and more. It’s a lot to take in, so sit down and give it your full attention before signing anything.

  • If you’re being offered severance pay, it’s going to come with some terms. Lucky you. Read these terms immediately and closely. 

  • Ask questions. (If you’ve got a good HR person, they’ll follow up with you to see what questions you have.)

  • Go ahead and file for unemployment, which is pretty easy to do online if you’re in New York.

4. MAKE THESE LISTS

You may want just want to blow off steam, cry in your pillow, or drown your sorrows in a negroni. I get that. But trust me that the thing that will make you feel best right now is to take some action and start moving on. 

So grab those pens and post its you stole from the supply room, clear off your desk/the coffee table/a wall, and put on your most inspiring playlist. Then start writing out some key lists. 

List 1: Your Network Allies

  • These are the people that are going to give you leads, recommend you, put the word out.

  • They’re the first people you’ll reach out to, and if you do that right away, they’ll rally behind you!  (All the more reason to be gracious about your exit as people want to help someone that will be a good referral)

List 2: Companies of Interest

  • These are the companies you want to work for or have always been curious about.

  • How do they match up to list 1? What connections do you have there?

List 3: Lessons and Accomplishments

  • It wasn’t the right match, but I’m sure you learned and grew at this last experience. Write it out.

  • This is going to help you update your resume and reframe how you talk about the experience (again, getting that positive narrative straight).

List 4: Your Superpowers

  • You may not feel like it today, but you’ve got them and you need to speak to them while interviewing and networking. Write them out, reflect on them, and hone your elevator pitch. 

  • Do you have any side-hustle powers to get you through this slump? What freelance ‘gigs’ might you be open to while you search for the next big thing?

5. BRUSH UP YOUR RESUME

This goes without saying, but it tends to be the most dreaded part. Hopefully you designed it less than 3 versions of Adobe ago. But even if it’s recent, it probably needs a good make-over. The lists you just made will be helpful in shaping it up. Search online for inspiration. Phone a friend to look it over.

Remember, a resume is a fluid and ever-evolving document. In fact, you should be catering it to your audience each time you send it out. So your updates today are just the start. Don’t stress...you’ll be making more updates tomorrow.

6. GET ON LINKEDIN

Just do it. Sign in. Update your profile. Start connecting wisely.

Make sure you have a compelling header and that all the info represents your superpowers and makes it clear that you’re seeking opportunities.  

Often candidates will wait to put an end date to their last job, so it looks like they are still “present’ at the company. This is a mistake, even if you were terminated! You want people to know you are looking. Recruiters and employers might approach you for freelance--which they wouldn’t do if you were gainfully employed. And it can be a huge plus for a FT role that you don’t have to give your current employer notice. 

7. BREATHE, AGAIN

If it’s still day 1 (or realistically...day 2) and you’ve tackled these things, then you deserve to be proud of yourself. You’ve taken control, you’ve shown courage, and you’re on your way to the next great thing. 

So take another moment to breathe, and to remember….Life has its cycles. Its ups and downs. It rains, it’s sunny. It’s morning, it’s night. You start a job, you end a job. Life is hard, and also wonderful again. 

Good luck. You’ve got this. 

Katie Cowden