How to Handle Getting Fired

Don't burn any bridges with your former employer.

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Lindsay Olson
Getting fired can be emotional and difficult. You may not know the reason for being let go, and you may feel bitter or angry toward your former employer. You may be unsure of how you will handle financial obligations, and it may create strain in your family relationships.

It’s important to handle getting fired as well as you can, since anger and frustration won’t help you out of the situation. Here are some tips to help get through the process:

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Making it Easier

Stay calm while you’re in your boss’s office, getting the bad news. Lashing out won’t help you in any way, and it may create a hostile environment that you can’t return to. Keep in mind you may not be let go due to poor performance, so breathe through your anger to hear the reason why.

If at all possible, find out the reason you were let go so you can avoid it happening in the future. If you’ve ignored the warning signs (you were reprimanded several times and still continued poor behavior), this should be your wake up call that you need to change your attitude and habits at work. It may be too late at this company, but you have the opportunity to avoid the same pitfalls at your next job if you know what not to do.

It might be possible to get a second chance. Ask your employer if there is anything you can do to make the situation better. If it’s more of a layoff due to company problems, see if you could reduce your hours or work freelance as a way to stay tied to the company until things get better for them.

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Most importantly, don’t burn bridges. Just because you were fired doesn’t mean there won’t be the chance to work at this company again or in another department. You very well may cross paths with your colleagues at this company with a future employer. Even if you were fired, many employers are still willing to give you a reference, so you don’t want to blow your chance.

Afterward

Stephen Balzac, president of consulting firm 7 Steps Ahead, says it’s important to acknowledge job loss as something you need to grieve through. He recommends taking a few days to reflect on this part of your life. Then, he says, try to move on.

“Symbolically ’bury’ your old job: burn the business cards or something along those lines,” Balzac says. “It’s fine to keep the awards and recognitions you’ve garnered, but get rid of the illusion that the job is still ‘alive’ for you.”

Once you’ve had a tiny pity party, begin networking to see what job opportunities are available to you. Let people in your industry know you’re available, and give them an idea of what you’re looking for.

Look into unemployment benefits, as you may qualify for them. Getting a little income is better than none.

“Contact HR immediately and re-negotiate your severance,” says Steve Truitt, a performance coach, “Often you will get a month’s health insurance, but you can ask for more, and often they will cover you for a much longer period of time. They’d rather do that than give you more severance.”

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Make sure your resume is up-to-date, both in its document version and on job sites where you have a profile. Add any new experience you’ve gained to enhance your visibility online.

If it’s appropriate, ask your former employer for a reference. If you were let go due to budgeting, he’d probably be more than happy to help you find your next job.

In Your Next Interview

One of the scariest parts of dealing with the aftermath of being fired is knowing what to say about why you left your last job in an interview. Above all, be honest. It can be helpful to practice what you’ll say to this question ahead of time. Explain succinctly why you left (if you left on bad terms, you may want to glaze over specific incident and details and say it was a “mutual parting” or “irreconcilable differences), and say no more on the matter unless pushed.

Never place blame! A hiring manager will be turned off if you start bad-mouthing your former employer, and she’ll wonder how you’d act if she hired you. Bury any feelings of anger and focus on your current goal: to find a new job.

While being fired can certainly make you feel like you’re alone, you’re really not. “Know that 99 percent of successful people were fired at least once in their career,” says Stephen Q. Shannon, a career development expert. “Some wear the experience as a badge of honor.”

Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and public relations recruiter with Paradigm Staffing and Hoojobs, a niche job board for public relations, communications and social media jobs. She blogs at LindsayOlson.com, where she discusses recruiting and job search issues.