The consequences of being fired shouldn't be underestimated.
According to a 2012 survey by the online recruiting software company Bullhorn Reach, 78 percent of recruiters ranked getting fired as the most damaging to a candidate's future job prospects. Still, you shouldn't hold onto the belief that you're damaged goods or that another employer won't offer you a more satisfying career option, notes Paul Anderson, managing director of the Seattle-based career management and job search firm ProLango Consulting Inc. "Sometimes it really is a blessing, and it's almost like you got a present from the universe," he says. "Just take advantage of that self-reflection opportunity to find something even better."
Here are ways to reflect on your dismissal and reignite your career prospects.
Come to grips with your faults in the matter. Some fired employees struggle to understand why a project they completed didn't meet their boss's expectations and they were let go, according to Gerry Crispin, co-founder of CareerXroads, a New Jersey-based consulting firm that helps companies recruit. "It's hard for people to accept it, simply because they think about the process as opposed to the results," he says. Move on, he advises, but accept your role.
Reach out to a truth-telling friend. "I encourage people to get an honest but helpful friend," Crispin says. By viewing the dismissal through an unbiased lens, a friend can assign the proper amount of blame to both you and your employer. Plus, if a friend has experienced a firing, he or she may be able to give wise counsel on how to bounce back. However, an overly sympathetic friend could also perpetuate your denial about your faults. If that's the case, Anderson suggests seeking out a career coach who can provide an outside perspective.
Make a list of key questions regarding your time at the company. To discern why you couldn't meet expectations, Crispin suggests making a list of pointed questions, which can include: What did I do? What were the results I achieved? Are there things I just didn't know? What didn't I learn? Did I get the support I needed?
By fleshing out the answers to those questions, you'll get a better sense of what conditions may help you succeed in your next job, Crispin says.
Take on an internship or volunteer. It's beneficial to stay busy and avoid lengthy gaps of inactivity on your résumé. Through an internship or volunteer work, you can acquire new soft and hard skills such as leading projects or helping manage a company's books. "These will all add value to how you overcome this particular time," Crispin says.
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Do freelance work. Job candidates are better served by a résumé that displays some level of employment, even if it's not full-time, according to Anderson. "Freelancing will create that perception that you're currently employed," he says. Another bonus to staying busy with freelancing, he adds, is that you can expand your skill set beyond what you learned in your last job. "It gives you the chance to experiment with different technologies and put additional skills on your résumé that you would not have," he says.
Attend networking events. The obvious benefit is expanding your contact list. But hearing others talk about why they love their current job could inspire you when searching for your next one. Before attending, research who might be there and how you can connect with them, Anderson suggests. If the sting of being fired makes you cringe at the thought of mingling with throngs of bosses, think about networking via social media sites like LinkedIn, and directly contact the hiring manager of the company you want to work for.
Stay connected to industry associations. If you're adamant about staying in the same field, you'll want to stay in tune with industry trends and "network with an extraordinary array of people who are doing the kind of work that you essentially want to do," Crispin says. Keep in mind that some of these associations may charge high membership dues that you may not be able to afford while unemployed.