I Just Got Fired

You’ve been the company’s top employee for the past five years—but now there’s a pink slip waiting for you on your desk. What happened? Sometimes you might know, or at least have an idea, but other times being fired can come as a total shock, and you may no idea why you’re being kicked out the door. Regardless of the details of your situation, your first reaction is probably going to be outrage, followed shortly thereafter with panic—because now you have to find a new job, and saying you were fired from your previous job doesn’t sound too good in an interview. What do you do?

Keep your cool.

Don’t go on a tirade against your boss. While you may have been fired for personal reasons, it’s possible you were fired for some reason relating to something else, and your boss may not be happy about it, either. Don’t make an enemy out of someone who could help you find a new position. Ask why you were fired. Oftentimes you won’t get the truth, but sometimes you will. After you’ve left the office (preferably without causing a scene), you can call co-workers you trust to see if anyone else can give you an answer as well. Don’t ask at the office—people who may be willing to share the truth with you in private may not want to do it in public.

Finalize all the paperwork associated with your broken employment contract.

See what the official reason is for your dismissal on paper. If you’re entitled to severance or any other kind of bonus, make sure you claim it.

Make the most of it.

The prospect of searching for a new job in today’s market may be terrifying, but it’s quite possible that you will be happier at your next workplace, once you do discover it. Maybe your next boss will better appreciate your talent. Maybe you can find better hours, a higher salary, and a more enjoyable job all around. Perhaps you will start your own business. There are a lot of possibilities, and you are finally free to pursue them. Eventually, you may look back at being fired as the best thing that ever happened to you.

Don’t say anything bad about your former employee or co-workers, at a job interview or anywhere else in public or in private (including LinkedIn or other social networking sites).

Not only do you not want to throw away a potentially useful reference, but new employers do not look kindly on job candidates who speak ill of a previous employer. All it does is make you look like a contentious person who might make life difficult and not show respect for others in the workplace.

Rebrand yourself and search for ways to put a positive spin on the situation.

You are going to ask why you left your previous job. You want to tell the truth, and keep it as brief as possible. If you can, come up with an excuse. Maybe you were fired for poor performance or a personality conflict, but was the department downsized that year? Were you replaced by an associated the company owed a favor to? Come up with a reason unrelated to you if possible (the truth, if not the whole truth). Then push the interview in a positive, forward direction by saying something like, “From this experience, I learned that I was not in the best place to fully maximize my potential. I think that your company would be a more ideal fit because of (reasons).”

Being fired from your job can be scary, but it happens often, even to great employees.

There can be a million reasons for losing your job: anything from a breach of an obscure company code to the coffee shop down the street preparing a bad cup of coffee for your boss that morning. Regardless of the reason, you need to look for the positives in your situation and do your best to move on with your life. The good news is that these days there are so many layoffs that employers are used to hearing that people have been let go. It’s all in how you package and present yourself—and your next job could be much better than your last.

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