The good news is I’ve never been fired. That bad news is I’ve been downsized twice. Those were two of the worst days of my life. And it happens to nearly everyone at some time in his or her career.
As with most calamities, what matters most is how you respond. Psychologists talk a lot about resilience, the ability to bounce back after a defeat. In the days and weeks following your termination, you can take steps that will deepen and prolong your misery or you can move forward in a way that will rebuild your self-esteem and accelerate your progress to the next phase of your career.
Inc. Magazine has a great roundup things not to do once you’ve been let go, including four I’ve personally counseled people
Badmouth your former employer. The Inc. article focuses on social media, but any kind of badmouthing is a bad idea. It makes you look like someone who is sullen, resentful, and can’t take responsibility for his or her own destiny. Whether or not your termination was a result of your own actions, you want to appear magnanimous. After all, who wants to hire someone who is going to go out and badmouth them when the time comes to part? Employers want to hire people who bring positive energy and personal accountability into their environment.
Allow your embarrassment to silence you. The best way to find a new job is to tell everyone you’re looking. But it’s hard when you are feeling ashamed — and shame is a common feeling, even when you were downsized through no fault of your own. When I was let go at the height of the recession in May 2009, I couldn’t help feeling worthless.
Get back on your feet by crafting a story about why you’re in the market. For example, “I was working for a great consulting company, where I gained all kinds of excellent experience. But in the recession, they had to downsize my department by one-third. The major client I was working with had cancelled all their work with us, so it was no big surprise that my name was on the It’s the truth, it’s not insulting to my former employers, and it positioned me as a mature, resilient candidate capable of understanding the business reasons behind my termination. It also gave me back some control over my story, which can be a source of uplift after losing
Avoid applying for unemployment benefits. It’s not a lot of money, but it’s something to help smooth the edges of your transition. You’ve worked for it, and it’s part of your compensation, there’s no shame in taking it.
Take a break before job-hunting. I can’t tell you how many people told me to take some time off. Fortunately for me, I was much too anxious about my professional future to spend any time watching the grass grow. You need to start networking and applying right away. It gets you out of the house and out of your misery, so you don’t have time to lose your confidence. And the longer you are unemployed, the harder it is to find your next gig.
Losing your job is a horrible experience, whether you were downsized or fired. It’s stressful, scary, and demeaning. But in my experience, most people who lose their jobs go on to do something more satisfying than the job they had before. The secret is to get moving and hold your head up high.
Here at GGC we work a lot with business leaders in transition. Let us know how we can be of help to you.