Getting fired from a job was one of the hardest things that ever happened to me. Okay, well, technically I was laid off. But that doesn’t change the sentiment when you pack your bags and drive away from your job, leaving your professional identity behind and gaining a new identity as "Unemployed Person."
Years ago, a friend had told me that getting laid off was the worst thing that had ever happened to him. I didn’t understand it at the time, thinking that it was “just a business necessity.” Then, I had my turn and found out he was right.My last day on the job was good enough. I wasn’t too freaked out, or depressed (yet). I was actually excited about the new opportunities that awaited me. I couldn’t wait to get my resume out on the market to see how many companies wanted to bring me on board. A few weeks later I was in a completely different place. I was depressed, I felt like I was spinning my wheels, and I honestly wondered if I was even qualified to flip burgers at the local fast food joint. I had lost myself in this gloom, and it was hard to pull myself out of it.
Here I am, years away from those dark days. When I hear of someone who got fired from a job or laid off, my first words to them are, “CONGRATULATIONS!” Really, I’m that guy. I know it’s kind of annoying, especially if you are in a dark place. But:
I’m a firm believer that getting fired from a job presents real and serious opportunities for personal change and growth.
Let’s say that you are the one who was fired from a job and you are looking for some advice from me. I’m not the best job-seeker in the world, but because I’ve owned JibberJobber, a job search organizer, for the last 12 years, people think I’m expert at the job search. Here are a few things I’d advise you in the event of getting fired from a job, or laid off:
First, slow down and breathe, and collect yourself.
It is critical that you pause and recognize that job loss is one of the most stressful things you’ll experience in your entire life. Getting fired from a job can cause you to experience the same emotions as someone who is mourning a death, which can be confusing. Recognize that you’ll have extreme and conflicting emotions, and that this is just part of the mourning process.
If you don’t honor this, you might find yourself going through the motions and networking with a bad and confusing attitude. People who would normally help you might think, “Come back when you are okay.” I’ve seen this happen, where someone enters a networking situation and people don’t make the right invitation because the job-seeker just isn’t ready to have a good conversation. So pause, collect yourself, recognize that it’s a weird time, and then make sure you are in the right state of mind before you do your job search.
Second, reflect on what you want to do next.
How was your last job? Was the company a great fit for you? Were your job duties or title a great fit for you? Did you like the people you worked with? Was it fulfilling and financially healthy?
You might have three years (or 30 years) invested in your job or your company, and may never have thought about making a big change, but now is the perfect time to reevaluate the situation. Unless you have employers begging you to come work for them, you should spend some time reflecting on your life and how you want to spend your working hours.
I’ve seen people make massive, life-changing decisions during their unemployment and, because they spent time being purposeful about their thinking, they came out the other end a lot happier. There are plenty of career and personality assessments you can take to get some direction, or if you are ready for some self-reflection and journaling, answer the four questions posed here.
Editor’s note: You can update your resume with your most recent work experience using LiveCareer's resume builder.
Third, treat your job search like an actual job.
I know you’ve heard this before, but if you were hired at your previous salary to do a job search, what would you do? Create the systems and have the discipline to do a real job search. Get the right clothes, spend time on your marketing statements (the 30-second elevator pitch, etc.), and give networking all your worth (yes, that even applies to introverts).
And remember to try to have fun! I’ve met people who have had a great time during their job search, mostly because they are out from under a horrible boss and they are meeting some really cool people at networking events. I know it’s not easy, and there is a lot to lose if you fail, but spend serious time doing the right things in your job search, with the right attitude.
Years ago I was on a podcast where a job search expert said that most job-seekers spend less than 10 hours a week on their job search. I was spending about 10 hours a day on my job search, and thought his numbers were wrong. He was pretty adamant that most people spent very little time doing what they should have been doing. Don’t be one of those people! Create a daily routine for your job search, and stick to it.
Fourth, recognize that who you are was not lost when you got fired.
Earlier I said that when you drive away after getting fired from a job, or laid off, you also drive away from your professional identity. The problem is that we tend to associate who we are with what our job title is, and if we don’t have a job title anymore then we get really confused really fast. Let me tell you that this thinking is seriously flawed.
Here’s an example: If you are a carpenter, and I were to take away your hammer and saw, are you now not a carpenter? Of course not! The same thing applies to you professionally. A person who has been fired from a job is not professionally unemployed. Their temporary status is unemployed, but they still have professional competencies. Don’t make the same mistake I made just because you don’t have a current title.
I know that getting fired from a job is hard and demoralizing. But like I said, my first word to you is: CONGRATULATIONS! Great things are in store for you. It’s your opportunity to go out and find them!