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The Unexpected And Wonderful Lessons Of Being Fired

The Unexpected And Wonderful Lessons Of Being Fired

On January 9, 2014, I was fired. I am an attorney and compliance officer. I have held positions at Bank of America, Societe Generale and CIT Group. This month was my one-year anniversary of being laid off—or in my words, fired. I was laid off—I got a package and a third of my team was let go. However, my manager and company had choices and they chose me.

My husband and I decided to tell our kids immediately – we feel that transparency with children is best. My daughter, 10, took it well; she asked if she would still be able to ride horses; we assured her that she would and she went back to reading. My 11-year-old son, though, had the same reaction I did: He wanted to know what I did wrong.

Many times I have asked myself that same question: “What did you do wrong?” Months went by, and I came up with many answers, but now—at the one-year mark—the question and answers don’t matter.

The job loss journey is painful, the unknown is troubling, and loss of control difficult. What surprises me, though, when looking over the year, is how much I still accomplished. The time has not been a cakewalk; for the better part of the year, I felt down and was in the throes of a mid-life crisis. I doubted myself, my abilities, my past successes, and my ability to re-enter the workforce in a meaningful way. With ample time and no other choice, I plowed forward.

[Related: The Career Risk You Don't Know You're Taking]

Joining Ellevate was an important investment; I participated in outplacement support, Right Management, provided by my company, which gave me a place to conduct my job search. Several days a week, I commuted into New York City “to work” at the outplacement office. I had a badly needed crutch: a routine and an office environment.

I competed in my first triathlon and three 5K runs. Previously, I had raced only once and was in average physical shape. Now my physical fitness has improved, and I enjoy the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.

I had the opportunity of a lifetime. Prior to losing my job I had thought about joining a consulting company. I wanted a company that was small with good people and growing. Luckily for me, I had been given the names of individuals who had recently started compliance-consulting firms.

I called the first name, Mitch Avnet. I was drawn to Mitch’s energy and business. Upon meeting the partners I sensed a high level of integrity and excellence. These qualities are important to me, and to find them seemed serendipitous. The work we do is rewarding and the opportunities to help solve problems, meet people, and learn a different business are refreshing. The environment is entrepreneurial; we start each day excited.

At times this is daunting. I always worked in a corporate environment and had a steady paycheck. I have left that world behind. Recently, I was offered a job similar to the one I held previously. I surprised myself by declining and deciding the uncertainty of my future was worth the opportunity at Compliance Risk Concepts.

[Related: How to Master the Follow-Up and Keep Your Network Connected]

Being fired taught me:

Life goes on. Only I care that I was fired. My family quickly got used to the new normal. My friends were kind and listened. In job interviews and networking, no one asked, “What did you do wrong?” Instead, being fired is now an insignificant part of my story.

My career is important. But my drive and ambition are now also focused on what is best for me. I no longer participate in face time or prioritize work before sleep, kids, and family commitments. A job with benefits, bonus and vacation doesn’t equal security. This knowledge helps better decision-making about where and how to spend time and emotional energy.

Trying something new is scary. I don’t know the end of my story. I know what I am going to do tomorrow and this week. I also know that whatever happens, I have the resilience to overcome future obstacles.

Elin Cherry was most recently Director and Head of Business Unit Compliance, for CIT Group Inc. Prior to CIT Elin was at Societe Generale, where she served as Managing Director, Head of Global Markets Compliance and Deputy Director to the Chief Compliance Officer. 

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Community Discussion
Heather Kernahan
Heather Kernahan

Elin, your bravery to title this article with the dreaded word 'fired' helps bring this taboo subject into the conversation and move us all forward. Thank you! You've inspired me to think about things I don't want to discuss about my career and get them out there.

Sunday, Jan 25 10:33 PM EST