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So You Got Fired... Now What?

So You Got Fired... Now What?

Getting fired is a painful experience.

Often it comes as no surprise, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it feels deserved. Sometimes, though you know it might be coming, it may still be something that you are not prepared for (mentally or financially). In reality, getting fired is both a blessing and a curse. Let’s talk about the blessings then the curse of being fired for a moment.

Blessing - Getting fired means:

  • You no longer have to work in an environment for which you are ill suited (or vice versa).
  • You have some downtime to explore new options.
  • You are free from the day to day misery of a toxic environment.
  • Gaining clarity on what’s really important and devising a strategy to get it.

Curse - Getting fired means:

  • Not getting a paycheck (no matter how much money you have, this stings).
  • Feeling like you are not qualified for the job you either had or want in the future.
  • Possibly a poor reflection on you in some way or in someone else’s estimation.
  • You miss your coworkers (or your favorite lunch spot).
  • Taking time to recover (who has time?).

I could review the countless ways you can make lemonade out of lemons from the getting fired experience. We’ve all been there, including me. The recovery from getting fired really does depend on your assessment of the event in the first place. For company downsizing it’s easy to chalk it up to business and the bottom line without feeling too badly about it. However, in those rare instances where you got fired for cause, the opportunity to explore the why and the how can be the first step to moving toward greater success.

[Related: 3 Ways to Make Sure Your Career GPS is on Track]

We already know that more than half of the workforce is disengaged from their work. They suffer from low morale, poor leadership, job insecurity, etc. It’s a vicious cycle that keeps rearing it’s ugly head at every workplace. There’s the wage gap, gender and racial inequality in representation and a host of other realities that are discussed daily. But how does getting fired actually help you? Especially when, in many cases, you are made to feel that being fired is because of some flaw, a lack of something, within you.

Quality leaders know that when a prospective employee is sitting in front of them, fit as well as qualifications matter. Getting fired often means having been a poor fit to the work environment which, to be fair, can often be toxic and only toxic people remain a good fit. Knowing you are a poor fit for a toxic work environment is good news. Finding the place where you are a good fit (qualifications are a given) is certainly easier said than done. However, getting fired releases you from the horror of the toxic workplace. Once you’ve been there, you know what it looks like and you can avoid it.

There is always the fear that getting fired really does mean you are not qualified. Sometimes this is true and still it is a blessing. How, you ask? There is no point wasting your time and talents doing something that neither suits you nor plays to your strengths. Corporate environments may all seem the same when you read a job description, but corporate culture, leadership, and the nuances of the job are what enables you - or anyone - to utilize their strengths and remain motivated to the degree that growth and success is inevitable.

Entrepreneurs can often make great leaders, but many would not achieve leadership roles in the corporate culture because they are not suited to that environment. Sure, some of them end up as corporate leaders but, once again, they would not have climbed the ladder had they started at the bottom. Similarly, you, the now fired former employee, has an opportunity to truly assess where your strengths are, what type of environment you prefer, and where you can flourish. Getting fired doesn't actually mean you are a bad employee. It means, simply, that you were not optimally positioned. 

[Related: Valuable Lessons Learned from 50 Amazing (and Horrible) Bosses]

In a perfect world finances would play no role in any of this but we know better. Chances are you got fired from a job you were unhappy with and you were there because it was a decent paycheck in a field you want to be in. You may have to do that again, maybe a couple of times - get fired, quit, get fired again - before you find your success. It’s not fun, and it can take a toll on finances and, as studies show, on mental health. So it’s essential that you recognize that the painful reality of being fired is a step forward each time even if it doesn’t feel that way. In truth, getting fired is your opportunity to create a new path where you decide what seeds to plant, where to plant them, and how to cultivate them. 


Dolores DeGiacomo is founder of Power Up! Consulting and the creator of the Power Up! Method, focusing on helping professionals master success oriented behavior patterns. Dolores works with corporate leaders, individuals, and entrepreneurs.

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