I’d like to offer you my heart-felt congratulations on your recent termination. Let’s pause for a second and celebrate your freedom.
You might be wagging your finger at me saying, “Hey lady! You don’t know what I’ve been through! I’ve got a family to support!” and that’s fair. I don’t know that burden. But I have been fired and I know the fear of not knowing what’s next, and what it’s like to act rashly out of shock. I can speak with authority on this one.
At the end of this article, I want you to use your emotional intelligence to reclaim your truth, and hold this as something other than the worst day of your life.
But first, let’s acknowledge the tire-fire-in-a-dumpster that is losing your job.
I’m willing to bet it didn’t happen out of the blue. If it was a corporate restructure, you knew it was possible on some level. There were likely major changes happening all around you, just outside of your purview, and those changes put actions in motion that essentially eliminated your job – or your fitness for the job itself.
If it was something more personal, there are usually many courageous conversations leading up to the final decision. And these conversations have been on the heels of very trying moments with your co-workers or your boss.
I’m also willing to bet the last few months, or years, even, have been particularly difficult. Traumatic, even. Yes, I used the “t” word. Trauma is a deeply distressing experience. And sustained, heightened stress in the workplace can be categorized as traumatic.
If any of this rings true to you, I’m so sorry. This is truly an awful feeling.
Regardless of how you spin it, it is a shocking twist in your career journey even when you see it coming. Assuming you weren’t terminated for financial fraud, sexual harassment or violence in the workplace, and were instead let go for “not being a good fit” or, my personal favorite, “hired too soon,” this is a good thing.
It’s entirely possible you’ve been in a working relationship that started out great, but eventually went south, and its misfit nature brought out the worst in both of parties.
If that doesn’t gobsmack you, it should.
Your happiness and well-being have been held hostage by expectations that weren’t met.
As long as you weren’t a felonious idiot, this isn’t solely your fault. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – no one is a match for everyone. And both parties play a role in the demise of a professional engagement.
I want you to take this opportunity to experience the deep relief of escaping a terribly unhealthy or unpredictable relationship. Finally.
Now, let’s talk about what’s next.
Shahnaz Broucek, Executive Coach/Founder of OptimizeU Leadership Coaching, and a professor at University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, brings a 360 perspective to her work from her background as a business owner, hiring manager, board member, employee, and executive coach. She helps leaders and teams break through obstacles to success so that they can achieve their business goals, develop their people and have the impact and influence they strive for in the world.
Broucek offers these suggestions for surviving job loss.
Have Compassion for Yourself and Your Experience
Getting fired can be a painful lesson, but it is not a full account of your abilities, character, or future possibilities.
Also keep in mind there are few things more harmful than trying to make something work with someone who doesn’t want it to. You don’t have to fight for it anymore. Now’s the time to give your mental health a break. Use this moment to figure out not only what you do want, but also what you don’t want.
Make Sense of Your Journey
Get real with yourself before you can get real with anyone else.
Start by asking yourself some critical questions. What leadership lessons did you extract? What would the other person say happened? What’s the view from 30,000 feet?
Taking time to make sense of your experience and debriefing with someone you trust to give you compassionate, objective feedback can be truly transformative. It’s not always easy to understand how you ended up in a job loss situation, but if you can’t make sense of the experience, then moving forward becomes much harder.
Prepare Your Story
The story you tell yourself about what’s possible for you matters. You are your own best author.
How can you authentically communicate your experience without blame, criticism or defensiveness? How will you explain it when you interview? If you don’t focus on having been fired, the next hiring executive won’t either. They are really looking for how you make sense of your journey. We’re not expected to be perfect, but we are expected to learn from our experiences in order to be a good next hire.
When you think you have your story down, share it with someone who can give you helpful feedback, like a leadership coach. Hiring one post-firing can help you get your mojo back.
Focus on the Future
You deserve a team and role that best fits your talent and how you are wired.
Sometimes getting fired can be the end result of an underlying poor culture fit.
Seek clarity about the type of culture you want, the strengths you bring to an organization, and your non-negotiables. The trick is being honest about the red flags that you missed or outright ignored from the beginning so you know what to look for in the future. Go a step further and use that information to ask better questions through your next interview experience that can help you navigate potential land mines.
Also recognize that the farther along you are in your career, the longer it may take to find the next best fit. Explore shorter-term consulting projects or opportunities to run experiments to test what you think you want. This will help you figure out how to move beyond surviving to thriving.
For now, Broucek and I want you to enjoy the sweet liberation of having a crushing – sometimes subconscious – weight lifted from your life. And then use this new freedom as the jet fuel that propels you to your success.
You didn’t lose a job, you gained a second chance. Take it.
Meghan E. Butler is on a mission to create a more emotionally intelligent workforce. She’s written for Rhapsody Magazine and Austin Lifestyles Magazine, and her workplace articles have been published by Thrive Global, Fast Company, Inc. Magazine and The Muse. She is a seasoned communications professional and career mentor with close to 20 years of consulting, corporate PR, and agency experience.