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I’ve Just Been Fired. Now What?


First:  breathe!

Last week I met with 20 employees who were told their employer was closing up shop in their small town but re-establishing the business closer to a major airport both miles and hours away.  Even though they weren’t being terminated for cause or performance concerns, it was hard not to take this decision personally.

You can’t avoid emotion when you’re told you no longer have a job through no fault of your own.  Peter Senge says”  People don’t resist change.  They resist being changed” .  Most of us just want to be in control of our lives. 

So…don’t try to play wack-a-mole!  It’s better to work through the emotion because if you try to suppress it, it’s likely to bite you in the bum when you least anticipate it.  For instance, when you’re asked in an interview:  “So why did you leave”? you don’t want to burst into tears or respond with an angry tone.

First, just expect to cycle through:

  • Denial (this isn’t happening to me!)
  • Resistance (how dare they fire me!)
  • Exploration (OK, tell me more about what my options are)
  • Enrolment (Maybe I’ll try an option  and see what happens…) and, finally
  • Engagement (This is a great new role;  there really is life beyond!) 

Depending on the week, day or hour, you’ll feel any or all of these!  The act of anticipating emotion is often far worse than getting on with it! 

Being able to name each emotion and allowing yourself to feel it can help!  Some people set a timer for 5 minutes and wallow in their  pity party.  Other people write their emotions in a journal.  Still others get together with colleagues in the same situation and talk it through.  You’ll know when you’re ready to move on.  By the time you’re networking and going to interviews, you want to be well into the enrollment and engagement stages!

You really can manage your emotions by practicing good self care.  A lot of this is common sense but we forget when we’re caught up in our busy lives.

  • Exercise:  physical activity is a great way to expend negative energy so walk your dog, beat the heck out of a colleague at racquetball, run, roller blade…
  • Eat well:  try a health kick with fresh fruits and veggies;  they’ll make you feel far better than indulging in fast food.  That’s not to say that a glass of wine and some chocolate aren’t recommended! 
  • Relax:  meditate and give yourself permission to do absolutely nothing.  It feels decadent and it works.   
  • Sleep:  exercising, eating well and relaxing  should mean you get 7-8 hours of rest each night.  It you’re sleeping less or more than that, you may want to see your doctor. 
  • Find your inner artiste:   express your emotion through art, music and drama.  Who knows, this may lead to the next step in your career. 
  • Pay attention to your spiritual life:  calm yourself through prayer and become open to seizing opportunities when they present themselves.
  • Laugh:  don’t forget your sense of humour!  What doesn’t kill you makes your stronger, right?
  • “Package” your situation:  your glass can be half full or half empty.  As Dr. Phil says:  fake it til you make it!

King Whitney Jr says:  “Change has a considerable psychological impact on the human mind:

To the fearful:  it’s threatening because it means things may get worse.

To the hopeful:  it’s encouraging because things may get better.

To the confident:  it’s inspiring because the challenge exists to make things better”.

At the end of the day:  it’s your choice!  The vast majority of the people with whom I partner during career transition end up with a more meaningful role in a corporate culture more aligned with their personal values.  Now that’s inspiring!