What to Do if You're Fired

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Getting fired is everyone’s worst work nightmare. Some slackers and crooks deserve to have their employment terminated, but many people lose their jobs for much more arbitrary reasons. If you find yourself facing this dreaded event, you need to keep your wits about you. The two things that you probably want to do – run out the door or start screaming – are absolutely the worst choices. Here are a few do’s and don’ts to keep in mind if you ever find yourself in this uncomfortable position.

DO NOT . . .

  1. Curse, yell, or start insulting people. This may make you feel better temporarily, but will have negative long-term consequences. Even though they’re firing you, these people still have the power to affect your life.
  2. Retaliate by doing damage to property or computer systems. That could just get you arrested.
  3. Automatically accept whatever you are told. There is often room to negotiate the terms of your termination.
  4. Badmouth your boss or company in later job interviews. This will not hurt them, but it will hurt you. Potential employers will assume that you’re a negative person or difficult to manage.

DO . . .

  1. Remain respectful and professional. Even if you hate these jerks, you do not want to burn any bridges. These are the people who are likely to be talking to future potential employers.
  2. Recognize that you can negotiate many things, even if you’re being let go. Managers often feel guilty about firing people. So if you haven’t done anything really horrid, you may find that management will help you in various ways in order to reduce their feelings of guilt.
  3. Ask for extra time if you need or want it. You may not get it, but you won’t lose anything by asking.
  4. If you want a second chance to turn things around, request a 30-day probationary period to prove that you can change. Agree to go quietly at the end of that time if they still want you to. But if you simply want to be able to say you’re employed during your job search, ask if you can be put on an unpaid leave status for a few months and still list the company as your employer.
  5. If you have a particularly difficult challenge with health insurance, discuss it with your HR manager. He or she may be able to help in some way.
  6. One thing that you MUST negotiate is the way your departure will be described to potential future employers. See if your manager will agree on language that does not make you appear to be a risk. Even if they’re letting you go, they may have no desire to keep you from being employed elsewhere. If you have already left your company, consider contacting them to make this request. It can make all the difference in a job search.
  7. If possible, get a reference letter that states the agreed-upon reason. That way, you have some documentation to show interviewers and don’t have to rely solely on what may be said over the phone or in an email.
  8. Ask how your personnel record will read and exactly what information people will be given when they verify your employment.
  9. After making the effort to keep your cool and contain your anger, you’ll really need somewhere to vent! So find a helpful family member or friend who has nothing to do with your company and let loose.
  10. Once you’ve gotten some distance from hearing the startling news, try to take an objective look at the situation. Is there anything you need to learn from this experience? If you slacked off on your work or didn’t get along with coworkers, you need to recognize and correct these problems in your next job. Otherwise, history may repeat itself.
  11. Recognize that now your job is to find a job. So treat this like a project. And the first step in the project is to sharpen your job-seeking skills. Read books or look for online resources (including some on this website) to help you strengthen key job search skills.
  12. Plan your job search carefully. Again, this is now your most important project. So do your research, then develop a step-by-step plan for getting hired. Those who approach their job search systematically are usually the most successful.