You’ve Been Fired. Now what?

By Viv Mah on 29-09-2017
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Let’s face it: much as we might love our current jobs, the prospect of holding onto them for eternity isn't guaranteed. Nor, sadly, is there any guarantee that the simple fact of our employment will last forever. Much as we might pride ourselves on our understand the industry or skillset, certain circumstances can throw our ability to perform for a loop; and in turn, might result in our being quietly asked to … consider employment elsewhere.

Chin up. Losing your job may at times, feel like the end of the world, but we guarantee you that it’s not. Nearly every adult in your life will have at least one instance of a job that’s ended poorly, and their continued success (or at the least, presence in the workforce) should show you that it’s possible to rebound from a momentary spell of poor performance.

Nevertheless, we'll admit it can be challenging to know where to go from here.


Here are five of our tips on what to do next.

1. Don't burn your bridges

You may be smarting from your unexpected departure, but that’s no reason to draw up a Burn Book and start jotting down your immediate superiors and colleagues’ names. For starters, those people are also the ones who may provide you with contacts or employment suggestions for your life post-company, or the morale support you simply need.

Moreover, storming out of a company and/or badmouthing them on your social media afterwards is sure to come back to haunt you. It’ll suggest to future employers that not only might your firing have been justified, you aren't able to handle the repercussions of your performance and therefore would be difficult to manage. Coupled with the fact of how you departed the company in the first place, this’ll raise a significant red flag and one that’s large enough to stop employers in their tracks.

2. Take time to address your feelings

If you’re a stronger person than we are, you might want to jump straight back into the job market. Chances are higher that you’ll need a certain period of time to grieve the loss of your job and all it entailed — for example, a certain amount of security in your finances and in your weekly activities, or the relationships you’d developed with your colleagues.

Or, alternatively, the emotions you feel might be an odd, bitter (and undeniably potent) combination of anger (at having been let go), despair and shame (at having been identified as an incorrect fit) and hopelessness (at not knowing what to do next).

All of this is perfectly OK. In fact, we'd be more worried if you didn't have any reactions at all. It’s important that you give yourself due time to come to terms with your current situation. While this will better equip you to have those difficult conversations with your now ex-colleagues, families, and friends and in turn, likely prevent you from lashing out at anyone who could influence an employer’s choice to hire you in the future, this isn't solely a ‘touchy-feely’ exercise either.

Taking stock of where you are and where you've been will help you understand what might've led to your change of situation in the first place, and also think more rationally about what you need to do now. Which leads us to our next point —

3. Check your rights

Depending on your situation, you may be entitled to a severance package from your employer. If not, there are other rights you might be entitled to — for example, advanced notice that you’re being let go or redundancy pay (as touched on above). More often than not, companies have policies in place to ensure that your departure from the company is as smooth as possible for both you and your colleagues. (After all, they’re not letting you go out of malice.)

Alternatively, if you believe your termination’s been unlawful, it’s equally important to comb through the relevant legislation (both from court and in your contract) to determine if your employer’s in breach of anything.

4. Don’t lie

Once you are ready to start working again — and once you start booking job interviews — invariably, the question will pop up. ‘Why did you leave your past job?’

At this point, you might be tempted to gloss over the unpleasant facts or blurt out a half-truth like, ‘the organisation and I weren't really working out’ or ‘I wasn't quite feeling the role.’ Know this: one way or another, the truth will find its way out. Whether that’s through your references or your interviewer putting two and two together or your inability to come up with a convincing talk-around, one can’t hide the truth forever.

Be honest. There are ways you can word your response that shows you've reflected on the situation and understand what led to your being asked to leave, and how you've come to rebound from it. Have you new opportunities to explore different industries now? Can you see how this position provides the right opportunities in terms of job scope and expectations? Was your leaving almost mutual in terms of how you reached that conclusion. If not, can you understand how you've developed from it?

It may help to take time to practice your answers. Talking about what led to your situation may make you feel uncomfortable, but it’s a reality you can’t run away from. Owning it, on the other hand, and understanding what this narrative means for you is critical; it goes to show you can reflect on your failings and grow.

Viv Mah writes for Inspiring Interns, which specialises in finding candidates their perfect internship. To browse their graduate jobs London listings, visit their website. For senior roles, see the Inspiring Search page.

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