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Got Fired? Here's What To Do

You may have seen it coming, but it still feels like a kick in the stomach: You’re fired or laid off. Now what? Here are eight tips to help you through it:

  1. Keep it together.Stay calm. Do not panic. You won’t be able to listen, absorb important information, or move forward if you panic. And no one will help you if you act out.
  1. Get your papers together and prepare yourself.You will need documents and info for your meeting with HR and for moving on, including:
  • Your resume
  • A list of your accomplishments
  • A complete list of everything in your pay and benefits package
  • A list of any awards or certificates you’ve earned
  • Contact info for all of your clients and colleagues
  1. Be polite and professional.You want to preserve the relationship you have with your organization, manager, and HR, and if you remain calm and professional you’ll get more help. Don’t rant and rave and leave on a bad note. Don’t burn bridges.
  1. Make a list of questions to ask, including:
  • Why was I terminated or laid off?
  • If it was for performance, what specifically?
  • Will you give me a letter of reference or recommendation?
  • How will we phrase my termination? Will I be able to say it simply wasn’t a good fit, or that my department was downsized? What will you tell prospective employers?
  • If it’s a lay off, is there a prospective rehire date?
  • What are you offering in my severance package?
  • What about unused holiday, vacation, sick, or comp time?
  • What about my 401K or retirement package?
  • Can I keep my health insurance?
  • Can I take my contacts or client files?
  • Do you offer job training or placement services?
  1. If they offer a non-compete, wait to sign ituntil you’ve had a chance to look it over, possibly with an employment attorney. I also would not sign it unless it was tied to a severance package. Ask for a few days to review the document and any package with it. 
  1. Start networking immediately.This is where being polite and professional helps a lot. Remember, everyone at your workplace is a potential contact or referral for you. People will remember how you handle this situation, and you want them to remember that you handled it with grace and dignity. Leave them impressed.
  1. Wallow.You’re going to be upset, very upset. So go ahead and take three days to wallow in your misery. Lay on the couch. Eat ice cream. Watch all seasons of Game of Thrones. But three days, that’s it. After that, get up and get started.
  2. Then get back to work. Your new job is to get a new job. Get up everyday as if you are going to work: shower and dress, and sit at your desk to plan and execute your strategy. Don’t turn on the TV on play on the computer. Start looking immediately for a new job:
  • If your old firm offers career placement or counseling services, set up an appointment right away.
  • Build your network. Make a list of contacts. Contact friends, former colleagues, and coworkers. Make sure you get your story straight, and that they hear it from you. This doesn’t mean you should lie, but get your spin together. Don’t gossip or badmouth your boss or company.
  • Redo your resume.
  • Build your career. Take classes, develop new skills, make the changes you’ve been meaning to make. Learn something new. 
  • Consider professional temp work. It’s always been a great way to land a job, and, as everyone knows, it’s easier to find a job when you are employed than unemployed.
  • Stay positive and focused. The worst thing you can do is spiral downward into catastrophic thinking and feeling sorry for yourself. You’ve got to think positive and act professionally. 

When you get fired or laid off, the most important things to remember are to leave with professionalism and grace, keep a good relationship with your former employer and coworkers, and keep a positive attitude. Wallowing in self-pity will not land you your next job. But keeping your spirits up, your network alive, and your mind open almost certainly helps. Good luck!

Click here to see my Laid Off, Now What? segment on Let’s Talk Live! Visit our Media Page here to see more!

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