If you were recently fired, laid off, or left a job on bad terms, it doesn’t have to have negative effects on the rest of your career.
Getting fired is painful for a lot of reasons. But usually, the pain and questions that linger have to do with the realization that you weren’t ultimately needed for the team. That your work wasn’t up to par. That you were struggling to succeed, and someone else noticed.
No one likes being told they are flawed, or that someone else doesn’t think they’re good enough. While we all know we could usually be more productive at work, put a bit more effort into our projects, and be a better team player, hearing those things from your manager – especially when they’re letting you go – that realization really stings.
It’s easy to start pointing fingers when we get fired because we don’t want to accept responsibility for being let go. We want to think that our boss is a jerk, that other people deserved to be fired more than we did, and that there is some secret, sneaky reason why we were unjustly fired.
But at the end of the day, this situation is your responsibility. You must acknowledge your part of the situation and own what has happened. The best thing you can do at this point – since you can’t change it – is to learn from your mistakes and move forward.
“Success does not consist in never making mistakes but in never making the same one a second time.” -George Bernard Shaw
Once you’ve embraced your responsibility for getting fired, you can begin to let it go, reflect on why you got fired, and examine where this experience fits into your larger career trajectory.
What got you to this place?
It is rare than any firing happens without, at the core, a justifiable reason. Even if the firing was motivated by a boss you didn’t get along with, that is an issue worth examining. (After all, it is up to you to manage your manager and make sure you are on a successful track with any time you’re on.)
Once you’ve processed the initial shock and reaction from your firing, it’s time to get real about what motivated it so you can begin learning.
It can be difficult to examine the reasons behind why you were let go. After all, you’ll probably discover some negatives about your performance or your relationships. And that’s hard to handle.
However, facing the errors and missteps that led you here will help you avoid the same pitfalls in the future and rise the occasion in a future role. You want to be a superstar – and no one is born that way. It takes thought, determination, and hard work to face the challenges and acknowledge your mistakes (or at least your part in failure) so that you can be better than ever next time.
Getting fired usually happens because of a couple of reasons, and you are the only one who can know the exact recipe of factors that led to your situation. However, below we’ve listed four common reasons for firings that may apply to you. Read through them and see what you can learn about your own situation to help you acknowledge your part in your current situation and improve yourself for the future.
Was the issue personal?
If you think you got fired because your boss or someone in the company didn’t like you, this doesn’t get you out of figuring out what went wrong. Now is your chance to get to the core of the issue.
- What caused this person to feel negatively about you? How did a negative relationship go from “not so great” to termination-worthy?
- It might take some careful, introspective thinking but *really* ask yourself: somewhere along the way, did I burn a bridge with this individual? It takes two to tango, and every bad relationship includes elements from both people.
When you’ve figured out some of the bad interactions or attitudes that impacted this bad relationship, try thinking about what motivated your behavior. And most importantly – think about how you’d act differently if faced with a similar situation in the future. A new boss doesn’t necessarily mean a better boss, so you have to be prepared to work more effectively with your manager and team in future roles. Think about where you slipped up, and write down how you’d like to handle it next time.
Even though it’s too late to change what has happened, it never hurts to apologize or acknowledge your fault in a bad relationship if you made mistakes. Our relationships with people correlate with our success; even though you’re leaving this job and this individual behind, you never know when you’ll encounter them again in your career.
And if you can’t figure out what why someone doesn’t like you, you can always ask. Don’t make it personal or an accusation; just send them an email and ask for professional feedback about how you could have done better in your position, as a team member, and if they have any other career related input for you. Chances are they’ll be willing to share that with you if you are transparent and polite about asking.
(And if they don’t want to, don’t push them. They don’t owe it to you, so it is up to you to continue doing work on your own to improve.)
Was it about your work?
Think about your role in the company you just left.
- Were you contributing something truly valuable to your team or the company?
Employees are often let go when they aren’t adding enough value. Whether that was because your position was redundant, or maybe you lacked the skills or motivation to achieve at the level needed, it is worth examining the ways in which you fell short in your performance.
- Think about how you could have added more value than you previously were. Are there new skills you should develop or possess if you plan to stay in this field or a similar position?
- What was important to this company and/or your team? Did you know your team’s priorities? Were you in regular communication with your leadership about what work was most important?
- Did you strive to fulfill your company’s mission or purpose statement? In what ways could you have fulfilled their goals better?
This will be particularly important in your next job; each company has different priorities. Your job is to uphold and fulfill whatever the company deems important, and to do it to the absolute best of your ability.
Was it related to problems or finances with the business?
Consider the state of the market and your industry.
- Are there external or financial factors that may have influenced the decision to let you go?
- How stable is the market or industry that you are in? It’s possible that you’re in a dwindling market or that currently you’re not competitive enough to thrive in a high intensity field.
Do some research into what is going on in your market. If you got fired because the company ran out of funding and had to let people go, you want to know now if that is the case at other companies working in the space. And if it is, it might be time to consider how you can apply your skills to a different market, so you can look for jobs at companies that will be able to keep you around.
An alternative option is to make yourself extremely valuable in your market/industry. Consider if you need to go back to school, seek out additional certifications, etc to increase your value in future jobs in this market. If you look like every other average candidate around you, how can you make yourself stand out?
Honestly reflect on your performance.
This one is the toughest, but also the most important, part of the self-assessment to do
- How did you compare to the best people on your level in your former role? Were you as good as or better than your peers?
- Did you strive to be on the same level as the best people on your team, or did you look around and compare yourself to people who were average or beneath you?
- What did the people who are still on that team possess that you didn’t? What resources, books, and training can you use to improve your performance in the future?
Sometimes the issue isn’t your performance but what you are being asked to perform. It’s possible that your last role simply didn’t suit you and your strengths. Did the job highlight your strengths and give you enough resources to work on your weaknesses? For example, if you’re in a role that requires strong attention to detail and you don’t have that, it doesn’t matter how technically proficient you are – you will still struggle to hit the biggest priorities of the job.
It’s possible that you were in the wrong job for you and it was reflected in your performance. If that’s the case, this could actually be a great opportunity for you to shift your career in a direction that makes more sense for you.
Own your situation – and prepare to move on
With time, you should be able to critically examine the root causes of *why* you were fired. Considering the issue from multiple angles and re-examining the facts will help you understand what happened so that you can better approach your next opportunity.
This step can be painful, but don’t skip it. If you don’t learn anything from this experience, then you’ve gained nothing. You’ll move onto your next role and make the exact same mistakes.
Knowledge is power when it comes to letting it go and moving on. Once you feel confident that you understand what went wrong and take responsibility, you’ll be able to step up and shine in your next job.
The next step is to take what you’ve learned and apply it to your next opportunity.