by Heather R. Huhman
Getting fired is one of those things you think will never happen to you. You’d have to really mess up to hear those dreaded words come out of your boss’ mouth, right? Maybe, but that doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. In reality, it could happen to anyone.
There are plenty of reasons why you could be fired, and hearing the words for the first time can be devastating. If you do lose your job, it’s important to understand what comes next. You need to recover and jump back into the job hunt. Here’s how:
Pick yourself up. It’s going to take some time to recover from the shock of being fired. You’ll probably spend a few days asking yourself, “Why me?” and “Where did I go wrong?” It’s OK to do this. Just don’t let those days turn into months of unemployment. Getting fired can happen to anyone, so do what you need to do. Talk about it with a friend. Find a way to eventually let go.
Next, find a self-esteem booster. Exercise, go out with friends, and motivate yourself. Positivity is essential for moving forward.
When you think you’re in a good place, determine your next moves. You’ve been handed an opportunity to re-evaluate your goals. Were you headed in the direction you truly want to be, or is it time to start on a new path? Forget your old job. Decide what you actually want your career to look like and aim to get there.
Get back in the job hunt. Once you’ve decided your new career path, it’s time to head back into the job search. Depending on how long you were in your last job, you might be a little rusty.
Start by letting the people in your network know you’re looking for a new job. Seek out new contacts who can help you land your ideal job. Leverage any connections you can to land the position you want.
While you’re working on your contacts, you also need to update your resume, social media profiles, and other personal branding pieces. You don’t have to say, “I was fired,” anywhere, but make sure your most recent experiences and new skills are up to date.
Start applying for jobs. Unless by some magic coincidence someone in your network was able to land you a job immediately, you’re going to have to start applying for jobs the old-fashioned way as well. This means lots of resumes and cover letters tailored to each job. (Are the job search steps coming back to you yet?) Again, don’t include the word “fired” on any of these materials. If it comes up, that will be later, during the interview process.
If you’re applying to a company that requires a fill-in-the-blanks application, you may be asked why you left your last job. If this happens, definitely don’t lie. You can, however, use language like, “job ended.” You don’t want to bring up the fact that you were fired until you’re being seriously considered for the job.
Discussing it in the interview. Now comes the tricky part. In your job interview, you will almost definitely have to explain yourself. Employers will often ask why you left your last job. When this happens, you absolutely need to be honest. You don’t have to go into elaborate details. Keep your answer brief and move the conversation towards what you’ve learned from the experience.
An important thing to note: never talk negatively about your previous job, company, co-workers, or boss. This kind of attitude sounds horrible to an interviewer, and makes them wonder if you would talk about them like this in the future. Even if you left your company on horrible terms, this should not come across in an interview with another employer. Always be positive.
In the meantime…Landing your next job may take some time. It’s important to remain positive as you continue to recover from your loss. Don’t let the job hunt take over your life. Spend some time doing other activities to benefit your life and your career.
For example, you can volunteer in your spare time. Volunteering can help you amp up some of your soft skills, give you something to fill in the gap on your resume, and be great for your mental state. You can also try freelancing or entrepreneurship as a way to get back in the game.
Finally, if you’re struggling with the new lack of income, you can pick up a part-time job. Spend half of the work week doing something simple and spend the other half conducting your job search.
All in all, being fired is going be a pretty horrible experience, but you don’t have to let it ruin your life. If you take your time and allow yourself to recover, you can come out of it better than ever.
Heather R. Huhman is a Glassdoor career and workplace expert, experienced hiring manager, and founder & president of Come Recommended, a content marketing and digital PR consultancy for job search and human resources technologies. She is also the instructor of Find Me A Job: How To Score A Job Before Your Friends, author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships (2011) and #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle (2010), and writes career and recruiting advice for numerous outlets.