Career

The Eight Steps to Take After You’ve Been Fired

They’re the dreaded words nobody ever wants to hear: You’re fired.

In reality, the news won’t be delivered so harshly unless your boss is particularly psychopathic — it’s more likely to come in the form of a long meeting or perhaps even a letter. But no matter how the news is delivered, it’s unlikely to be welcome.

They say every cloud has a silver lining, and while getting fired might seem impossible to push past, if you strategise and think it through it needn’t be the disaster you may be anticipating. Take it step-by-step and you can come out the other side strong, happy — and hopefully employed.

Step One: Stay calm

Though it may feel like it, this isn’t the end of the world. You are allowed to cry. You are allowed to freak out a bit. But remember, it will be okay.

JK Rowling was fired. Steve Jobs was fired. Heck, even Oprah was fired! And they turned out fine. Try and be as gracious as possible, and don’t kick up a stink — you never know how that might affect things in the future.

Step Two: Apologise

Career Consultant Raelene Campbell, of Career: Take 2 believes an apology can go a long way.

“We all mess up at times, but it’s what we do after we’ve messed up that sets the winners and the losers apart,” she says.

“Be mature enough to own up to your mistakes, explain what you have learnt and wish your former employer all the success in the world. Alleviating any bitterness towards others is not only good for the soul, but it will also certainly help when it comes time to seek a reference in future.”

Step Three: Reflect

Most of the time, firings are justified (it’s very difficult to be fired without a good reason!). Now is the time to examine yourself closely and figure out exactly why you were fired.

“Was the firing warranted?” asks Campbell. “Were you aware that your behavior was unacceptable? Were you issued with warnings and still refused to change your conduct? If the answer is yes, then it’s critical to reflect on ‘why’.”

She recommends considering whether you were disengaged from your job because of something happening in your personal life, or perhaps because the position didn’t fit in with your values. Maybe you were bored, or felt out of your depth, or there was a conflict of interest.

“Were you genuinely receptive to feedback given throughout the performance management process?” she says. “If you consciously compromised your employment, then it’s important to recognise what needs to be done differently in the future to set yourself up for success.”

Step Four: Reconnect with your strengths

Campbell suggests you get to know yourself, and what you’re good at once again – after all, your confidence might have taken a beating when you were fired.

“Understanding your strengths supports higher levels of motivation, empowerment and confidence,” she explains. “Harness and honour your gifts to carry you through the difficult days and drive you towards success.”

She suggests figuring out the skills you are best at and enjoy using, and those you wish to develop further.

And if you don’t know what skills make you special? Hit up your family, friends and former colleagues, or take a step back and consider when you have been successful in the past. Still not sure? Take a free VIA survey.

Step Five: Explore

“Individuals don’t want to be fired from a job they love – where they are actively contributing, feel valued, have meaning and are being developed in an organisation that they are culturally aligned with,” says Campbell. “Now is the time to consider – what type of role, organisation or industry would you find these elements in?”

She suggests interviewing people who you think have your dream job, to ascertain if it’s the right fit for you. You could head to a career consultant such as Raelene, or even undertake work experience or internships in a variety of roles to find one that you think is a good fit.

Step Six: Update your CV

When it comes down to it, it can be difficult to know whether you should mention the job you’ve been let go from on your CV. If you include it, it means that you might have to explain why you left. But if you don’t include it – particularly if you’ve been in the position for a long period of time – you miss out on letting a future employee know what skills you’ve gained in that time.

“I would recommend removing ‘reasons for leaving’ from the document,” says Campbell. “A resume’s function is to secure an interview and if you decide to disclose that you were fired, it’s more appropriate to do that in the interview.”

Step Seven: During the interview

It’s almost inevitable that you will be asked during a job interview why you left your previous role. Campbell advises honesty – front up before your potential new employer begins calling your references.

“Honesty is always the best policy, but it’s the way in which you present the information that is critical,” she explains. “Don’t dwell on where it all went wrong, and certainly don’t sledge any former employer. Focus on what you have learnt and how you intend to show up to your next role to alleviate the problems occurring again.

“If you can clearly and honestly articulate what is going to be different about your performance in this role, and why you believe you will be successful, then you are already putting your best foot forward.”

She recommends you don’t actively promote that you’ve been terminated from a previous position, but if asked the question, don’t lie. By starting a new working relationship by fibbing, you’re already setting yourself up with bad habits. Campbell says to use your judgement.

“If you honestly believe that you are going to show up and shine in this role – then focus on that. Everyone deserves a second chance.”

Step Eight: Succeeding in your new role

Learn from the mistakes that caused you to get fired from your previous position. Perennially late? Show up on time. Guilty of talking about your boss behind their back? Don’t.

And if anybody asks why you left your last job, be honest. Tell them you were fired – but be sure to explain why!


Che-Marie is a London-based writer and editor. Her work has appeared in Australian Gourmet Traveller, Collective Hub and Virgin Australia Voyeur among others. Follow her travels on Instagram @chemariet