Let me set the scene for you. in September 2015 my husband became very ill. He couldn’t hold down solid foods. As I am writing this in March of 2017, he is still sick and unable to work. At the beginning of his illness I was incredibly stressed out because the doctors were all standing around guessing at what was wrong with him. So far, they still don’t have a solid reason. (Yes, we’ve had a gazillion tests run.)
It was incredibly frustrating for me and constantly weighed on my mind. When I came back from our Christmas vacation, I was fired for the first time in my life at 37 years old. My boss said “It’s just not working out”.
Needless to say, this was the LAST thing I thought I needed when it happened. My husband was off work sick, and I lost my job. OUCH. On top of that, our emergency fund was nearly depleted due to his already being off of work for 4 months. Now, that I am scheduled to start a new job, I can tell you I learned a lot about what it’s like when you’re fired and how to get through it, and most importantly the order to work through it emotionally.
No matter how much you may want to act out when you’re fired DON’T DO IT.
As devastating as being fired was, my former boss did give me 2 weeks severance pay. He also let me go right before a payday, so technically, I was still going to receive a months wages, and knew I had a little bit of breathing room. I was actually able to process this while I was packing my desk and after I loaded my car and handed him my keys I said “Thank you for the opportunity.”
I literally saw him jerk his head back in shock.
Later, a former co-worker told me she felt that was very classy. I wasn’t exactly going for classy, I was just trying not to lose it, but I am incredibly happy I handled it this way. Fired or not, I knew my future employers would have to call for references, and my hope was no one would say anything horrible based on this action.
Take your hiney to the Unemployment Office the NEXT DAY
I did not because I didn’t know how the severance pay would work, or if my former boss would still give it to me if I filed unemployment. Unemployment takes some time to kick in regardless of severance pay, so go ahead, suck it up and go to the office and file. Do not let your pride or hurt feelings keep you from this. If you’re a working citizen you have paid into Unemployment and if you’re like me at all, have never filed it, there is no shame in it.
Give yourself some time to grieve
It doesn’t matter if you loved or hated your job. You’re going to need time to process getting fired. I went through anger, fear, panic and a bit of depression. Take a few days or a week and let yourself process those emotions. You’re going to need a clear head when it comes to interviews and the infamous “why did you leave your last job” question. If you don’t process getting fired, you won’t be able to answer that question in a thoughtful way that will help you land the next job.
Get your finances in order
I understand the first reaction to losing a job may be to start canceling every “extra” you have financially and panicking over your fiances. I ALMOST reacted that way. This may be what you need to do. However, if you have an emergency fund in place, you might be able to get through it without the financial panic. My advice is to not make a decision while you are in panic mode. After you’ve processed things for a few days, sit down and consider your finances. If you need to trim way back to survive, get on it. If not, allow yourself a little breathing room, grace, and a few luxuries to keep yourself in a positive head space.
Polish that resume until it shines
This one was difficult for me. I wasn’t sure if the resume trends had changed since my last job. I didn’t know if people still put every job they’ve ever had on a resume or if they just went back 10-15 years. Do people still use an “objective”? Should I leave the wall of text job descriptions I had or try and trim it down? Do I have enough professional and personal references? These were all things to consider when updating my resume.
(I will add several helpful links I found on resumes and job interviews at the bottom of the post.)
Make a decision about the new job you want
I decided at the time I was leaving the insurance industry. After 3 jobs in 8 years and not being completely happy at ANY of them, I knew it was time for me to move on. That decision, I actually made the day I was fired with complete confidence. However, it also meant I had to lay down some rules for finding a new job.
I assumed I would have to take a pay cut. I knew my job would have to have benefits for both my husband and myself. I knew what my bare minimum salary would have to be in order to support our household without my husband working. Making these decision before I started sending out my resume made it incredibly easy to help narrow down my choices.
Start applying for jobs like crazy
When I started applying for jobs, I spent the first two weeks applying for every single job I could find that fit into my search criteria. I did not want to use an employment agency (my personal preference due to benefits and usually a 90 day wait period), so I scoured the local newspaper, craigslist, city and state jobs. I applied to every single job that fit my minimum requirements. I started applying for jobs that were two weeks old or less until I was “caught up” with the new listings coming out each week. I literally spent 4-6 hours per day the first week applying to every job imaginable. I considered it my job to find a job.
Brush up on interview techniques
There are two questions I absolutely HATE in interviews:
- Why do you want to work here?
- Why should we hire you over the other applicants?
No future employer wants to hear ‘Well, I applied for this job because you fit my minimum criteria.” I don’t know, maybe someone out there would appreciate that honest of an answer. I would probably laugh if someone said that to me in an interview, but these are the kinds of annoying questions they ask and you better have a great answer!
I hate being asked to give a “humble brag”. “You should hire me because I work hard and I’m awesome. Oh, I would also like a paycheck.”
However, as much I hate these questions, they ask them, so get prepared to answer them!
Accept and schedule every interview you’re offered
I took an interview very early on that I was 100% sure after talking to the potential employer on the phone it was not going to be a job I wanted. You know one of those perfect classified ads where it’s just too dang good to be true where you apply for a customer service position and know you’re going to be handing out hot dog samples at Sam’s Club? Yeah, THAT ONE. I went anyway, for one simple reason: Practice. I considered it a practice interview. I was fairly certain I was wasting my time, but I also knew it would give me insight into the questions people were asking and give me a rehearsal for an interview I wanted.
Research the companies who call you for an interview
During a 2nd interview, I was asked why I wanted to work there. Because I took the time to research the company, I was able to list off key points about the company I thought were exciting. I checked their Facebook page, their company website. I was able to answer it this way:
I want to work here because I appreciate the company listing awards for employees on their Facebook page and giving them public recognition for their hard work. I think it’s great you have a 5k every year to promote health and have fun on Halloween, my favorite holiday. I also see how you’re incorporating this new technology into your workplace to try and resolve this issue your company is having. It’s a great piece of technology and a smart idea! It shows me your company is innovative and doesn’t let itself stagnate.
I got the job.
This was the job I wanted the minute I applied for it. It felt right. It has exceeded my minimum requirements and truthfully, for the first time in more than 8 years I am giddy about a job. I can’t wait to start.
At first, I thought getting fired was horrible, embarrassing, and the absolute worst thing that could have happened to me. Instead, what I found is a career I’m excited about. I was forced to step out of my comfort zone. I was forced to reach for something different, and it feels great. My final advice to you is to consider, if you’ve been fired, maybe it was because there is something else out there for you that will make you happy to get up and go to work each day.
Then I got a BETTER JOB
I took the first job I thought I wanted. I was excited, stoked, and ready to change careers. Then, I decided it wasn’t the job for me. Long story.
So, I sucked it up. I went to an employment agency, and honestly, maybe I just caught it at the right time. Maybe it was fate, but I landed a new job in 2 days at a new insurance agency. AND I LOVE IT.
I have fantastic co-workers. We get along. I’m making more money than I was when I was fired. The commute stinks, but if that’s what I have to sacrifice to be happy, I’ll gladly make that sacrifice.
If I had it to do over again, I would say go to the employment agency after you take some time to process what happened. Get your head on and then go! You have nothing to lose, but time filling out more one application, so hop to it! I can’t believe how much happier my work life has become since I found a job I love.