Getting Fired -- Something Dies and Something Is Born
Getting fired means that your record will never again be clean.
You got fired, you’re a loser. That’s what it means.
That’s not actually so, of course. But you’re worried that people will think that, aren’t you? For good reason.
The reality is that few employees get fired. The reality is that many employees who should get fired do not get fired. What does that say about the ones who do? The ones who get the ax must really be something else, eh?
AUDIO: Rob's Financial Freedom Insight #3 -- Getting Fired Hurts, and I Don't Mean Just Financially
They used to warn us in grade school that if we looked at Suzie’s paper and got caught it would go on our permanent record. It wasn’t true. Suzy has forgotten and forgiven and the teacher has forgotten and forgiven. Losing a job is something that is not forgotten and forgiven. Future employers can ask about any job you held and how it turned out. There’s no way to make the declaration “I got fired” sound good.
Getting fired means that you need to sober up.
I don’t know why you got fired. Maybe you deserved it. Maybe you didn’t. Either way you need to sober up.
Let’s say your deserved it. You did your job poorly. You need to take a look within and figure out why you did your job poorly. Getting a new job the same as the old job is only going to prolong the agony. Please take the act of getting fired seriously enough to let it prompt you into figuring out what you are doing wrong and to taking steps to change it.
Let’s say you didn’t deserve it. In that case the changes you need to make are not of the same nature. You still need to make changes, however. It could be that you got fired because
your boss was a tyrant.
It could be that you got fired because your boss wanted someone else in the job. It could be that you got fired because you did your job so well that
you inspired jealousy among some backbiting co-workers.
Whatever happened, you need to
learn from it
and come back at this with a new and more sober attitude, one that will protect you from the possibility of having this sort of thing happen to you again.
Getting fired means that you need to be alone for awhile.
We all like to be social. We like to spend time with family and with friends and with neighbors and with co-workers. It’s a comfort. Humans are meant to be with humans.
Except when they aren’t.
You die alone.
If you believe in God, you need to prepare for the day when you stand before your Maker. If you don’t, you need to prepare for the day when you stand before your own judgment, the day when you look back and determine whether your life energy was directed to a good purpose or not. Being popular won’t ease the pain you will feel on that day if the verdict is that you didn’t accomplish what you set out to accomplish (or what you should have set out to accomplish).
One of the things that hurts about getting fired is that, when all of your friends are rushing off to work next Monday, no one is going to be pressing you to rush off anywhere. That’s not being freed of a burden. That’s being freed of a sense of purpose. The rebuilding of a sense of purpose is not a group activity. You need to go off by yourself a bit.
You’ll have lots of opportunities from about nine in the morning until about five in the evening of every Monday through Friday from now until a good bit of time from now. Watching television is not being alone in the way we are talking about here. Reading is not being alone in the way we are talking about here. Shopping is not being alone in the way we are talking about here.
You don’t want to get over the hurt right away. First, you want to feel the hurt. After you feel it and learn what you need to learn from it, then you can work to get to the other side of the hurt.
Getting fired means that you need to give yourself a good long talking-to.
The human need to be with others is a strong one. You are going to feel a desire to do just about anything or to say just about anything to relieve your mind of the pain of thinking of yourself as an outcast.
You could blame yourself. You could say: “I’m such a screw-up, no wonder I was fired.” You could say: “I was obviously never meant for that sort of work, who did I think I was fooling?” You could say: “I needed a little break, this is a good thing.” You could say: “I never liked that job from the start.”
Saying one of those things is fine. If it’s true. Not if it’s not.
If you were a true screw-up, you wouldn’t feel bad. If you tell me you feel bad, I question whether you are a true and complete screw-up.
If you were never meant for that sort of work, why were you there? It’s not easy to get any job. You had that one for a time. It wasn’t just you who thought you could handle it. If you really were never meant for it, at least one other messed up. It’s probably a good number of others.
You didn’t quit, you were fired. This didn’t happen because you needed a break.
I can buy it that you never loved the job from the start. I have a hard time accepting that there weren’t some good days. That’s part of the story. Don’t say you hated it all unless you really and truly hated it all.
Getting fired means that you need to talk about shameful things.
The hardest part of getting fired is not the money shortfall it creates. The hardest part is the emotional pain experienced. There’s someone out there who says you are not good enough, that you are second-rate. In most cases, it’s a bunch of someones.
Part of the job of developing a new and better
is coming to terms with this failure in the execution of the old one. You need to talk about it. It’s not going to be easy.
Look at the paragraph immediately above. It contains the word “failure.” We’re talking about you here. You are a failure.
Not in a complete sense. There are things that didn’t work. There are all sorts of possibilities, I don’t know the details. I’m worried that you will do all that you can to cover this up, not to talk about your failure. I’ve been there. I think that’s the wrong path to take.
You don’t want to be talking about The Firing all the time. You don’t want to become angry at the world and its various injustices. You don’t want to kick off your next job interview explaining how your last boss was the worst boss ever. That surely is not the way. But in order to avoid falling into the trap of obsessing about getting fired, you need to come to terms with getting fired. That means talking about it to close friends, at least a little bit, at least at first, at least on occasion.
There is shame involved. It could be that you did every single thing right. Some people are not going to believe you. Some people have reason not to believe you, they are afraid to let in that the workplace world can be so unjust a world as to permit someone who did everything right to get fired.
Don’t obsess. Don’t overdo it. Don’t try to sweep it under the rug. You’re a person who got fired. You’’re a lot of other things too. If you fail ever to refer to that one thing you are you draw unwarranted attention to it, you make it special. You don’t want it to be special, You want to turn it into just one of those things that happened to you during your journey through the Valley of Tears.
Eventually, you want to be able to laugh about it. Eventually, you want to be able to say “it’s the best thing that ever happened to me” and mean it. You don’t get there by covering up. You get there by being straight about what you did wrong and by being straight about what others did wrong, and by saying what needs to be said whether it involves discussion of shameful things or not.
By talking more in the beginning, you end up talking less over time. So long as it’s the right kind of talk. Not anger talk. Not self-blame talk. Not cover-up talk.
All of that other stuff will be in the mix for a time. But aim for straight talk. If that means
in the story, then that means including shame in the story.
Getting fired means coming up with a new Life Plan.
Losing a job is a big thing. Losing a job means coming up with a new Life Plan (most of us don’t write down our Life Plan, but we all carry around a Life Plan in our head).
This is what makes getting fired an opportunity for self-growth. I know that you’ve heard stories about people who say that getting fired was the best thing that ever happened to them. Those stories are true. They are hard to accept when you are the one who just experienced getting fired, however. You didn’t ask to get fired. It is something that was done to you against your will, like your lover cheating on you. How could this possibly turn into something good?
There’s an honesty in your lover cheating on you. It’s the most dishonest act in the world on its face. But it sends an honest message that this individual was not able or willing to communicate to you in any other way. The message is “I don’t care about you much.”
It’s not a warm message. It’s an important message for you to hear. So it is with getting fired. Getting fired sends you a message you need to hear. Hear that message clearly for the first time and all sorts of doors that have long been closed will open to you.
Maybe you really have been a bit of a screw-up. Why? Figure that out and make the necessary fix and you will pick up speed rapidly. It would have been nice to have done it the other way. The reality is that there are lots of us who do it only when we are forced to do it.
Maybe you were in some senses made for that sort of work and in other senses not made for that sort of work. Maybe the job you had was almost perfect for you, close enough to fool you into taking it and close enough to fool some employer into hiring you for it. But the fit was not perfect and the imperfections became more and more noticeable as time passed and as your desire to find a perfect fit grew stronger and stronger. Now you must take the pieces that work with you to the next place while discarding the forced fits. It’s scary
because it's important.
Maybe you really did need a bit of a break. You need to come to a clear understanding of why you needed a break. If you tell yourself that it’s just because you can’t hack it, this could doom you. Maybe you can’t hack a tyrant boss. Maybe there are some tasks that you can hack and some that you cannot, and the old job contained a few too few of the former and a few too many of the latter. Few job fits are perfect. We all make compromises. The things that you can afford to compromise on change over time. Review your decisions as to what sorts of things can be compromised. Come up with a better fit for who you are today.
Maybe you really never did like the job much from the first day. That means that your old Life Plan was a poorly constructed one. That puts you in a deeper hole because it means that your experience is in a field that is farther from the ideal one than it would have been had your old Life Plan been a good one. Still, you can make up for lost time. You are far from the only person who has spent years of his or her life pursuing a poorly constructed Life Plan. Get it right, and you can make more progress in one year than you have been able to make in five years in times passed.
Getting fired means lots of fear and lots of growth.
Getting fired means that you are going to need to ring some changes, whether you like the idea or not.
Getting fired does not always turn out to be a good thing. Not by a long shot. Getting fired can be a big setback in lots of different ways.
In all cases, however, getting fired means that you are going to be heading off on an adventure. You are going to be exploring new kinds of jobs. You are going to be meeting new people. You might be developing new skills.
It’s scary. It’s scary in a financial sense. It’s scary in an emotional sense.
Growth almost always comes with fear. Fear often leads to growth. More than anything else, getting fired means feeling a great deal of uncertainty about a great number of things. Uncertainty is scary. Uncertainty can lead to growth.
If you don’t duck the hard questions, you will end up with a better Life Plan. That may not make up for the losses you suffer, but it will be something good. The sooner you have a Life Plan that you have confidence in, the sooner the feelings of shame and anger and self-doubt will fade,
the sooner you will be able to sell yourself to employers
in an effective way.
Getting fired turns you into a different person. There’s a good chance that you will always look back to the day you were fired as a turning point. You probably liked the old person. So this does not come as good news. The reality is that you don’t have any choice but to get about the business of swimming to the other side of the river. You’ve been thrown from the boat.
Look forward. Get to the business of building the new Life Plan. Get excited about it. The sooner you can get over the shock and accept the losses you have suffered, the sooner you can begin seeing what there is to enjoy in the life you will build for yourself on the other side of the river.
I was fired from a job in October 1991. That job loss put me on the path that a good number of years later led me here.