Make Getting Fired Work for You


By Anthony Balderrama, writer

September 7th, 2008

Getting a pink slip. Being downsized. Making adjustments. Reorganizing. So many synonyms that mean the same thing: You're fired.
With the unemployment rate reaching 5.5 percent in May 2008, more and more employers are telling workers that they're out of work. While losing your job unexpectedly is never good news, it doesn't have to be a setback. It can be a chance to change directions and find a better career.
The day you get fired, you can feel angry, sad and every other emotion that comes your way. The next day, however, take steps to make the most of the situation.
Ask the right questions
You got fired for a reason, so whether it was you, the job or the boss, you need to know what did and didn't work about the situation. Todd Dewett, a management professor at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, and the author of "Leadership Redefined," recommends asking yourself a variety of questions to assess your experience.
"Why did this happen to me? What functional or technical skills do I need to build in order to avoid this situation in the future? How does my professional network need to grow? Are there things about my interpersonal style or leadership skills I need to reconsider?"
Then, he suggests, take action. "You can innovatively and aggressively start answering these questions. The alternative is to blame others and stew in negative emotions -- and that never helped anyone get their career back on track."
You might discover that you needed to move on from that job but weren't willing to take the step. Look at getting fired as your employer giving you a little push that now allows you to make some drastic changes, says Rachelle J. Canter, career expert and author of "Make the Right Career Move."
"Finding work you love is easily a full-time job. Virtually every career transition client of mine over 20 years has been dissatisfied and made some fledging attempts to find new work," she says. "The lack of financial and employment security provides more time to look and more inspiration to get serious."
It's OK to be happy about it
After hearing that you've been fired, you might be waiting for rage to bubble up or tears to flow, but your initial reaction to getting fired might not be as negative as you expect. You might even crack a smile.
Pamela Skillings, career coach and author of "Escape from Corporate America" has seen people expect to feel bad about their job loss only to realize the benefits of getting fired.
"Of course, most didn't see their pink slips as blessings right away," she says. "It's never fun to suddenly lose your job, though I have heard many say that they were surprised to feel a great sense of relief upon hearing the news that they were being let go."
What now?
Once you've asked and answered the questions, you're left wondering what to do.
  • Explore your options. Decide whether or not you want to stay in the same field, if you want to make a change or if you want to start your own business.
  • Make a plan. Once you know where you want to lead your career, take steps toward making it happen. For example, you might need more training or education if you're going to switch careers.
  • Commit. No job search is easy, especially one that you weren't planning, but you can't be deterred along the way when you don't get every position you want. You'll be tempted to return to the familiar if you're making a big move, but trust your decision to start fresh.
Anthony Balderrama is a writer and blogger for He researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.