Recovering from Setbacks: How to Move Beyond Being FiredMay 23, 2023
I have had the privilege of working with some really ambitious and talented coaching clients over the years. Together we have worked them up to senior C-suite positions within their organizations. I can remember how excited they were on their first day, how keen they were to get started. They bought that book that everybody buys, The First 90 Days. We worked on strategic planning, goal setting and first impressions. They were off to the races, and ready to take a break from coaching. I reminded them it takes 18 months to really wrap your head around any new job. Fast-forward a few months and one of them was let go before 18 months had passed while two others were let go after years on the job. These individuals were high performers. They were experiencing their first ever termination. To say that they were left spinning would be an understatement. They were hit sideways and didn’t see it coming. They didn’t know how to react and reached out for guidance.
The first thing I needed to do was get them to just take a breath. Take a pause and do nothing. It’s hard when your mind is going 100 miles per hour. I had to work really hard on helping these diligent professionals separate the professional from the personal meaning of rejection. It was critical to get them to be able to distance from how somebody else saw them doing their work. My clients had given a lot of power away to their bosses. Being let go had taken a beating on their self-confidence, their self-worth and their self-esteem. They were beginning to cycle into a depression.
(If you are experiencing this, look for the cues in your behavior: are you not eating, not sleeping, not getting out of bed, have apathy? Start with attending to your most basic physical needs: exercise, sleep, nutrition, hydration, exposure to nature and affection. If you find you can’t do this, see your doctor. There’s no shame in taking care of your most important tool, your mind. You’ll need your best mental health to put your foot forward again.)
Next, I reminded my clients of their accomplishments. I asked, ‘Did you meet the benchmarks?’ ‘Were you able to increase revenue?’ ‘What was your performance management feedback like?’ It was all positive. They needed to reflect and to notice the contradiction between the action of being fired and their actual performance—to see that something wasn’t aligned. Sometimes changes in leadership don’t make any sense, and we’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time. If we’re going to be honest, the opposite side of the coin can also sometimes be true. Sometimes folks have underperformed. Maybe you became distracted by something in your personal life. Maybe you tried a new position and found that your talent just doesn’t fit the task. Sometimes we are in the wrong place doing the wrong job for our specific skills or the moment in our life and somebody has moved us along.
For me, if I’m doing that in a leadership position, it is out of kindness because I want individuals to move towards their greatness--where they will achieve their potential and receive the status, title and compensation they deserve.
If you have found yourself in the unpleasant space of being fired, I want to remind you that you still have choices. The choices you make will impact your reputation and potentially impact your ability to find your next role. Resist the temptation to burn the place down behind you.
Here are the Five First Steps to Surviving and Thriving after being Fired:
- After you’ve settled down, find an employment lawyer. Agree to nothing. Listen. Take in the information, and seek counsel from the experts.
- As that is happening (it will usually take some time), the next thing you should do is build your resume because you need to get back in the circuit.
- Next, begin the process of crafting your narrative. How are you going to talk about your experience? How will you speak about your transition? My recommendation is to be authentic and genuine and as generous as you can be to your place of previous employment.
- Reach out and speak to your network, your relationships and your connections. You gotta get back on the horse. This is why it’s important to have your resume and narrative ready before you go out to your relationships.
- Lastly, take time to reflect on the positives and the challenges of that last position. Don’t make the same mistakes twice.
At the time these clients came to see me, every one of them felt like their world was over. There was despair and stress. But within six months, all of them had found jobs. A year later, every one of them is happier than they were before. It’s hard when you’re in the thick of it and somebody is telling you you’re not good enough or that you’re unable to deliver. There can be a tendency to hold on to the criticism and let it keep you down. Don’t become content with settling and accepting any job that comes at you instead of the right job for you. Be patient and remember that you didn’t get here by accident. Commit to the process and continue to move forward towards your greatness.