You're Fired! How to Handle Getting Fired
What - and What Not - to Do When You're Terminated
Getting fired, unfortunately, can happen to the best of us. It can happen even when it's not your fault. For instance, there could be a personality conflict between yourself and your supervisor.
Or, your idea of what the job was going to be like might differ from what management was thinking. You could have simply screwed up. It happens. You're not alone.
Regardless of the circumstances, what should you do if you've been fired? Where do you go from here?
First of all, don't beat yourself up. Getting fired truly does happen to the best of us. (Steve Jobs was fired from his initial role at Apple, after all, and Anna Wintour was fired from an editorial role at Harper's Bazaar. Being fired doesn't mean the end of your career.) Don't dwell on it, since that won't help your situation.
Instead, focus on what you are going to do next and how you are going to find another job. Keep in mind that another hurdle - the stigma of being fired - has just been added to your job search. That said, there are ways you can address this issue and put it in at least a neutral, if not a positive, light.
What Not to Do
Even though it's difficult, you can make a bad situation worse by doing or saying the wrong thing to the wrong people when you have been fired. Review these top 10 things you shouldn't do or say when you're fired to avoid making common mistakes that can hurt your career. After being fired, it's natural to feel angry, sad, and frustrated - just make sure to restrict negative comment and complaints to your closest friends and family.
What to Do
Don't just walk out the door. There are things you need to know before you can move on. Here is what to ask your employer about getting fired, including questions about severance pay, benefits, unemployment, references, and more. If you are feeling emotional, shocked, or otherwise unprepared for this conversation, you can ask if you can make an appointment to discuss these issues. You may want to appeal your firing. However, it's best to address your concerns the day you are fired. Once you are home and assessing your next steps, it'll be important to know when your last paycheck will arrive and if the employer will provide a neutral reference that doesn't mention you being fired.
Legal Issues - Wrongful Termination and Unemployment Benefits
Before you begin a job search, consider where you stand from a legal perspective. Experts estimate that at least 250,000 workers are illegally or unjustly fired (wrongful termination) each year and that's not counting those that were justifiably terminated. Was your firing legitimate or could it be considered wrongful termination? Can you, or should you, consider suing for wrongful termination?
Are you eligible for unemployment benefits? If you were fired for misconduct you may not be eligible, but don't presume that is the case. Check with your state unemployment office, especially if you have a different opinion than your employer does about how you parted ways. In many cases, if it isn't clear-cut, the unemployment office will lean towards the unemployed job seeker, rather than the employer, when making a decision on unemployment compensation benefits.
Resumes and Cover Letters
All your job search correspondence must be positive. There is no need to mention that you were fired in your resume or in your cover letters. In your cover letters, focus on the basics. Make sure your cover letters address the position you are applying for and why, and how, you are qualified for it. That's all you need to do. There is no point in bringing up the circumstances of your leaving until you have to.
When filling out job applications, don't be negative, but do be honest and don't lie, because it will come back to haunt you.
You can use language like "job ended" or "terminated" if you need to state why you are no longer working at the job. If you are specifically asked if you were fired, you need to answer yes. Lying on a job application is grounds for dismissal at any time in the future and could cost you future unemployment benefits.
Here's where getting fired is going to matter most. You can be sure you are going to be asked the question "Why did you leave your last job?" Dick Bolles, author of What Color Is Your Parachute, recommends volunteering that you were fired even before the question is asked, then moving on. In Job Interviews for Dummies, Joyce Lain Kennedy gives similar advice, saying, "Keep it brief, keep it honest, and keep it moving." She suggests explaining why (downsizing, merger) if it wasn't your fault. If it was, Kennedy suggests telling the interviewer you learned a lesson and explain how you benefited from the experience.
Take the negative and turn it into a positive. In addition, Kennedy provides sample interview answers you can use when asked if you were fired.
Practice. Take some time to prepare answers to questions about being fired, so you know exactly how you are going to answer. Practice again, so you can respond confidently and without hesitation. The more you say it, the less painful it will be.
Again, don't lie. Most companies check references and background information. If you lie, you are probably going to get caught.
Do not contradict yourself. Tell the truth and have one story and stick to it regardless of how many people are interviewing you. They will compare notes afterwards and you don't want to have told one person one thing and someone else another version.
Do not insult your former boss or your former employer. No employer likes to wonder if you will talk about them that way in the future. Also, don't be angry. Feeling angry after being fired is normal. However, you need to leave that anger at home and not bring it to the interview with you.
As hard as it may be, and it is hard, you need to get over getting fired and move on. You need to be able to convince employers that, regardless of what happened in the past, you are a strong candidate for the position and can do the job. Focusing on the skills and experience you have, rather than the firing, will help sell you to the employer and will help you get the job.
Have a Question?
Here are answers to the most frequently asked questions about termination from employment, including reasons for getting fired, employee rights when you have been terminated, collecting unemployment, wrongful termination, saying goodbye to co-workers and more.