How to handle getting fired

Getting fired can feel like the end of the world. It can be a blow to the ego, and leave you mired in a mix of emotions ranging from sadness to embarrassment to anger. If it happens to you, remember you’re not alone, as over two million people are fired each year, with 150,000 let go unjustly according to the ACLU. The important thing is to allow yourself to recover, re-evaluate, and rejuvenate yourself so you can move forward. Here are some tips to help you in this process:

  1. Allow yourself to grieve

    Whether you worked at your job for a year or a decade, you devoted a lot of hours to your employer, and the abrupt end can be disorienting. Depending on your financial situation, you might need to jump into a job search immediately. Even if that is the case, try to carve out time in your day—perhaps with a morning cup of coffee or in the shower—to acknowledge the loss and all of the emotions you’re feeling. It’s hard to search for a job if you’re overwhelmed with self-judgment, anger or shame.

  2. Find out everything you can about why you were terminated

    You deserve a reason for your termination, so make sure you receive one, whether from your boss or your human resources department. Whether you clashed with your boss or not, you want to get all of the information so you can evaluate what happened. Once you’ve received all of the information you can, honestly assess what happened. This can be extremely difficult, as our natural biases will obviously color our perception. As you recall the final discussion, try to understand what might have led to that point.

  3. Understand some things are out of your control

    As stated earlier, the ACLU estimates that over 150,000 employees a year are unfairly terminated. During the pandemic, companies laid off large swaths of their staffs. So if you were terminated because of economic factors, remember you were caught in an unavoidable numbers game, and it doesn’t reflect on your work or you as a person.

  4. Reframe the situation

    As you mentally prepare to re-enter the job market, try to alter your perception of the situation. Losing a job doesn’t define you personally, your capabilities or your future. Whatever the reason, your previous job had run its course and you now have the opportunity to find a better fit.

  5. Make a to-do list

    Writing an action list will help you move forward. You’ll be doing something, and the steps will seem more manageable once you list them.

  6. Adjust your budget

    You’ll need to be ruthless when it comes to eliminating non-essential spending until you find your next job. You can’t turn a blind eye to the facts. As Ande Frazier, CEO of myWorth, told CNBC, “Write down exactly how much money is coming in each month, how much is going out, and when your bills are due.” Keeping a ledger in this way will help you stay on track until things turn around.

  7. Review your health insurance options

    After being let go, closely review all paperwork to see if there is coverage you can opt into until you find a permanent solution. For many Americans, that may mean choosing coverage under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), which allows you to stay on your current plan for up to 18 months. Important: Because your employer is no longer contributing to your insurance, as you aren’t part of a company-wide group plan, COBRA is significantly more costly than what you were paying as an employee. If that’s too expensive, you can search for a plan on the open market. Losing your job qualifies you for a special enrollment period, and you can go to to see all of your options.

  8. Update your resume and cover letters

    Research current trends regarding what qualities employers are seeking, as well as the resume must-haves human resource departments and bosses want. Adjust your resume to reflect your quality experience and your unique skills. Be prepared to explain the  termination in an interview. You don’t need to drown in the details, just give a succinct, direct answer. If comfortable, you can perhaps mention what you’ve learned. Most of all, focus on the positives you bring, and why this next company is the ideal fit.

Judy Smith advises Presidents, celebrities, Fortune 500 companies, and was even the real-life inspiration for Scandal’s Olivia Pope. In other words, when it comes to solving problems large and small, she’s the best. She can help you face—and overcome—the toughest challenges in your professional and personal life, so you can unleash your full potential.

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