Fired? 6 Tips for Making the Best of It

Getting the boot can feel devastating, but handling it right can make the experience productive — even positive.

Businessman carrying a box of belongingsGeorge Rudy / Shutterstock.com

Your confidence can’t help but take a hit when you’re fired.

But you can leverage the situation to improve both your personal life and your career. First, focus on the positives. Some examples: When you’re let go, it may release you from a job you don’t actually enjoy, force you to refocus your career and maybe even improve your personal relationships by relieving your internal stress and anger. You’ll likely be eligible to collect unemployment benefits to help keep you afloat as you look for your next job.

Try to keep the upside in mind as you respond to the termination, even if it feels like a disaster. And use these 6 tips to wring some benefits out of the situation.

Stay calm and civil

Calm/panic written on sidewalk by shoesGustavo Frazao / Shutterstock.com

Yes, you’ll be upset if you are fired but vulgarity, anger and name-calling will only underscore to the employer that cutting you was a wise decision. When I was an editor, I had to accompany terminated employees to the company parking lot to retrieve their garage parking passes. I had great respect for the terminated employees who were professional especially during that uncomfortable walk. Their civility motivated me to take extra steps to support their job searches.

Ask for a reference

Two women in a meeting.TeodorLazarev / Shutterstock.com

Many employers will confirm your dates of employment, position and perhaps add a few lines about your overall work and reason for departure, noted Reader’s Digest. Of course, don’t ask for a recommendation if you were fired for malfeasance or criminal activity. In more routine circumstances, fear of litigation will likely keep your former employer from writing or saying anything disparaging about you. Still, watch for subtle digs in written references. (“When he was in the office, he was conscientious” could signal that you were irresponsible when on company travel). A A hiring manager will be able to spot and decipher those innuendos.

Request written confirmation

Hand signing documentsBacho / Shutterstock.com

Clearly a meeting that ends in termination is highly emotional for parties on both sides. It’s easy to misunderstand what compensation, benefits or other extras you’ll receive after your departure. It’s also possible for an employer to renege on verbal agreements for a variety of reasons. Protect yourself by requesting written confirmation of any severance pay or other benefits you’ll receive upon leaving.

Don’t damage employers’ property

Man raises hammer to smash computerPhovoir / Shutterstock.com

Anger causes many of us to act irrationally. If you erase electronic files, damage equipment or otherwise destroy, damage or steal property, it not only hurts your reputation but may spark criminal charges. Lashing out may feel good in the moment, but can haunt you for years to come. Leave with your dignity in tact.

Restrain yourself from announcing the news

Woman gesturing "silence"HBRH / Shutterstock.com

It’s tempting to call, text or email everyone you know and tell them your side of the termination story. Don’t. You likely won’t think clearly in the hours and even days after the firing. That may lead you to say things that were unfair or tell details that damage your future job search. No one wants to hire someone they hear responds with rage to a business decision or can’t think critically about the mistakes or miscalculations they that led to the firing. Calm down and consider what you want to say before you announce your news.

Analyze what went wrong

Computer code "error" viewed through magnifying glass.alexskopje / Shutterstock.com

After you emotionally recover from your termination, you will be able to more rationally review your history with the employer and what led to the firing. Maybe your skill levels weren’t as sharp as were needed to excel in the job. Perhaps you fell into bad habits and abused your employer’s goodwill and benefits. Maybe you were caught in a series of missteps that added up to major financial losses for the company. Or maybe you were just a causality in a political skirmish. Whatever the reason for your termination – even if you believe it was completely unjustified – you can learn lessons from the experience. Analyze what you did right and wrong in your position. Work to shore up any weak points that could have contributed to the your termination. Then you can show future employers you have grown as a result of the experience.

Have you ever been laid off or fired for cause? What was your experience? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Nancy Dunham
Nancy Dunham @NancyDWrites

Nancy Dunham is a freelance journalist based in the Washington, D.C., metro area.

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