Job Search

What to Do After You Get Fired


A friend of mine sent a text: I just got fired. What do I do?

I told her to do the same thing my mother told me to do after I was brokenhearted after a breakup in my twenties. Spend some time crying, pouting, screaming and whatever else you need to do (once you get home, of course). Let it all out. After a couple of days or a week or whatever you need, put it behind you and get going.

Getting fired is tough. Even if you are pretty sure it is going to happen, if you have been on probation, for example, it still can shock you.

You may be tempted to rush back to work—and do everything possible to get a new job. Frantically answering ads and contacting everyone you know is not the answer. It isn’t likely to work. And if you do quickly find a new job, it might not be the best one for you.

  1. Make time to assess. Set some time aside to do some self-assessment. List aspects of your old job that you really enjoyed, and those you did not. Jot down all your talents and skills and strengths, and then rank them in which you most enjoy using. Write your own job description. Get as much clarity on why your last job wasn’t a good fit for you before you get out there again. You don’t need to hike through Tibet or spent two months in therapy, but you do need to define yourself and your goals. Doing so will also give you more confidence when talking about yourself once you start interviewing.
  2. Make a job search plan. Most job searches do take a few months, so prepare yourself for that reality. It will spare you from a roller-coaster ride of disappointment when interviews don’t lead to offers or promising leads don’t work out. Expect there will be things that don’t come together, but keep a positive outlook by reminding yourself that if a particular job doesn’t come through, it wasn’t the right fit. Keeping a relaxed mindset will acutally make it easier to draw in new opportunities—people can smell fear. It will also allow you to think creatively about your options.
  3. Make time for people. It is tempting to focus on networking as something you need to do. That isn’t fun, and you may not realize that you come across as desperate. Call friends and former colleagues that you like spending time with. Mention your circumstances, but move on to other topics quickly. When you are enjoying socializing with friends, you will find that attitude spilling into business settings as well. Some people start to isolate themselves if a search drags on, but don’t let that happen. Enjoy other aspects of life to keep your spirits up.
  4. Make a budget. Even when money isn’t a problem, most people don’t like budgets. And if you are worried about money you may be tempted to ignore it altogether because your blood pressure shoots up. But taking action can reduce that stress. Find ways to trim costs wherever you can. If you are really in trouble, consider short-term solutions. Know that you are doing all you can, and then get back to your job search.

About the Author

Susan Price has been writing about careers, entrepreneurs and personal finance for more than a decade. She’s been an editor at BusinessWeek, Money, and, among others.