Getting fired is one of the toughest career challenges to handle, regardless of whether you saw it coming or the news hit you out of nowhere.
Even if the writing was on the wall, exiting a job when it’s not on your own terms is super-stressful. As any creative professional who’s been through it knows, navigating the impact of losing your job, while simultaneously striving to find a new one, can be really difficult on multiple levels.
If you find yourself in this situation, first take a deep breath. While it can be hard to maintain perspective in the moment, especially when your emotions are running high, you can rebound and you will be OK. Here are 10 tips to help you deal with the loss and get back on track.
1. Think before you act
Were you just informed that you’re being let go? Take time to process the bad news and work through your emotions. Until you’ve given yourself ample time to do that, don’t say or do anything you might regret later. (Examples might include immediately firing off an angry note to your now-former boss or another employee at the company.) Venting might feel cathartic in the moment, but burning bridges with your manager or anyone else just isn’t worth it in the long run.
2. Review your paperwork
If you’re offered a severance package take your time to review it instead of signing it immediately. If in doubt, seek independent professional advice. And don’t be afraid to clarify any questions you may have about your severance or benefits.
3. Agree on the departure language
You may want to negotiate how your exit will be documented as this can impact your job search. After all, the creative industry is a surprisingly small world; you simply never know who knows whom.
Even after getting fired, it’s likely your employer won’t be motivated to obstruct you from working elsewhere. Ask your employer how they plan to handle your departure language, internally and externally. If you feel the need to try to negotiate this, the best time to do so is before you sign a separation or severance agreement. In this instance, work closely with the human resources department to land on a mutually agreeable reason to explain why you are leaving. It may be easier than you think.
Most employers will not give out the reason for an employee’s departure. If asked, the company will usually just provide confirmation you worked there, your title, the dates of hire and departure, and, if requested by you, your final salary. Employers generally prefer not to provide too many details. Again, if you have any questions at all, take the time to address this with human resources on the front-end.
4. Don’t isolate yourself
Getting fired can set off a rollercoaster of emotions that are likely to spike and dip at any given time. Be patient with yourself and don’t avoid people. Try to connect with a friend or a colleague who’s been through a similar experience and talk it through. Remember that you aren’t the first person to be fired, and you certainly won’t be the last.
Don’t feel like you have to handle everything on your own just because your last role ended abruptly. Reach out to those in your professional network if you need support, new connections or ideas in the same way you would as if you were making your next career move on your own terms.
Read how one creative professional turned a layoff into a career-building opportunity.
5. Create an action plan
Even if you feel like curling into a ball in the corner, get to work. Start updating your resume and online portfolio. Just getting the ball rolling after being fired will help you build momentum for your job search. Don’t be afraid to show on LinkedIn that you are seeking a new role; it could open doors as many recruiters are actively searching for job candidates for open creative jobs.
6. Connect with a creative industry recruiter
Schedule time to connect with a staffing expert who specializes in the creative industry as soon as you can. Well-connected recruiters often know of unadvertised or upcoming job opportunities. They can also help you find temporary work while you search for a full-time role.
7. Invest in yourself
Without question, getting fired is stressful. Don’t make things worse by neglecting your well-being. Make sure you are eating right and getting adequate sleep and exercise. This will help provide a solid foundation to keep you going as you embark on your job search. You also might pursue some professional development opportunities to keep your mind and skills sharp.
8. Practice your narrative
When you start applying for a new job, you will likely be asked to provide a reason for leaving your previous employer. When piecing together your narrative, review the departure language your employer has used, to make sure that you are consistent, but be prepared to supply more context. The best approach is to offer an honest, but neutral response, versus something detailed.
Example statements that might work include:
- “The introduction of a new management team led to my position being terminated.”
- “The restructuring of the creative department resulted in my responsibilities being reassigned.”
- “The financial performance of the agency impacted my role and I was let go.”
After you’ve explained why you are no longer in the role, work on crafting a couple of sentences that explain your career path, focusing on effectively communicating your expertise and key achievements. Practice saying these statements out loud so you become comfortable explaining your most recent position and why you are looking for a new role. This will make it much easier for you to convey what you do best in a job interview.
9. Be prepared for anything
Remember that if you were fired due to a major misstep your prospective employer may learn about it through mutual networks, even if your employer has worked with you to provide suitable departure language. Be prepared to address this succinctly and positively. Briefly explain why you’re no longer in your previous role and the positives you’ve drawn from your experience, emphasizing your career achievements and the skills and expertise you can apply to the role you are applying for.
Remember that when it comes down to it, employers will always appreciate honesty. Plus, you wouldn’t have been called to interview in the first place if you weren’t a strong candidate.
10. Commit to making a fresh start
Keep looking forward. Yes, getting fired hurts. It’s obviously not the way you want to close out your time with an employer. But try to keep the resentment and ruminating in check. Instead of reflecting too much on what’s now in the past, commit to making a fresh start and channeling your energy into moving on.
Fair or not, even extremely smart and talented creative professionals find themselves suddenly out of a job. You’re not alone. How you respond to getting fired, and what you decide to do next is key to your future success. The most important assets you possess are your skills, talents, creativity — and your mindset. Believe in your ability to overcome this setback. Don’t let getting fired define you or keep you from applying for your dream job. If you can push yourself to move on from a painful experience it may end up being one of the best things that ever happened to your career.
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