Tips on bouncing back after being fired
June 2, 2011 10:06 AM   Subscribe

What can I do to bounce back after being fired?

Last December, the company I had worked at for many years essentially shut its doors due to money issues. In January, after only a few weeks of looking, I managed to find a very high paying position in my field that offered benefits... beyond rare. I worked there until two weeks ago, when I was let go with no notice or severance. They said they are outsourcing my division to another company, but I am pretty sure I am the only one that was let go. I was fired before people that were hired after me. I guess it doesn't matter either way.

I have never been fired like this, and, man, it's really hard to handle. I worked hard at this job. I enjoyed not having to worry about money for the first time in my life, and I looked forward to working there at least to the end of the year (despite the culture not being a great match for me.) Now I am coping with being fired after only a few months.

I applied for unemployment, and I think I will have insurance through other means, but I have some serious cash flow problems and I am just super depressed. I know a lot of the depression is just pride fucking with me, but I just feel so hopeless about finding another job. I work in a very competitive field and this job was basically a one in a million position. I just feel like I lost a lot of my confidence. I know this is something a lot of people go through. I am know what I am feeling is not unique, but it's unique to me as I somehow managed to make it to my mid-30s without being fired. But here I am now, in my mid-30s still scrounging for dollars hoping to make it through the month. I thought I had reached a bit of a plateau, but I am find myself in a deeper ravine than before.

I was hoping some of you out there might have some advice for me. I am not so much interested in advice on how to land a job, but more about how I can regain my confidence and bounce back after this huge disappointment.

Throwaway email:

Thanks for any advice.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (20 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
I dunno. When I got laid off in my mid 30s, I played X-box for 2 months instead of really looking very hard for a job, but I ended up with a better job then I had, once I actually started looking.

Treat it like an unplanned staycation. Work on that novel. Learn a new skill. Visit family. It really isn't the end of the world in the current job market. Most employers aren't going to really knock you for having been laid off.
posted by empath at 10:16 AM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I know the feeling. It's really heartbreaking to get fired from a job, especially one you actually wanted, without an explanation. Whatever explanation they give us usually not the real reason. Take this time to examine what might otherwise be a problem. You might find nothing, in which case you have to get on with getting on. Advice:

1. Stop spending money on unnecessary things.
2. Write to industry friends. You may even suggest a referral fee to those who might be able to land you employment.
3. Get out of the house. Really. This is important. The more time you spend in front of the computer the harder it will be to pull yourself away when you really need to.
4. Don't be afraid to ask for help.
posted by parmanparman at 10:19 AM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

I was you when I was 34. I was lured to what sounded like a dream job across the country - big jump in salary and responsibilities, a chance to live in a new part of the country, everything was great. For six months. The company went under very suddenly, I found myself living in a small town in the middle of nowhere with no job, no savings, nothing. My entire support system was 3,000 miles away. It was mind-numbingly one of the most shattering things I ever went through. Alone.

The thought "Things happen for a reason" kept floating through my head. Within a few weeks, I had not one, but two job offers, one out on the west coast where I was living, and another back east close to where all my family and friends still were. I chose to stay on the west coast and I have never looked back since.

I survived because I was too embarrassed to crawl back defeated. I took advantage of every opportunity I could find (even in the small town that I was living in, I found a job crisis center that actually PAID for my ticket to NYC for an interview, then later paid for my moving expenses to Seattle). My family and friends banded together and sent me money, $10 here, $40 there, that helped me get through the tough times. Yeah, I ate a lot of spaghetti with butter and fake parm cheese and drank only water for a few weeks.

You can do this, you will survive. Another mantra I have: People care. Ask for help. You would be surprised.
posted by HeyAllie at 10:24 AM on June 2, 2011 [7 favorites]

Been there.

1. find some unique way to refine your resume/portfolio. This helps with the creative juices.
2. remember it is NOT your fault. Jobs can be flakes. I've been there a million times--sometimes my fault, sometimes not. Unless you did something blatenly wrong like dance naked while hopped up on E, I wouldn't take it personally.
3. for interviews go with the truth--outsourcing, money problems, etc. This wasn't a performance firing. It was a biz to save money decision.
4. yes, get outside
5. yes, ask for help
6. yes on the stop spending on uncessary things (eating out/drinking) yes on socializing but have people over via pot luck (they bring the goods). Friends can be a great support system with helping you out on little things. They're not loaning you rent, they'e helping out in other ways (party = free food + good times).

But the key is to not to take it personally. The co and many to follow were flakes. You'll find something temporary to something fantastic. If you need to lower standards to make rent, do it, but then keep looking for something better. Then if it's a short term gig, put it down as consulting/freelance.

Worked for me (plus for me, advertising agencies are a flake biz. You haven't 'made it' until you were let go).

Good luck!!!
posted by stormpooper at 10:29 AM on June 2, 2011

Call your former manager, and ask for an honest review of your work, so that you can address any shortcomings. Manager might not be willing, but ya never know, and learning from this is ultimately the best outcome. You may be surprised to learn that it wasn't performance, or you may learn of deficiencies to correct, but knowing is usually better than not knowing.

This is hard; I'm sorry you're going through it.
posted by theora55 at 10:31 AM on June 2, 2011

I got fired about two years ago. It was super humiliating. I cried, and then had to walk through the company with a red face and a box of my stuff. Plus, this was in a tiny town, so not only did I get fired, but I got to see the people who fired me all the time. I was always re-living it, and feeling mortified. Talk about awkward.

I wouldn't say that I like my current job better, but I do HAVE a lucrative job that supports me now and I don't miss that old job. In fact, I laugh about it all now. I won't lie, there was some suffering and poverty in the interim between jobs. But actually, I value that time, because I learned a lot about myself and my attitudes about responsibility, work, and money. I wouldn't say I'm glad it happened to me, but it happened, and I grew, so that's fine.

In the end, everything will be okay either way. Truly. Just know you're not alone. Try to be kind to yourself, do things that make you happy. Eat well, exercise, look for another job.
posted by amodelcitizen at 10:33 AM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

I too have been there. I left one job to take another one with my former boss, who I at the time thought very highly of. He turned out to be a completely different person once I got there- a flat-out evil asshole whose political views could be described, without exaggeration, as "fascist."

Eventually I got involved in a dispute over money (they promised me a bonus then tried to go back on it). I got the bonus but they then harassed me so much I was forced to quit. I got another job and was laid off after less than a year for no reason. I am just now pulling myself out of this.

I don't advise dwelling on why they fired you. Bottom line: whatever they told you, they did it because they could. It's an exercise of power. You will never know their reason, and it doesn't matter. The less time you spend wondering "what could I have done different?" the better. I know you can't just turn it off, and I know it will take a while to get your confidence back. Just remember, lots of us have been there, and we've all gotten through it. Good luck! (And do try to get outside- I went to the park and worked out almost every single morning I was unemployed, and it helped a lot.)
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:38 AM on June 2, 2011 [5 favorites]

I got laid off because I told my boss in an unguarded moment that I was bored with the job, could find another job any time I wanted to, and only came in to work because I liked the people I worked with. pro tip-- don't say that kind of shit at a company that has regular lay offs.
posted by empath at 10:41 AM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

Seconding drjimmy

Fear sucks, literally. Do what you need to do to manage depression. I suggest doing yoga. No better thing to do when you are in transition. And you are in transition!

It's not mentioned a lot in yoga books but is a good antidote for depression.

After having major head injuries in 1988 (fractured skull, burst artery, surgery, anti-seizure medications) I knew my life up to that time was over. Depressed, I began to do yoga as I wanted to keep doing a physical practice (I was an athlete)

This is what I found.

Wake - feel depressed. Do yoga - feel better.

Next morning. Wake - feel depressed. Do yoga - feel better.

Morning after that. Wake - feel depressed. Do yoga - feel better.

I then thought, "Why don't I do this everyday"
posted by goalyeehah at 10:41 AM on June 2, 2011 [4 favorites]

First off - you weren't fired, you were laid off. Maybe they just told you that to make you feel better, but stop beating yourself up about things you can't even know. And don't dwell on the situation, just accept their explanation and move on. Dwelling is the most depressing timesuck ever.

Next, agree with everyone else - do everything you can to feel more positive about yourself. Exercise, network, get a running buddy - seriously, this is almost as important as getting that next job, because it'll be a Lot easier if you're feeling better about yourself.

Last, know that you're really very not alone, and you Will feel better when you get that next job. So ask for help - I always found it easier to ask people if they knew anyone I should talk to rather than asking for direct help. People want to help!

PS - Once you have that great new job, pay that help forward. You can do it!
posted by ldthomps at 11:01 AM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Last year I got laid off from a company where I had worked for 17 years. Two weeks after I left they made me another offer, and I've been working with them since.

My point is, it's not your fault. In this day and age, corporations are very skitterish and nervous and will take drastic measures to protect the bottom line. It all comes down to tweaking a number on a spreadsheet and sometimes, that number is you.

Keep your head up. You'll find something that fits.
posted by shino-boy at 11:03 AM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

When I found out I would be laid off along with eleven others, on my last day I brought coffee and cookies for my former co-workers and managers.

The next thing I did was update my LinkedIn profile and connect to every single industry person I knew. I also emailed a great many of them a personal note to let them know I was looking for full-time or contracting work. Additionally, I requested references for my LinkedIn page.

In order to receive unemployment insurance I had to submit at least two job applications a week (I think it was two, not sure any more). For each position I would look up the company on LinkedIn and check my own network for connections, direct or indirect.

I also attended a day-long workshop on resume writing, networking and job negotiation. This was a parting gift from my former employer and it gave me very usable skills in addition to a tremendous confidence boost.

I stayed in touch with my old colleagues and kept them up to date on my job hunt. I had lunch with several of them over the six months I was out of work.

My next job came as a result of a referral from my former manager.

Once I had accepted the offer, I took a two-week break in South Beach to celebrate.

Good luck, you'll do okay!
posted by Dragonness at 11:03 AM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I was unemployed after law school for 6 months and that was a difficult time. I recommend volunteering maybe in your chosen field at least a few days a week.

Volunteering has the following benefits:

(1) It gets you out of the house and doing something productive you can feel proud of.
(2) It gets you out of your own head and realizing that there are people who have it way worse than you.
(3) You can make connections and sometimes even get job offers.
(4) You can learn some new skills
(5) When potential new employer asks what have you been doing, you'll have something to say other than "sitting on my couch"

True story: I was volunteering this weekend at a sustainable farm. I got to talking to the farm operations manager. She had been a lawyer. Than she was laid off. Than she started volunteering at the farm full-time. After a few months they hired her as the farm operations manager. She's much happier now than she was as a lawyer.

You'll be okay. Really.
posted by bananafish at 11:28 AM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

Keep in mind that when the company hired you that whatever prospects they had you in mind for caused them to offer you X amount of compensation. When others were hired afterwards perhaps the future picture was bleaker (even though you personally didn't know this) so for those people their Y was less than your X.

And the easiest way to save money is to let higher paid people go. Unless you were specifically told it was because of performance I wouldn't assume that it was.

Let's say you actually got your previous manager to talk to you off the record with no fear of litigation and they were 100% honest. What if they said it wasn't because of performance? What would that change? What if they said it was because of performance? How would that be different?

You are who you are. You can't change what happened. Most companies look at humans like pieces on a chessboard.

Companies may hire humans (mostly because robots don't do as good a job) but many times they are run by lawyers, and 99% of lawyers give the other 1% a bad name.
posted by dgeiser13 at 11:50 AM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

I work as a freelancer in the entertainment business. I experience the pain of having no job, losing jobs, and looking for jobs on a daily basis. I never know when my next job will be. Even with my "regular" clients, I never know when they'll hire me again...if they hire me again. This year, I've experienced the biggest hit I've ever had in loss of clients. The clients I lost were more then 50% of my income last year. All this being said, I feel your pain. Not only does it hurt financially, but it kills your ego. I start to question whether I'm any good at what I do. I feel like maybe I need to find another line of work or lower my expectations. But at the end of the day I've learned that most of the clients I lose or the clients I can't get to hire me...have nothing to do with me or the quality of my work. Sometimes jobs just get eliminated, or clients want to go a different direction. Rather then focus on my losses I focus on the fact that I've worked for some of the most prestigious companies in the world. And despite the fact that jobs come and go, no one can take my resume away. Eventually I will be able to use my past jobs to get more jobs. There will always be ups and downs...and part of the battle is coming to grips with that. For now I would say to make sure you take time for yourself. Surround yourself with friends and family if you can. Do fun things like hobbies, etc. Then start getting out there and applying for jobs. Once you submit a resume for a job, forget about that job and look for another one. Right now your job is to look for a job. Become the best seeker of work that you can be. Also if you need to get some sort of a part time job to make ends meet do it. If you can survive on unemployment I'd do that so you can focus all your time on looking for a new job. You will get another job. It make time but you will. It may not be as good as your old job but you'll get back on the horse for sure. Stay confident. Good things will come if you work hard for them.
posted by ljs30 at 2:26 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

There is a lot of good advice up-thread, so I won't waste your eyeball-time being repetitive. I do, however, have two suggestions: one serious, one smart-assy. And they are:

The Grown Up Suggestion:

(By the way, and as many a wise woman has observed, this too shall pass.)

There is one critical factor to keep in mind with regard to making a living regardless of trade, income, skill level, education, status, enjoyment value, what-have-you: its overriding purpose is economic survival. It's great if you like the work, the industry, the people, the money, the implied status, the travel, the sense of purpose or other apparent benefits. But apart from the fact that you can't eat these things, you are not in complete control of the situation -- which means, among many other things, that you cannot control your tenure in it. And this is why is it vital to have interests and activities outside of the workplace that give you a sense of value, a feeling of usefulness and enjoyment (i.e., some of the input factors of confidence). When you have a more fleshed out life, upsets in one component of it are less damaging to one's overall sense of self.

So, when you are not doing all the things you need to do to find another job and deal with life's immediate necessities, start building out another aspect of your life to invest your pride in. At the end of the day, a job is just a job. A life well lived -- worth getting your emotions and pride all tangled up in -- is worth a great deal more than the source of your cash.

The Smart-Ass Suggestion:

I once shared an office with a fellow who had a stock-in-trade response to all of life's little upsets regardless of subject matter, seriousness or specific details: "Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke!" I have found this to be a fine rallying cry in response to all sorts of unpleasantness.

Hang in there! You'll be just fine before you know it.
posted by cool breeze at 2:42 PM on June 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

You are not the only person who has been fired, or laid off, and you won't be the only person to succeed after suddenly parting ways with an employer. This will be a snapshot in the montage of your life. The hero's journey has to pass through the dark forest.

It sounds as though you've generally succeeded at other jobs. Succeed at something you care about -- craft something, write something, set a small goal and accomplish it -- and you will remember what it feels like to succeed.
posted by brainwane at 3:49 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I won't go into everything said before but I'll stress what others have said about setting some personal goals. I was out of work about 5 months and I could kick myself for not hitting the gym hard and losing some weight. I think I convinced myself I would land another gig any day so I might as well not getting too deep into anything else but that was BS. In hindsight, it was actually a valuable experience and taught me a lot about myself so I'm not bitter. But I would probably look back on that time fondly had I lost weight and got in better shape. I might consider it the best thing to ever happen to me.

The last thing you should do is mope around or be depressed. You might have a lot of time on your hands during a time when you can't afford to spend any money but the best things in life are free. Spend time with your mate (or find a mate), hang out with friends and family, visit your grandparents, exercise, start a garden, declutter and have a yard sale, etc.

Another note about job hunting, it's really boring and depressing to check the same web sites every day. I was out of work about 2 years ago and finally got a contract gig. Well, that ended last Fall so I was hunting again. I took a different approach this time. I set up RSS feeds and had listings sent to me as they were posted. craigslist and all of the major job boards offer RSS feeds. You can even set up custom searches and then save that search as a feed. With my iPhone, I was never tied to a location or felt guilty about not checking for new listings that day. Whether I was out of town, at the barber shop or mooching dinner off my parents, I would check jobs as they were listed and then forward ones that caught my eye to my email to give a closer look when I got home. I found another gig right before Xmas but I still get those feeds to let me know what's out there.
posted by thebriguy72 at 6:38 PM on June 2, 2011

This happened to me in 2009. This is what I did.

1. Take a week off, and chill out. You've had to dealt with some screwed up crap, and you deserve a rest.
2. Start working out, and get into the best shape you can while unemployed. You'll get fitter, which is good. Also, endorphins really are a thing, and they do make you feel better and destress.
3. Reformat your resume, talk to people in your industry, start networking. You are good at what you do, and you're going to find another job, but it will take work.
4. Make time to see your friends.
5. Work all of this into a routine. Wake up at a set time every day, work out, write job apps, do personal admin, see friends. Repeat. You new job is finding a new job, and taking care of yourself.

Above all, remember: You are good at what you do. And you can do this.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:34 PM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

I don't know if this is an issue for you, but I strongly recommend sticking to a normal "9-5" routine as though you were working (mainly getting up in the morning and going to bed at a reasonable hour on weeknights). My schedule became extremely out-of-sync with the working world when I left my job (I was often staying up all night), and this left me feeling unproductive, isolated, and depressed. Hope this small tip helps.
posted by lrrosa at 10:37 PM on June 2, 2011

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