I've just been fired. What do I do next?
May 22, 2014 7:34 AM   Subscribe

I was just terminated after 89 days from a job that I moved 550 miles to accept. I have no savings -- they were spent on the move -- and two weeks' severance pay (about $1,300). I have no family or friends in this city. What are my next moves?

What do I put on my resume for this position? It's the entire reason I'm in this city. How do I explain my brief period of employment there if I apply for similar positions at other companies in this city? Am I still protected by my union, even though I'm no longer at that job? (That's a question I should have asked the union rep when he handed me his card, but I was a little head-spinny.) I wasn't fired for cause, exactly; I had reached the end of my probation period and it "wasn't working out."

I'm 25 and have a history of job-hopping in my industry (3 jobs in 5 years, though I was recruited to this one -- yeah, the one that just fired me) but that's the norm for people around my age. How bad does this look to potential other employers in this industry?

What else can I do with 5 years of experience working in local newsrooms as a producer?

How do I tell my parents?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (18 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Step 1, take your termination letter to the Unemployment Office and sign up. Get in your time machine and do it yesterday!

Then, think about your next job. What is it that you want to do?

You can always spin this last job as a contract or temporary gig. Put it on your resume, and when asked about it say, "I was recruited for the position and I took the job and moved across country at my own expense because I wanted to get more experience in X. The job ended and I've learned a lot from it. I really want to work for ABC Company because....blah, blah, blah."

Job hopping is no big deal to 90% of employers, it's just how things are now. So dust yourself off, and get to applying for stuff, and get health care (not cobra) based on your unemployed status (so it's nice and cheap).

Good Luck!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:46 AM on May 22, 2014 [23 favorites]

This sucks, and there will be time to wallow in the suck, but for now, you do triage ("stop the bleeding", basically). It'll make you feel better AND help smooth your landing from this unanticipated kick in the butt.

- Assuming your parents are decent folks, just tell them the same way you told us ("I moved for the job, they said it wasn't working out, I have very few resources, I have no idea what to do"). It'll be scary, but - again, assuming they're decent people - it will be the first step in activating your support-and-safety net.

- You need to speak with your union rep ASAP; being unionized may affect many things, or not. They are often governed by a system of arcane and arbitrary rules (a former acquaintance was a union plumber and every single one of his hirings/firings was a confusing clustercuss).

- Assuming you were not fired for gross misconduct, there is still a chance you will be able to collect unemployment: apply for it TODAY. Whether or not you get it, at least you'll get the ball rolling on the entire process.

- Buy yourself one decent meal at a restaurant today. This is counterintuitive and seems silly, I KNOW, but I've found that sometimes, in the middle of a gigantic money-related crisis, the small "fuck you, Universe!" of blowing $15 you CANNOT afford on a plate of risotto is massively comforting in a weird nihilistic way. It gives you a brief, bleak sense of control over things. Plus you get risotto.

- If you can provide more info about your city/background, local Mefites may have more resources for you.
posted by julthumbscrew at 7:47 AM on May 22, 2014 [14 favorites]

Don't get too down on yourself here. If finishing probation cliff-vests you into a union contract, an employer has a HUGE incentive to fire you at the end of probation if they aren't perfectly happy with you, given that you become very hard to fire thereafter. Unions are so rare for private-sector professionals that you had no reason to ask about that kind of thing. More bad on them for not explaining it, really.

Lesson for the future: don't be recruited for an out of town job that doesn't pay relocation!
posted by MattD at 7:56 AM on May 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

Don't call it "fired". If you got a severance package, that means you got laid off, right? That's a different and much more explainable thing. Even if they did it for what they consider "cause" (underperforming, didn't fit in, whatever), you can spin this however you'd like. You should keep it on the resume, but you should also vigorously practice how to explain the short stint in an interview.

This happened to me more or less. I was recruited to take a job with a startup and then was let go because "this just isn't working out" after 7 weeks. I considered not accepting the severance package, which always come with the caveat that you will not hold them responsible for the termination, but I needed the money to stay afloat, so I signed and washed my hands of them.

I did apply for unemployment right away (as you should) and I did collect on it for 9 weeks until finding a new position. The repercussions of not having that partial safety net would have been profound, and I'm very grateful for that public insurance being available.

When I interviewed for new positions, I explained my short stay at that job was because the company was small and volatile and did not follow good practices in their employment of people, all of which was true. When explained in this way, most potential employers would nod and move on to other topics, because this kind of bullshit is known to happen to people.
posted by mcstayinskool at 7:59 AM on May 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

The worst thing I did when something similar to this happened to me in my 20s was not tell my parents quickl and honestly. Even if they sometimes feel nagging or quick to be disappointed in you or you are overwhelmed with feelings you will disappoint or you have a super complicated relationship with them at this age (in my case it was all 3), you don't need the pressure of having to keep up appearances. Trust me on this.

Apply for unemployment right away. This part cannot be stressed enough. It's not a handout. It's what it's there for.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:03 AM on May 22, 2014 [10 favorites]

And a related piece of advice: if there were real negative reasons for your termination, you were constantly late or missed deadlines, you were in a bad mental place at the time and never got your sea legs at the new job, you didn't care about the work so had trouble focusing...do NOT volunteer any of this in an interview for a new position.

It falls on you to be your own advocate at interviews, and showing humility is not the same as divulging things that would cause you to be rejected from an opening.
posted by mcstayinskool at 8:03 AM on May 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

Filing for unemployment is definitely your first step. You can usually do so online now, and that will be faster than calling or going in person. There's often a waiting period before the first payment comes, so file as quickly as possible.

Once that's in progress, I would try to figure out if I wanted to stay in the new place or go back to the old place (or go someplace else entirely!). Even if you can't afford to move right now, knowing your geographic goal might help you figure out if you want to be looking for something short-term or long-term in your current location.
posted by jaguar at 8:09 AM on May 22, 2014

What else can I do with 5 years of experience working in local newsrooms as a producer?

If you want to stay in that industry, I might know a few people, depending on where you are or want to be. Feel free to MeMail me.
posted by Etrigan at 8:13 AM on May 22, 2014

Oh! I'd call my parents up from the car in the parking lot and say, "You won't believe the bullshit I just got handed, those assholes laid me off! I got severance and I'm applying for unemployment, but MAN, that's fucked up."

I'd also call your recruiter and tell him/her that you're back on the market.

In the future, don't relocate without a package (that means they don't want to invest in you.)

How about CNN/Turner for your next gig? Atlanta is a GREAT city!

I also know a guy in weather in Oklahoma and an on air anchor here at our local affiliate.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:19 AM on May 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

To address the "what else can I do" question... I spent 6 years in TV news as a producer and reporter. I went to work in the communications office of a local university, a field I'm still in 15 years later. The switch means I could still write and cover (campus) news, with the added benefits of not having to make a daily deadline and being able to take sides and advocate for something I believed in (a huge relief after the news-biz edict to always get two sides to a story).

LOTS of news people go to work as communications staff for business, industry, non-profits, government, etc. Feel free to MeMail me for help finding where those jobs are listed.
posted by underthehat at 8:42 AM on May 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

It totally sucks to be fired but it'll be ok. I promise. If you don't have friends and family nearby then definitely call them so they can help support you.

Oh, and I kind of never told my mom when I got fired but our relationship is weird. Just wanted you to know that that's an option.
posted by dawkins_7 at 8:51 AM on May 22, 2014

Former News/Talk producer here. Like underthehat, I also moved into communications, on the fundraising side of things. I missed the tight deadlines for a while, and the daily challenge, but welcomed a less volatile working environment (and a more feminist working environment...sucked to be a lady at my particular station). There are industry-specific job search websites, especially for not-for-profit, if you go that route.
posted by Miss T.Horn at 9:15 AM on May 22, 2014

That sucks. What is your living situation- are you stuck in a lease? You might want to consider moving back, if you can have a free place to stay at your parents' while you look for a job.
posted by three_red_balloons at 10:01 AM on May 22, 2014

If you want to stay in TV see if any of your former colleagues can give you information on why you were let go. If you plan on staying in TV find this out immediately and figure out a way to stay in front of it. If it just wasn't working out, no big deal. If it was something else though find a way to explain it and correct it moving forward.
posted by playertobenamedlater at 10:06 AM on May 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Like underthehat mentions, doing corporate/industrial communications for a university or other nonprofit, or a Fortune 500 company, is often much steadier - and the benefits are usually stellar. You don't have to stick with it permanently but it can be a great place to regroup. Ask me how I know :) A former colleague of mine did the corporate thing from age 24 to 28, then moved to a network subdivision that was more exciting to him. But three of my current colleagues came here from local news - two do video, the other handles social media.

I have had little luck convincing younger folks to consider Houston, if their heart is set on LA or NYC, but solid corporate gigs open up all the time, and the pay is often better than in hipper Austin. I also agree with Ruthless Bunny that Atlanta is a fantastic place. (Ruthless, you wouldn't know anyone hiring at TCM would ya? ha!) I'm willing to bet you can find the same in other major cities that are less glamorous but possibly a little less cut-throat.

Are you hooked in with Poynter, by the way? Good place to find jobs and to brush up training, and more importantly gain a sense of what the trends and discussions are. The absolute most valuable conference I've ever attended, bang for buck, was sponsored by Poynter.

Financially, ladder your payments ASAP. Hopefully your parents can help you out, but make sure you know what the most important payments are first. I.e., rent and utilities before car (assuming it's necessary where you live), car before revolving debt.

You can feel free to memail me too.
posted by mitschlag at 3:04 PM on May 22, 2014

Consider applying for SNAP (food stamps) to help tide you over while you have no income. If your state has a resource limit for recipients, you are likely to fall under it.
posted by black_lizard at 3:35 PM on May 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Obviously, not sure where you are, but definitely call the union rep once you've done everything that the folks above are saying. It might just be because IAAL (though NYL), but it sounds a little hinky that they fired you just before a magic 90-day deadline of some kind. I'm not saying they can't do it, but purposely firing some people before magic deadlines (say, for worker's compensation or other kinds of benefits) pass is highly illegal in some places.

I'm not saying this is the case, just maybe check it out for peace of mind.
posted by mibo at 5:20 PM on May 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

How do I tell my parents?

Just tell them what happened. "Mom, Dad, they booted me at the end of the probationary period and now I'm stuck in [wherever] with no job and no money."

They are on your side. They love you. Don't be afraid.
posted by pracowity at 5:48 AM on May 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

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