Dealing with being fired
April 19, 2015 10:24 AM   Subscribe

I got fired recently. I'm dealing with some mixed emotions, and while I'm not worried they're abnormal, I'm just wondering how to sort through it all. If you've been fired, how did you bounce back?

In 2014, I wrote these questions about my job that used to be good, but went south. Long story short, I was on a performance plan that included a lot of scrutiny and lack of tolerance from my bosses, and I was let go about four months after the PIP was originally issued. I did get approved for unemployment in my state and should survive as long as I cut down on non-essentials enough.

However, being fired has brought a mix of feelings both good and bad. I actually feel good about being out of such a hostile environment and free from constant scrutiny by bosses who barely knew how to manage people. I'm starting to slowly feel happier and like I actually want to do things, even if it's just small stuff like cleaning my room and putting myself together more to leave the house. I'm looking forward to a fresh chapter in life, which I hope will include getting a job in an office setting again, as I worked remotely at my most recent position.

Still, even with a lot to look forward to, I feel some insecurity. I feel scared that no other employer will take a chance on me since it looks bad to be fired from a job of almost five years. My job search, after all, has already been going on 10 months and part of me thinks...if I were so good, someone would've hired me by now. I desire to start in a new field since I was getting sick of my role (copy editing) and journalism isn't really a stable place, yet it seems like everybody else has better experience and pristine employment records. I had interviews prior to my termination (both in-person and phone screens) and didn't come up with anything. I'd lose out to people who were more experienced or who I imagine were just better fits. I just wonder why I can never be the best fit.

I'm also worried I'm going to lose my friends who do have incomes and still can get themselves nice things and have no worries about job stability. In fact, it already feels that way. I am trying harder to not compare myself to others, but it seems like they're all living without any cares and just spending money as they desire while I look to cut anything possible. I don't want to lose them or feel like I'm in another class. As it is, they largely don't seem to have much to say to me or look to be getting distant. Only one person has really taken the time to listen and offer some insights. I imagine the fact that he went through his own career struggles before taking off helps, so I should probably keep that in mind as opposed to my friends who have always gotten the job they wanted and had steady paychecks rolling in.

TL;DR: The amount of relief I feel from being out of my job is tremendous, but I don't want the insecurity to kill me. What can I do to keep sane while I wait for that next job offer?
posted by intheigloo to Work & Money (2 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I've been there, in a somewhat similar situation. I also feared that no one else would want to hire me, and was worried about whether my friends would be supportive. In the end my friends were great, and I found a much better job.

Here's what helped me:
* Having some financial cushion. It sounds like you're being very responsible about your budget and that's great. Knowing that you can survive for a while without a paycheck does wonders for your frame of mind.
* Have a job-hunting strategy and a daily routine. I rolled out of bed every morning, made coffee, and then got to work looking for jobs. I had a daily goal jobs (X # of applications) and once I was done, I would shut off my computer and go do something else.
* Make sure you don't turn into a hermit. At least a few times a week, do something with friends, volunteer, go to a free workshop / class / event.
* Join Toastmasters. It will build your confidence, give you something to do, and will look good on your resume.
* Look for temporary or part-time work - it doesn't have to be in your field and it doesn't have to be your dream job. It just has to pay $$.
* After you apply for a job, forget about it. Write it down in your log and then let it go. Do not try to calculate when they might get back to you, do not sit around tallying up how many people have not responded to you. It's a massive waste of your time and energy and it gets you nowhere. Move on to the next application.
* Same thing for interviews. Go and do your best, then let it go. If they call you back, they call you back. If they don't, they don't. Obsessing over it will only hurt you.

I feel scared that no other employer will take a chance on me since it looks bad to be fired from a job of almost five years.

In a similar situation, I was told by an interviewer that they could see I had been loyal and that was a positive thing in their eyes, and they thought it was a shame that my previous employer did not appreciate it more.

As for friends who seem to be backing away, let them back away and don't worry about them. Surround yourself with the people who *are* being supportive and appreciate them.

Congratulations on being freed from your crappy job, and good luck!
posted by bunderful at 10:56 AM on April 19, 2015 [5 favorites]

I've definitely been in a similar position at various points in my career. I just wrote this yesterday, reflecting on the last few months after getting laid off. I got another job quickly, but it helped that I'd already been talking to the company in the months before that about potential positions. I'd been seriously looking for at least a year and a half at that point and had had a few interviews. So I don't want to say our experiences are parallel in every way, but 1. I was a copy editor, too, and 2. When I was younger and just getting started in my career, freelancing while working part-time jobs outside the field, I went through a similar period during which all my friends were seemingly carefree about spending and going out and I wasn't.

First, I'm glad you're out of a bad environment. Too many journalism outlets are crunched right now, in every way imaginable, and that brings out sociopathic behavior in newsrooms that already weren't that healthy to begin with.

Second, yeah, after the experience you just went through, being under the dark cloud of scrutiny and a performance plan and ultimately being let go, it's natural to have fear and doubt about your prospects. The thing to realize is that all of that is behind you, and it likely had much more to do with your management than anything specific to you. I have no problem saying I was and am an expert-level copy editor—I know my own abilities and what I bring to the table as a 10-year veteran of the field—but that didn't stop me from being laid off.

Third, now you have the opportunity to do something else. Expand the range of jobs you're applying for, if you haven't already. If you only look at editorial jobs or ones in journalism, you might have to wait a while for anything decent, and even then, the pay just isn't there. Like I wrote yesterday, this is one of those fields where a mythos about what it means to be a copy editor or be a journalist often keeps us in unhealthy situations. Your brain will still have those capabilities, but you're in a good spot to make an orthogonal move and learn new things.

Fourth, if my quick read of your previous questions is accurate, you're still pretty young, just a few years out of school. Unfortunately, that probably means a lot of your friends who've had steady jobs in that time haven't had a ton of real-world experience that would foster the development of empathy or understanding about what it's like to be unemployed. If they're growing distant from you now that you can't spend like you once did or go out all the time, they're the problem. A lot of people your age don't have a sense of self that's developed enough for them to be able to separate their identities from their friends'. A lot of people feel, on some subconscious level, like associating with someone who has limits on their time or isn't obviously "succeeding" isn't convenient enough to bother with or will even "rub off" on them somehow, as if success and failure are communicable conditions. Maybe they'll figure it out at some point and become less judgmental, when they encounter difficulties at work or get sick or a loved one gets sick or life just happens in any number of ways. My hope for them is that they will develop empathy, but the reality is that when I went through an underemployed period after college, a lot of my college friends drifted away, and eventually many moved away for various reasons.

Stay in touch, try to stay connected, but also, realistically, it's probably time to get out and meet new people and try new things. Take a part-time job and get to know your coworkers while looking for an office job. Connect with your friend's startup and throw yourself into that when there's time. You've got plenty of time to figure this out, and you'll be better off for having gone through this. Good luck!

P.S. It's not like your résumé has a line on it that says "fired." No one knows what happened unless you tell them.
posted by limeonaire at 11:36 AM on April 19, 2015 [8 favorites]

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