Over the last few hundred years, the nature of work has changed dramatically.  We have moved from a predictable, consistent trade or craft, unchanged from one generation to the next to a working life that is complex, constantly changing and rarely offering us longevity.  The developments in technology, big data, artificial intelligence, a global pandemic and shifting cultural attitudes to work have meant that little is certain. Yet being fired still stings!

Being fired is a brutal act that severs your relationship with your employee, that says your employment is no longer wanted or needed. The language itself is unequivocal. You are dismissed. Like a bullet from a gun, you are discharged.

Separate you and your job 

Faced with being fired it is vital to separate the role you are being fired from, from you as an individual.  You, as a complex human being, with strengths, potential and opportunities to reinvent yourself, you, are not being fired, it is the job that is being let go. Perhaps you have been fired because of a problem in the company, perhaps you have not met the standards required, perhaps you were the last employee in and therefore you are the first person out in a downturn.  Perhaps you were working in a job that did not suit your strengths and leaving is therefore a relief. Whatever the circumstances it does not define you. Your skills, talents, lessons, and experience stay with you.  Other opportunities will emerge.

Being fired can be good news

Most of us will, throughout our working life, have times when change is forced upon us, with mergers, relocations, redundancies, and the like. We may have moments of clarity and autonomy when we decide that actually leaving our jobs is what suits us best so we can choose to experiment with new ways of working, new organisations, clients, and roles, choosing to transform ourselves by doing what we are able and enthused to do. If you have been languishing in a role that does not serve you well, is unstimulating and offers no opportunity to develop, being fired might be the incentive needed to generate new beginnings, the catalyst for good things to come.

Take control – a call to action

Taking control and doing something is important when the decision of whether to stay or go has been taken away from you.  The Roman poet Horace might have been surprised that his sanguine guidance to ‘seize the day’; carpe diem, was still so relevant 2,000 years later. When we are fired as well as the inevitable ending of that work we are also confronted with many opportunities, some may be experiences we are longing to engage in, but we were too busy in the past..

This practice of seizing the day encourages you to avoid procrastination, to say yes, to sign up, to make the call, to start the project or to connect with the person who reached out to you.

  • Spend ten minutes making a list of the current opportunities in your life, no matter what the magnitude or apparent relevance.
  • What action can you take to grab these opportunities?.
  • Plan & schedule, do it now.

You may be thinking of sharing your thoughts amongst your network, nominating yourself for a voluntary role, walking at lunchtime, taking a course, stopping apologising for your contribution, walking tall and improving your posture, taking a breath before you engage with a difficult colleague, asking to be introduced– the opportunities are endless.

Prepare yourself

Inevitability you will be asked about work and what happened.  Prepare yourself to answer the question in an authentic way:

“I was disappointed to lose my job, but I am exploring other opportunities”

“This might not have happened at the best time for me, but I am doing all I can to look ahead and create openings for myself”

“I would appreciate some help”

Some people cope with rejection well, they understand the inevitability of it and treat the failure or unexpected ending with a calm detachment.  This is rare.  Most feel that their confidence has been knocked and need to take active steps to build their self-belief and focus.

Building your network

Embarking on change, seeking a new role or sense of identity, can feel lonely and daunting. We are social creatures that depend on the support of people we trust around us.  This is the time to build your network. We can learn a great deal from people who are not in our inner circle.  Build connections with those you admire but who are different from you. Perhaps start by reaching out to three people, there does not need to be a specific reason, just perhaps that you are looking at new work opportunities, to broaden your horizons. Do your research, let them know why you respect them.  Ask them if they can spare 15 minutes for an online call, or even a coffee in person, maybe ask them who else you can call?  Ask them to keep you in mind. Be sure to follow up with a thank you, can we stay in touch?

Endings are hard

In embracing endings and loss it is worth remembering that it is tough to lose your job; it is hard to be rejected. Being fired can feel brutal. It can be extra challenging when you have been let go but others close to you have not. We may intellectually embrace the inevitability of endings but loss in all its forms is challenging, even when that ending might lead to a brighter future.

To cite Ovid, everything changes but nothing is lost. You retain the experiences, relationships and belonging to that organisation, that role and that group of individuals. You will have learnt. You will metamorphosise and create a new work life, endings are part of every beginning. You can reinvent yourself.

Susan Kahn
Susan Kahn
Business Psychologist at The School of Life | Website

Susan Kahn is a business psychologist, executive coach and author of Reinvent Yourself: psychological insights that will transform your working life.