One day, you wake up, everything is going well. You go into work, probably on a Friday. The afternoon comes and you’re invited to have a little chat with your manager. Within a few moments your life has changed. You no longer have a job. What happens now?
As many of us already know, the emotions run the gamut from anger to frustration to hopelessness to being scared about the future. There are a lot of things that don’t just affect you. Unless you’re lucky enough to get a multi-month severance check, the lack of a steady payday will affect your family, your career path of course, and those pesky bills that have to get paid every month. Oh and you gotta eat, right?
It’s easy to say but not so simple to do: Be positive. Being positive is your strategic weapon; and the one thing that only you can control.
A lay-off or being part of a RIF (reduction in force), is a lot easier to handle. There’s a good chance that it wasn’t performance-related but was due to the company’s economic situation. It’s much easier to explain that away and will also garner you empathy.
Getting fired is another story. There are many reasons and few of them place you in a good light. Explaining this to family and friends is one thing but a whole other ordeal when you have to explain the (true) reason as to why you were asked to leave.
As the new job search and the interviewing process proceeds, you need to have all of your facts straight. Turn around the experience and share what you learned and the steps that you have taken since then. Remember that you just can’t throw your old manager under the bus; even if he deserved the ‘Jerk of the Year’ award. It might feel really good to throw in a few zingers but those moments of weakness can cost you the job. Take it out on the punching bag at the gym but keep smiling during the interview.
The first rule is to NEVER bad-month your old company. Even if you feel that you were in the right, if really doesn’t matter. Spin it your way. Besides you never know when you’ll need a reference; and you never know who you’re going to work with or for again. Calmly and briefly identify the reason why you were fired or laid-off. Be truthful-nothing can hurt you more than being dishonest. This is a small industry; and people talk-whether it’s legal or not. You will get found out (eventually).
The key in interviews to explaining why you got fired is to make it not about you, says Jeffery Cohen, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Recession-Proof Careers. “Anything from ‘the new boss wanted to bring in his own team’ to ‘the entire department was downsized’ is better than admitting you lost your job due to your own performance.”
Some pearls of wisdom from author Charles Swindoll: “The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life9 Life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it.” Keep in mind that no matter how traumatic this (temporary) situation is, use this precious time to look for the next step in your career. Things will get better.