Tips for Getting a Job After You’ve Been Fired

By Catherine Conlan
Monster Contributing Writer

Getting fired can feel like the end of the world, but it doesn’t have to mean you’ll never work again. Take a deep breath, remind yourself it was just a job and use these five tips to help you land your next gig.

1. Try to get a reference.
Depending on why you were fired and who gave you the axe, you may want to see if you can still get a reference from your former employer. “Being gracious and taking full responsibility for the reason of your termination, whether or not you agree with the reason, will go a long way,” says Katy Imhoff, owner and CEO of Camden Kelly Corp.

“To take it a step further, follow up with a thank-you note post-termination thanking the employer for the time you were employed, restating that you understand their decision and that business is business and you hope you two can keep in touch going forward.” Whenever possible, it’s important to keep things businesslike and polite. “Your employer will be less inclined to speak negatively if you leave on a positive note,” Imhoff says.

2. Look for outside references.
It’s more likely that you won’t be able to get a reference from the employer who fired you, so it’s important to develop your network. “You need other people who know your abilities and can confidently recommend you,” says Jené Kapela of Jené Kapela Leadership Solutions.

“Make use of your new-found free time in ways that will make you more appealing to employers and help you network with new people. For example, join a professional development group, volunteer in the community, and intern at a company in your chosen career field.” Having current references who can talk about your skills will help you as you start your search for a new job.

3. Keep your head in the game.
You may want to take a break and nurse your wounds, but it’s important to keep busy and not let the gap in your resume grow, says training and development consultant Farrah Parker.

“Immediately enroll in a course, preferably an academic or technical course, to help eliminate complete gaps in employment,” Parker says. “Also, develop a list of professionals who you can trust, with a solid knowledge of your work ethic, who can connect you to opportunities without judging the fact that you’ve been fired.”

4. Choose your words carefully.
As you search for a new job, be careful about how you talk about having been fired. “Comments such as ‘differences in opinion,’ ‘differences in working philosophies’ or ‘differences in creative direction’ or ‘downsizing’ or ‘were made redundant’ are all explanatory when you have been terminated from a previous job,” says Alan Guinn, managing director at the Guinn Consultancy Group. After all, you were fired for some reason.

Whatever you do, though, don’t attack your supervisor. “If you had differences with your supervisor, that’s okay,” Guinn explains. “If you couldn’t deal with them, that may have been okay, too, depending on the circumstances. But personal attacks? They’re a no-no.”

5. Reassess and reinvent.
Getting fired can shake your very identity, so it’s important to reassess yourself and your goals. “Take the time to evaluate where your success has been in the past, and reinvent your job search to look for a whole new change of focus,” says human resources consultant Lori Kleiman. “Don’t be afraid of looking at education or certification in the new path.”

You may have to ask yourself some hard questions about your expectations and what you’re looking for, as well. “Really take the time to look within yourself and determine why the job didn’t work,” Kleiman says. “This will provide an opportunity during your next interview for you to discuss why the job was not a fit for you or the company, and how you feel your strengths can be better served in the new area. Essentially, look to take the negative of a termination and use it as a positive for your next position.”