How to Handle Getting Fired Like a Pro

Getting fired or getting laid off can feel like the end of the world, but it doesn’t have to mean you’ll never work again. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Take a deep breath, remind yourself it was just a job and use these three 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, Regional Manager of Camden Kelly Corporation. “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. If you leave on negative terms, it can be 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. Immediately enroll in a course, preferably an academic or technical course, to help eliminate complete gaps in employment. 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. Reassess, Reinvent, and Prepare. 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. It’s time to pull out the trusty resume and cover letter and get to work. Add your new accomplishments, and refresh it to tailor to new roles you may be looking for. As you search for a new job, be careful about how you talk about having been fired. Stay away from personal attacks and try to keep it general.

Overall, getting fired really sucks. But try and think of the positives, and look within yourself and determine why the job didn’t work. 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. Finding the perfect job will take time, but it will happen. Do your best to keep it positive while you’re looking for your next career opportunity.