You’ve Been Fired!

When the dotcoms went dot bust a few years ago, employees celebrated their inclusion to the jobless ranks with pink-slip parties. Your entry ticket was showing your termination notice at the door. No notice, no party. Being fired became a badge of honor—if you hadn’t been, you just weren’t in.

Fast forward to today. The workplace is still in transition. People still get fired. No one is immune, no matter what the size of the organization. The term firing can be softened with the “laid-off” and “downsizing” words, but it doesn’t reduce the blow. You’ve been axed.

Whether you’ve given the sack, the pink slip, downsized, laid-off or fired, it’s not a picnic. With a firing, the twins of fear and failure escort you to the door. Negative self-talk beats you up. The ego is bruised. According to envelope king Harvey Mackay in his latest book, We Got Fired! (Ballantine Books), opportunity may be knocking. 

Mackay says, “There is no job security for anyone—the best thing to do when you have a job is to be prepared to be fired at any time and to be armed with information. And, being fired just might be the best thing that could have happened to you.”

We Got Fired! profiles 28 well-known successes—from actor Robert Redford to tennis star Billie Jean King to New York mayor Michael Bloomberg—all who got sacked along their way to fame and fortune. Hitting rock bottom, they found ways to re-invent themselves from determining what went wrong and what was learned. Even Donald Trumps weighs in. And why not? This is the guy who tried to trademark the words you’re fired.

So, you’ve got the news (or your gut tells you it’s coming), what should you do? Mackay has gleamed several “must dos” to create the comeback kid and nail your next job. Included are:

• Realize that getting a job is a job. It takes work to start the paychecks flowing and some of it’s pure drudgery. Create your routine—phoning, keeping visible, searching—consider it a temp job until the full time one starts. Get out—networking is going to create far more contacts and probabilities than sending out reams of resumes. 

Seek mentors—they can be the traditional (older and experienced); next-step (a few years ahead of what you were doing—or would like to do); peer (equivalent to you in time and experienced but skilled in areas you aren’t); or reverse (younger to older). Their connections can become yours. 

Go online and stay on top of news within the industries you are seeking employment. While online, put your name into a or search and see what comes up. It always makes sense to find out if you are listed anywhere and what is being said about you.

• Forget blame. Bite your tongue and skip the blame game—yours or on others. What’s important is what you learned in your last job and how does it make you a better employee.

• Don’t burn bridges. This is the “eat your words” part of the exit. Even if you think your boss, or the company, is an A1 jerk, button up. You never know when you are going to reconnect with a former boss or employer—the reconnecting can come from employment or contacts. It’s a small world and people know people who know people.

• Don’t wing interviews. Try your pitch with people you trust and get their feedback. Companies hire people to fill a need—they just don’t go about creating jobs because they like to write payroll checks. Why are you good at what you do? What benefit do you bring to them? What problems can you address with your skills? 

Rarely is a job offered to someone who needs it—it comes because you have something that is needed/wanted. Today’s companies look for what creates revenue—sometimes it’s in the form of increased sales; and sometimes it’s in the form of eliminating losses. Which will you do? Put together a sales presentation of YOU before heading out for any interview.

• Research, research, research the project. Do your homework—look closely at related business articles is this publication as well as others in your area. Read the headlines—the good news and the bad, you never know where an idea can pop up. Even companies that are having tough times may want you if you have got the info and skills they need. The Internet makes an excellent partner in probing what’s out there.

In the spring of 2004, the recruiting firm of Korn/Ferry surveyed 3000 managers/executives. Sixty-eight percent of them were concerned that they could lose their jobs unexpectedly. 

The pot is big—being fired doesn’t happen to the minority—it can happen to anyone . . . management or staff. If a pink slip is lurking, or has arrived, your new job is now finding the new job. Take the lessons learned and put them in your career tool kit. They’ll come in handy.