A lot of people use the term “fired” whenever they lose a job, but there is a very distinct difference between being fired and being “laid off”. Being laid off means that your job is being eliminated due to mostly impersonal reasons like budget, going out of business, relocation or downsizing. Being fired, especially in my case, is completely personal. You know the old saying “it’s not you, it’s me”, well in this case it was undeniably them saying “it’s not me, it’s you”.
I was called into an office in the middle of an afternoon on a Wednesday and was told “we don’t think you’re working out here” and that was it. I asked follow up questions like “can you please explain more or give me a little more feedback?” only to be met with silence. I sat there for about 3 seconds and then got up, floated back to my desk, collected my things and walked out the door. I had been at that job for just under 4 weeks.
I remember sitting in my car for about ten minutes trying to process what the hell just happened. I went through a roller coaster of emotions: sadness, confusion, humiliation, confusion, anger, confusion.
Losing a job sucks. Losing a job in this way is, without a doubt, the cruelest. Just like ending a relationship, it’s always best to have a conversation with that person to explain to them why the relationship isn’t working, for their sake of closure. The most offensive way to end a relationship is something called “ghosting”, where a person just disappears with no reason or explanation to wrap your head around. You then spend the next few months, or even years, wondering. Your brain searching its deepest, darkest places, desperately trying to make sense of it all. And the worst part is you may never know.
Over time you start putting some pieces together to try to come up with some reason, and you’ll likely recall that some signs were there. For the sake of your own pride, you’ll reason that it probably wasn’t a good fit for you anyway, and even if in my case that was actually true, it still doesn’t do much to soothe the sting to your ego. It doesn’t matter how confident you are as a person, any form of rejection will hurt. Deep down, we all want to be liked and validated, and so much of our self worth is based on our career so the impact is even greater when that rug is ripped out from underneath you.
Aside from my bank account, my confidence took a major hit. Everything that I thought I was good at was now up for debate in my head, especially since I had no idea what I did wrong. Even though I eventually started putting myself back out of there it felt like I was just going through the motions and secretly praying I didn’t get hired because I was terrified it might happen again.
I consider myself lucky. This happened pretty early on in my professional career and I didn’t have a family or a mortgage, so I could afford to feel sorry for myself for a few weeks while I licked my wounds. So many people don’t have that luxury, which I am certain makes the entire situation even more awful.
So what are you supposed to do? The only thing you can do – get your ass back up! It feels really good to just wallow in self-pity, but you have to put a cap on that so you don’t spiral off the deep end. Spend a few days, or a week if you can, doing things to boost your ego: exercise, get together with family/friends, pet a dog, eat tacos, etc. But then get back to work. Update the resume and start networking. In future interviews the question may come up about why “you left” the last job. You obviously can’t answer with “because my boss was an asshole and fired me”, so practice your gracious loser answer.
Most importantly, remember who you are. The person who fired you does not represent the rest of the working world. Tell yourself it wasn’t a good fit, and move on. It will soon be a blip on your radar screen and hopefully, make you into an even stronger and more self-aware professional.