Life comes at you fast sometimes. One minute, you’re thinking you’ve hit your stride at work. You’re 1.5 years in, 1 great annual review in, you’ve scheduled some major projects throughout the summer…and then the next, you’ve been fired.
Yes, that’s right. I was fired. From my dream job. Approximately 4 weeks after moving in to a new, more expensive place with my boyfriend. Who needs me to help pay some of the bills. Out of nowhere. It was quite a shock, and sparing you all the details, it was not handled terribly well by my former employer, adding to the shock of it all.
So, the first step is not to panic. I handled that by promptly staying in shock for a full 3 days during which time I’ve never seen my boyfriend more concerned for my well-being. My lack of appetite was stunning, and if you know me, you know me not being hungry is not really a thing that happens. During this shock period, I went and saw the new Power Rangers movie (Loved it! Team Pink Ranger fo’ lyfe), spent a lovely few days with my boyfriend at his parents’ house, went on several walks, and finally realized none of my cases were mine anymore and grew very sad.
After the sadness, I promptly went through the five stages of grief, and rounded out my acceptance by downloading a large number of books onto my Kindle.
After this, I updated my resume, talked to some contacts, and got myself a temporary, new job.
In the legal field, there is this magical thing called document review, and there are these magical companies that pay licensed attorneys a nice, hourly wage to review said documents and see if they are relevant to a lawsuit. Through some very wonderful friends, I was able to secure an interview with a document review company, and less than a week later, start on a new project. Thus, I was unemployed about 1.5 weeks.
Now document review isn’t my dream job (which, until being fired from it, had been doing public defense), but it is a job I appreciate far more having done it for a week or so. It’s definitely less stressful, the hours are nice, the pay is actually equal to or slightly above my old salary, and the coworkers are pretty good. The lawyers who do these jobs tend to be transitioning in some capacity (just moved, just graduated, transitioning legal fields, etc.) and so the company is also very understanding of scheduling job interviews and the like as well. I’m definitely grateful for the opportunity they’ve give me, and I plan to stay at least through the end of my current project (hopefully several months long) while I think about what’s next.
Now, on to what I’ve learned from this still-very-raw experience:
How to Recover From Losing Your Job
- People get fired for all kinds of reasons. It might be because of some awful thing you did, or maybe you did suck at the job, but it might also be because of an office culture where you didn’t fit in, or your boss didn’t like you, or it was political. Either way, in an at-will employment state (like mine), you aren’t a failure for being fired.
- There are definitely lessons to be learned. Obvious ones might be if you actually didn’t do well at your job – then there are some skills to work on. Same with office culture – if it didn’t work well for you, you now know what kind of environments to avoid at future jobs. Maybe you learned that you need to make your accomplishments more public so you don’t get overlooked. Whatever it is, take the good with the bad, and grow.
- Always keep your resume updated. I don’t care if it’s your dream job (ahem, me.) Keep it updated, or at least, very easily updateable. I did this by having a good, solid resume format and by keeping my LinkedIn page up to date. All I had to do to apply for my new doc review job was change the employment dates and make things past tense. Easy.
- On the same note, keep your network updated. Talk to them, stay friends, communicate. It might be uncomfortable, especially sans alcohol from the networking event, but these people really will help you if you find yourself suddenly jobless. I lucked out with knowing some people at my current place, but if they hadn’t been there, I’ve got a JV roster ready to step in that also have connections to employers. Not to mention all of my former mentors, supervisors, and professors who were the next step in employment. I’m also reaching out to my law school’s career office for transition advice and how to discuss the whole “being fired” thing in job interviews. Networking kinda sucks, but that network could end up being your safety next later. Make sure you stay in touch with those contacts.
- Get the bitter out. Apologies to my close friends for this one, but make sure you get all your angry/bitter/upset feelings out on your loved ones before you bring that into a professional setting. I still get a little angry when I tell a new person what happened to me, but thanks to some truly great people, I’ve already ranted and cried and gossiped as much as I needed to, and now I feel like I’m on my way to recovery.
- Have an emergency fund. I can’t stress this enough. I left that termination meeting in shock, yes, but not fearful. I wasn’t afraid I couldn’t pay my rent that month. I wasn’t concerned about food. I knew I had around one full month of living expenses already in the bank, and I knew I had the ability to at least get a part-time job to pay bills if needed. One of the biggest problems with losing a job is the loss of money, and spoiler alert: you can lose your job for any reason. God forbid, you got injured, or you had to call out one-too-many times for being sick, not to mention the possibilities of lay-offs in a still turbulent economy. You must prepare for these kinds of life events. As an added bonus, being prepared will keep you from going into debt or having to borrow from your retirement while you job search.
- Check out your options. Only after you’ve really thought about everything else on this list, start handling the other “stuff” you have to deal with after job loss. Check on your benefits/health insurance and set up new accounts if needed. Check out unemployment if applicable. Re-do your budget to accommodate a more austere lifestyle.
- Enjoy your “funemployment.” When else are you going to be able to live your best life, guilt-free? Give yourself a couple days to eat out at a fun restaurant in the middle of the day. Go on a walk. Just be sure to post it all over social media so your former employer sees what a great time you’re having being the awesome person you are. I, myself, went on daily walks and read several Nancy Drew mysteries.
For me, being fired, and the subsequent release of stress, has shown me just how toxic my work environment had become, and how unhealthy I was by working in it. It was a job I wanted to love so badly, I refused to admit I didn’t love everything about it. Not getting to do said job, by force, has helped me realize what was not good. I now know what red flags to look out for wherever I end up. It’s also opened up some time to do things I had been planning to do (like coach field hockey in the fall), and at least for now, my commute has shortened by 30 minutes (always a welcome change!). Now I just need to rework some debt repayment plans (cough, student loans, cough).
Losing your job sucks. Being fired definitely sucks. But this isn’t the end of your story. As several of my friends have noted, everything happens for a reason. In the end, you’ll recover no matter how you lost your job. You will find a new job. You will be okay.
Any other advice out there for what to do after you’ve lost your job?