It can feel like your world has come crashing down around you when you lose your job through dismissal and leave you wondering – “will I ever get another one?”
Being let go outside of redundancy eligibility when you had no real control is one thing, but when you are fired as a direct result of your actions, or lack of them, it can be difficult to know how to handle it when looking for a new job.
Rest assured, every cloud has a silver lining. Many famous faces including Anna Wintour, Steve Jobs, and J.K. Rowling have credited being fired as a great learning experience and one of the reasons they became so successful.
Taking the following steps will enable you to minimise the fallout of being fired. And more importantly, you can answer the dreaded ‘why did you leave your last role?’ question with confidence.
Confront and accept your failings
Shock, anger and shame are just some of the emotions you might experience after losing your job. However, maintaining a negative mental attitude will not help to improve your future employability.
First, understand and accept why you got fired. Be objective rather than dismissive and see it from your line manager’s point of view.
If you were carrying out your passion on the clock – like when J.K. Rowling was caught writing creative stories when working as a secretary – then perhaps you need to take this as an opportunity to find a job more suited to your aspirations and skills? If you were out of your depth and lacked specific skills, ask yourself if you misled your employers in any way and consider additional training if you want to seek a similar position next time. If, however, you were constantly late, lazy and unproductive or offensive to colleagues, it’s time to do some soul searching.
Regardless of the reason, take it on the chin and apologise to your former employer – either in your exit interview or via email afterwards. Thank them for your feedback, advise them how you are working to improve and hopefully, they will be open to providing you a reference in the future.
Be positive and productive
Despite the fact that you might not have enjoyed your last job or been very good at it, you will have learned some new skills. At the very least, it should help you to fully realise your strengths and weaknesses. Incorporate these new skills into your CV before applying for new roles.
While in between jobs, also ensure you are being productive. Long periods of unemployment don’t look great unless there is an explanation. If there isn’t much work available, or not of the kind you want, try and find a temporary position, volunteer somewhere or consider low cost online training programmes to enhance your skills.
Reach out to your contacts
Awkward conversations can be avoided if you know someone who might have an opportunity for you. This could include business contacts, former colleagues, friends and even family. They can use their own personal experiences to vouch for you.
But remember, you don’t want to find yourself in a similar situation as before so don’t take a position out of pure desperation if you’re going to resent it. One shaky spot on your CV could soon turn into a series of short positions, which can be perceived as equally as bad as gaps.
Honesty is the best policy
Employers can refuse to give character references, but they are obliged to answer factual questions about former employees which often includes whether someone had been fired or disciplined. So, the last thing you want to do is lie.
Before any interview, think about how you are going to frame the circumstances around your dismissal and the learnings from it so you are ready to face the question head on. You may have had differences of opinion and that’s fine. Or perhaps you realised you weren’t right for that role which is why you’re now being interviewed for something which more closely matches your skillset. An error of judgement can also be admitted and show that you are remorseful and willing to change.
Every situation is different, but as long as you don’t speak negatively about your former company or line manager and explain what you’ve worked on and how, there’s every chance you’ll get that dream job.