How to Rebuild After Getting Fired

Getting fired is one of the most difficult things that can happen in your career.  For whatever reason, (and there could be hundreds of them), you underperform, or maybe even really screw up, and management catches it. You get verbally
jobsearch.fired.knockemdeadredirected. You get written up. Then BAM. You’re fired.

What then? Is your professional life over? Is there any hope of redeeming your professional reputation and career?

People make mistakes.

A termination is always difficult to accept, so take time to process your thoughts, and then unconditionally accept accountability for your role in what happened. Don’t make excuses. By taking responsibility for what led up to the termination, you can clean up your act and leave the past behind. If you do not take responsibility for past actions, you cannot change the problem behaviors that cost you that job and they will continue to haunt you through the years.

Ignore this advice and get a couple of terminations and you kill any potential for professional growth and good jobs at better companies. So the first and most important thing is to take responsibility for the actions that led to your dismissal.

Rebuild bridges

Call the person who fired you and clear the air.  Whatever you do, don’t be antagonistic. Reintroduce yourself and take responsibility for what happened. Say that you appreciate that the manager had to do what was done, that you want to apologize for being such a problem, and that you learned from the experience. Be sincere.

If the manager talks to you about your transgressions, don’t become defensive: you are here with a business agenda not to fight battles already lost. Instead listen, try to learn and whatever is said thank the manager for the insights. Even if the termination was unjust it doesn’t matter. It is better to eat a little crow now if it will help you get back to work and make a living, and benefit you for the rest of your working life.

After you have made your apologies, explain that you are still looking for a new job. Then address what you learned and ask, “If you were asked as part of a pre- or post-employment reference check, what would you say about me? How would you describe my leaving the company? Would you say that I was fired or that I simply resigned?

You see, every time I tells someone about my termination, whoosh, there goes another chance of getting back to work. You had a right to terminate me, and I have learned and I have apologized and I am suffering financially in ways you can’t imagine. Can we bury the past so that I can put my life back together? It’s in your hands.”

Most managers will give you a break. Taking responsibility and cleaning up the past really works and is the first step in putting yourself back on a success track.

Involve HR

You should also call Human Resources. Tell them you are an ex-employee who was terminated and ask them:

  • What is company policy on giving references?
  • Are managers allowed to give references?
  • What information will HR give in response to a reference request?

Unwarranted crappy references have led to enough lawsuits over the years that many companies have a policy that managers are not allowed to give references and that all HR will confirm are dates of employment and salary at end of employment. This may give you an added line of security that the past employer will say nothing about your termination.

If this is the case, but that past manager, despite your efforts to clean up the past still insists on damning your future, tell HR. Tell them what he has said he will say about you, that he is actively striving to deny you the opportunity to put food on your table and a roof over your head.

Ask if there is anything they can do? If they “aren’t sure” ask again, adding that you don’t want a lawsuit, you just want to get back to work. If you have followed my advice, ninety nine times out of a hundred, someone in human resources will spike his guns.

Do you need guidance overcoming a termination or any other challenging career management issue? Career coaching services may help. Call me at 678-815-5996 or email me at [email protected] for more information.

  • Rainescloud

    I realize that this page has been here for a long while, but must say thanks when it is due. I have been unemployed for a year now and despite hours and hours of reading through career advice pages (not to mention saving web page addresses with anything useful — I have at least a thousand), this is the first one that actually said anything about the process of what to do when terminated. Since HR played a huge part in what happened, I was not certain contacting them was a good idea. However, I have done that now and I did find out how reference information is handled. Thanks.