I love watching The Apprentice, if for no other reason than to hear Donald Trump bark out his signature words: “You’re fired!”
However, to hear those words in real life is anything but entertaining. On the Holmes and Rahe stress scale, getting fired is the eighth most stressful life event, and the only one of those eight related to work. Which means that if you’ve been fired, you probably feel very disoriented.
Here are five questions to help you regain some equilibrium.
1. What happened?
It’s crucial that you write down what you think happened, and what led to your termination.
Having a written record helps in several ways. First, it allows you to sort out your thinking. It enables you to process questions like, who did what? Who said what? What was your employer’s stated reason for terminating you? Do you think that was the real reason, or something else? What was your part in getting dismissed, if any? Did you see it coming, or was this a total surprise?
Another reason to write it all down is that you create a record that you can go back to later. Being able to read what you wrote in the immediate aftermath of losing a job will help you appreciate not only how you saw things at the time, but how your perspective may have changed over time.
2. What emotions are you feeling?
I find that while all of us have emotions, many of us don’t pay much attention to them. Oh, yes, we express our feelings. We slam doors. We cuss. We cry. We get depressed. We get scared. We feel guilty.
But often what we don’t do is stop and put a name on our feelings.
What good does that do? For one thing, it helps us slow down and pay attention to our personhood. Too many people never do that. I’ve known individuals who got fired on Friday and on Monday started on the search for a new job as if nothing happened. That doesn’t strike me as very healthy.
Feelings are an incredibly valuable doorway into the real you. If you don’t devote some time to noticing what you feel and caring about that, you’ll not be a very healthy person—which means you’ll make a not very good employee, no matter where you end up.
3. Was the job a good fit for you?
Job-fit lies at the core of what we do at The Giftedness Center, so of course this is of special importance to me. But I’m always amazed at people who complain that they got fired from a job when they never should have been in that job in the first place because it didn’t fit them.
What do I mean by a job that fits you? In the strict sense, that’s a job that makes good use of your giftedness.
But of course, most people have no clue what their giftedness is—certainly not with any depth or precision. So let me describe it this way. A job that fits you is one that. . .
• energizes you.
• makes good use of your core strengths.
• has you working with stuff that really interests you.
• has you working in conditions that inherently draw you into the work and keep you motivated.
• positions you alongside your coworkers in ways that allow you to make your best contribution.
• pairs you with a manager who provides the right kind and amount of supervision for your particular bent.
Some people will scoff at that description and say, “Yeah, right! Where does anyone find that kind of job?” All I have to say is: call me, and I’ll help you find out!
I need to mention that job-fit is not static, it’s dynamic. A job can start out as a great fit, but over time change into a not-so-good fit, or even a poor fit. So as you answer this question of job-fit, don’t evaluate how things were when you started the job, but where things stood by the time your were fired.
Look, a bad job-fit does not make a bad person. If you were in a bad fit, it simply means that the employer was asking you to do stuff that you are not naturally wired to do. So don’t beat up on yourself. And don’t blame the employer, either. Just figure out what you’re naturally wired to do, and use that insight to seek a better fit the next time. (Again, if you need help with that, contact me. I’m serious!)
(FYI, I wrote a post a few months ago on how to tell if you are in a job that doesn’t fit. If you’re confused on this issue, I encourage you to check that out.)
Now for the sort-of-good news: sometimes people get terminated from a job that fits them quite well. Why? Because the employer has no other choice. The economy has gone south. The company is merging with another company, and the new venture has to let people go. A new boss wants his “own” people. The company’s products or technology are changing, and they need people with different kinds of skills.
It happens. All I can say is, I’m sorry it did. Now you have to think about where else you can apply your giftedness in the work world.
4. Is this a pattern?
I don’t know how to say this politely. For most people, it’s okay to get fired once in your career. But it’s probably not okay to get fired more than once. (I want to leave an exception for certain careers—like professional sports managers, news anchors, radio personalities, and CEOs—where employers change the players the way the rest of us change socks. I also want to be sensitive to industries like manufacturing or coal-mining, that go through booms and busts, and hire and fire accordingly.)
My point is, if you’ve got two or three terminations in your history, then at some point you need to seriously stop and ask yourself: what’s going on? Why am I having trouble staying employed?
You may come to the same conclusion as some of the people who have come my way: “Bill, the reason I keep getting fired is that all of the bosses I’ve had were jerks and idiots.”
To which I respond: that’s interesting, why do you think you keep going to work for jerks and idiots? And if all your bosses turn out to be jerks and idiots, what do you think it takes to hold a job with jerks and idiots, since apparently that’s who’s in charge?
Seriously, repeated terminations have a cause. There’s something that accounts for that pattern. If you can’t put your finger on it, then it’s worth seeking out a professional who can.
The most important thing here is that you do have a contribution to make to this world. If you keep getting fired, you’re not going to make it. And what a loss that would be for all of us!
5. What will be different in your next job to keep this from happening again?
This question follows from the previous one. If you’ve been fired once, you don’t want it to happen again. If you’ve been fired twice or more, you really don’t want it to happen again! So that leads to the obvious question: how are you going to keep this from happening again?
Saying “I’ll try harder” or “I’ll do better” is not a sufficient answer if the issue is job-fit. Try harder at what? Do better at what? If the job didn’t fit you, you can try as hard as you want and do as good as you can, you’ll still end up getting fired again. Trust me on that!
There’s always a core reason why someone gets terminated. Job-fit is one possibility (and more common as a root cause than most people realize). Character issues are another—things like attitude, work ethic, honesty and integrity, responsibility and reliability, authority and accountability, etc. Obviously having an addiction often leads to getting fired. There are other reasons, as well.
Whatever the reason is for you, the pattern will continue until that reason gets identified and then eliminated. Something has to change.
So instead of looking at getting fired as the end of the world (which it never actually is), think of it as God’s way of saying, “I want you to pay attention to something.”
People who put the effort into paying that attention always end up in a better place. I’ve never seen a case otherwise. Which is perhaps why so many of those people later have told me, “Getting fired turned out to be the best thing that could have happened!”
Question: What do you think is the biggest reason why people get fired?
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