5 Lessons Learned After I Was Fired

5ThingsFIREDThere aren’t too many people who can say that they’ve been fired. Let me rephrase that, “There aren’t too many people who will tell you that they’ve been fired.” Let’s face it, whether you’re at fault or not, it’s an embarrassing experience.

The Human Resources Manager who almost never comes to your side of the building enters unexpectedly. With a folder in hand and an austere disposition, she heads directly into the meeting room where you usually have your one-on-one meetings with your manager. Moments later, you hear the familiar clicking sound heels make against a hard surface as your manager’s matte finished red pumps begin to peek around the corner. The most difficult moment you could imagine was about to happen.

She approaches your cubicle, and calmly asks you to gather your personal effects and join them.

For some people, this story is all too familiar. The fact of the matter is most people don’t talk about getting fired. And why would they? It’s not an experience worth bragging about. And if you do decide to share, some falsely believe that somehow it must have been your fault; especially if they’ve never been fired.

If you have been separated from an organization or what everyone else calls “fired”, I am happy to say it doesn’t have to end there. In fact, it doesn’t.

Here are five valuable lessons learned after I was fired.

1. Life Goes On
Life Goes OnIt is not the end of the world. Don’t get me wrong; at the time of the separation, accepting the fact that life goes on was the furthest thought from my mind. Besides, the idea that I should somehow immediately overcome this traumatic experience was absurd. As an HR professional, I have conducted countless separation meetings; all of them successful. I base that success on the fact that none of the employees I was firing went “postal”; most of them embraced the change because of how I packaged the message. During one particular meeting, I remember telling a very emotional employee that this is not the end of their story; they must continue to write. This may be the final chapter with this particular organization but it doesn’t have to be the final chapter in your book. Take a moment to think back to a time when you experienced adversity, with time you eventually overcame it. With time, all wounds eventually heal. The amount of time you take depends solely on you. The sooner you realize that failure is an event and not a person, the sooner you can move on from this. It may not seem like it now but trust me, life really does go on and you really will get back on your feet. The “how” and “when” is totally up to you.

2. Manage Your Time Wisely
use your time wisely (1)
Most people have difficulty finding the silver lining to the dark cloud that is created once you are fired. Here’s an upside to losing your job, you now have time and a whole lot of it! This new found freedom and increase in down time should not be wasted on wondering what you could have done differently. It’s over; use this time to plan ahead. Right after I was fired, it took several weeks for the dust to settle and for me to pull myself up from my bootstraps. It took several weeks too long. What I would have done differently was immediately pull out a pen and a pad and start brainstorming ideas about a future I wanted to create. Understand that looking for a job is a fulltime job in itself. The sooner you start looking, the sooner you may find it. Use this time to organize your life and prioritize what is most important. Immediately file for unemployment, even if you think you may not be eligible. Although the amount may be miniscule compared to your previous salary, it’s certainly better than no income at all. Besides, collecting unemployment insurance isn’t a new job; it should not be viewed as income. Your goal should be to return to work as quickly as possible. You would be surprised how many resources are available to those who are unemployed. Visit the Department of Labor’s website (www.dol.gov) to view a list of resources available to you. Here’s an article that lists 10 FREE Government Resources for the unemployed. http://jobs.aol.com/articles/2011/01/26/free-government-resources-for-the-unemployed/

3. Do Something You’ve Always Wanted To Do
today-do-something-youve-never-done-before From every negative experience, the opportunity to accentuate the positive exists. I know some of you may be thinking, “What could possibly be positive about losing your job?” One thing I learned after I was fired is that you need to do something you’ve always wanted to do. Losing your job can be very stressful, especially if you haven’t planned for it. And believe me, most people don’t. If you have a dream, pursue it. I decided to focus heavily on starting my own business and taking all of the valuable knowledge, skills and abilities I’ve acquired over the years to market myself as a free agent while doing something I love. For those who aren’t quite ready to start their own business, focus heavily on pursuing your next opportunity or go skydiving. Yes, skydiving. After you lose your job, the last thing you want to do is stay depressed. Believe me, you will experience some form of depression because it is one of the stages of grief after you experience a loss. Losing your job is not exempt; you can’t avoid it. What you can do is limit the time you are depressed by doing something you love or trying something new. Remember, tremendous success always comes at the risk of great failure. Now is a really good time to create and execute your bucket list. After all, what do you have to lose?

4. Count Your Blessings
Count Your Blessings
One important lesson I wish I didn’t have to learn the hard way is the fact that no one is entitled to anything. A false sense of entitlement can potentially ruin your life. We all make the mistake of expecting more than we are blessed with ignoring the magnitude of the original blessing. If you are on this side of the dirt, you are already immensely blessed. There was a man who complained about not having shoes until he saw a man with no feet. It isn’t a crime to want more, it really isn’t. However, wanting more must mirror the time and effort you put into acquiring that which you are expecting. In my case, it was money. I wanted more money. I was already earning six figures and most people would be satisfied with that salary. Yet I wanted more and truly felt I deserved more. I completely ignored the man with no feet. I was blessed yet I still wasn’t satisfied. There is a distinct difference between desire and greed. Greed is attempting to possess more than you need or deserve and desire is simply wanting something very much. I was greedy. Don’t allow greed to block you from your blessings. Being employed is a blessing, don’t take it for granted. It’s insane how many people complain about their jobs never stopping to think about those who are unemployed. I was one of those people. I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. I didn’t want to look at the big picture. Just because you think you deserve something doesn’t mean that you actually do. Sometimes it takes others to recognize your contributions and quantify your value; and sometimes that takes time. Appreciate what you have because it could all be gone tomorrow. Count your blessings; being gainfully employed is certainly one of them.

5. Money Doesn’t Grow On Trees
Money Saving
My father always says, “Son, make sure you save as much as you can. You may not need the money today but you might need it tomorrow.” He’s absolutely right but how many of us actually live by this unwritten code of the “Traditionalist” generation; babies who were born between 1929 and 1945. My father was born in 1943 and he’s sort of a hybrid between this generation and the Baby Boomers. Either way, he has always preached the value of saving a majority of your income and not spending unless you absolutely have to. In a world where we focus more on wants than needs, it is reasonable to assume that it’s much more challenging to save; especially when everyone is trying to keep up with the Joneses who may actually be in debt themselves. What I learned (the hard way) was that he is right! I had no idea I was going to be fired but I did have about three months of living expenses saved in case of an emergency. Unfortunately, three months is just not enough. Finding a job takes time, lots of time. Some people who lose their jobs can take up to 18 months or more to return to the workforce. I had the opportunity to save so much more and the time and income to do it but I didn’t. If you are like some people who falsely believe the good times will always be good, then you are in for a rude awakening. Some of you may be thinking, “I will never get fired because I am a great employee.” From an HR professional to you, it can still happen, even to the top performers. Companies downsize and reorganize all the time to ensure that they protect their bottom line. Unfortunately, when assessing a company’s bottom line, one of the first items on the list of sacrifices is human capital. No one is exempt from this unless you are the one making the decision. You can’t predict the future so you might as well prepare for it.

After a traumatic experience you are left with two options; either sink or swim. Sinking is easier but swimming is worth it. Don’t wait until you lose everything before you start to appreciate what you have. Losing your job is not the end of the world; it may actually be the start of something great. Embrace this change and believe that this new course of direction may be where you were intended to go in the first place.

To The Top!
Joe Paul

Joe Paul is an American author, keynote speaker and life coach based in Washington DC. He tweets @JoePaulSpeaks. To connect with Joe Paul, please visit www.JoePaulSpeaks.com, email info@JoePaulSpeaks.com or call 202.553.7718.