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Tips for Handling a Job Termination

When a job ends it is easy to find yourself depressed and directionless.

This is especially true if your job loss came unexpectedly. Regardless of the reason for the termination of your job, eventually you must begin to look for work again. Getting past the shock, anger and worry a job loss brings often makes this difficult.

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While no specific rule book exists for how each individual should handle the loss of a job, most experts agree on developing coping skills or tips.

The following tips are designed to give you suggestions for moving forward, gaining some mental breathing space as well as offer practical strategies for moving past the event. Often all that is needed is a fresh perspective, placing the loss of your job in its proper space on your life’s timeline.

In the end, losing your job may not be the traumatic incident it initially seemed to be originally. In fact, losing your job opens up doors you may never have considered.

Take Time to Grieve

Most terminations are stressful events, even if your supervisor or company CEO is kind about it. Trying to remain upbeat and unfazed by the event right after it has happened is not only unrealistic, but it does not help you move past the emotions surrounding the firing any quicker. In fact, it actually slows down the process.

Be kind to yourself and give yourself the space you need to feel badly about the loss. You may miss your friends from work, worry what others are going to think of you or worry about how you are going to meet your financial obligations. Resist the urge to immediately start looking for work for the first few days after you lose your job. You are not at your best during this time and may not complete applications as well as you might or give your best interviews.

During this time of self-reflection and regrouping, make a point of sharing the situation with family and friends to whom you are close. Not only is your support network there to assist you through the grieving process, but in the end your network may have job leads you can follow up. The worst thing to do is to hide the termination from your family and friends.

Ask Your Employer Questions

If you suspect your termination is imminent, it is a good idea to have a list of questions to ask that may help you in future employment situations. Many companies have exit interviews. If this is the case for you, prepare questions ahead of time. Not only do they give you invaluable insight as to your termination, but it allows you to leave gracefully and possibly wiser.

If you plan to appeal your termination, do not argue the point at the time of your termination or exit interview. Make an appointment to speak with them at a later date about it. This gives you time to hear what is said and make a case for yourself when the emotional aspect has calmed.

Potential questions to ask during the exit interview or termination discussion include:

  • Am I due any severance pay?
  • How is healthcare handled?
  • If I have vacation time, can this be converted into salary?
  • Will they provide a good reference for you?
  • Do they have any suggestions for other employment?
  • Instead of being terminated, can you resign instead?

You must weigh the pros and cons of resigning, as opposed to being terminated, because if you resign then you do not receive unemployment benefits. Being terminated in your industry may carry a stigma you would rather not have moving forward.

If you believe discrimination was involved in your termination, take legal action. It is against the law in the U.S. to be fired because of your gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity age, religion or if you are disabled or a veteran. If you believe prejudice factored into your termination, speak with an attorney specializing in wrongful termination to see if you truly have a case.

U.S. law protects workers who report unsafe conditions in their work environment. This is called the whistleblower law and states that workers who come forward to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cannot be penalized by their employers.  File a report directly with OSHA if this has happened to you.

Look to the Future

After a few days of dealing with the reality of the situation, it is time to formulate a plan for finding your next job. In many respects you possess a chance to reinvent yourself, change careers or pursue a hobby you want to turn into a career. The first step is to make a list of your skills, abilities, credentials, education and interests. Many occupations overlap when it comes to the skills required to do them well.

If you lost your job because you lacked training, then take this time to master those skills or attend classes locally or online. Losing your job because of performance issues is tough to hear but look at the situation as objectively as possible. Is it possible you need to work on your shortcomings before attempting reemployment in the same field?

Another good exercise is to place yourself in your bosses’ shoes and review yourself as a worker. What were the issues you would criticize yourself for during reflection? Were you given suggestions for improvement, but did not follow through? How can you do things differently next time? Call former colleagues to ask them for honest feedback about your job performance.

Create a plan for your job search that includes reaching out through social media, face to face meetings with friends and family members, and networking within various trade associations to find employment opportunities. Make gaining employment your day job, putting in at least as much time searching and working on getting a job as you would if you were already in your new position. Your time and patience pay off eventually.

Consider thinking outside of the box and applying for positions outside of your specific industry or field, especially if your qualifications overlap into other occupations. For example, even though you worked in marketing for a large grocer, you are employable by a local nonprofit to maintain their social media and public relations campaigns. Thinking creatively often turns up ideal work situations you have not considered.