A close-up of someone holding a cardboard box with a plant and other office materials inside representing being let go.
Image: © fizkes/Stock.adobe.com

How to bounce back after being let go from a job

20 Mar 2019

Have you been let go from your job? It feels terrible, but how you bounce back is important. Hays’ Chris Dottie is here to help.

Being dismissed from your job is nothing short of horrible. If you think about it, your job comprises the majority of your time. It gives you routine and purpose and, for many of us, it is a massive part of who we are. So, to have this taken away from you is never going to be easy.

Understandably, you may be feeling lost, demoralised and a bit confused – both about how this has happened and what on Earth you should do next. I feel for you, so I’m going to try and help you take all you can from this situation before well and truly putting it behind you and moving on with your career.

1. Let yourself feel rubbish for a bit

Before I get into the practicalities of finding a new job, I would advise that you actually process being let go from your previous one – the shock, the anger or just the plain sadness. All of it.

Confide in the people you trust and don’t be ashamed to talk honestly about what’s happened. Your friends, family and so on have your back and can offer up support where needed. And, once you open up to people, you might be surprised at how many of them admit to having been through the same experience.

Talking about what’s happened will help you to accept it, and once you reach this point you’re ready to move on to the next steps.

2. Try to recollect what actually happened

The moment you were let go may seem like a blurry nightmare and you were probably in too much shock to process any feedback or information that your boss gave at the time. But, once you’re away from the situation and feeling a bit calmer, try and recollect what actually happened.

What exactly did your former boss say? What were the issues that led to your dismissal? For instance, maybe you missed your last three sales targets. Write down everything you remember from beginning to end. I often find putting pen to paper really helps me process overwhelming situations and offload some of the stress.

If you are unclear on any points that your former boss made or are struggling to recall what happened, perhaps try to arrange a phone call with them and/or the HR department. Explain that you want to learn what you can from this situation. They should hopefully oblige and, if so, this gives you a chance to leave on good terms with the company.

3. Ask yourself the difficult questions – but don’t beat yourself up as you answer them 

Once you have all of the feedback in front of you, it’s time to take a step back and ask yourself some uncomfortable questions, including the below:

  • What was the root cause of the problem? For instance, perhaps you missed your sales targets because you didn’t understand the products that you were tasked to sell
  • How clear and constructive was the feedback you received from your boss?
  • Did you ask for further support and did you get this support?
  • Did you honestly do everything you could to improve?
  • Is this the first time you have been pulled up on something like this or is there a pattern in your previous few roles?

Answering these questions won’t exactly be fun but it’s very important that you don’t agonise too much over where you went wrong. Also, remember, you may not be solely to blame – perhaps your employer could have been more supportive or a better people manager. Either way, don’t ruminate too much – it’s pointless. You can’t change the past but you can learn from it, which takes me to my next point.

4. Use this as a chance to re-evaluate your career choices

Of course, there’s every chance that you struggled or underperformed in this role because this wasn’t the right job for you or the right employer. Perhaps this opportunity didn’t play to your true passions, skills and potential. To quote Albert Einstein: “If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

Maybe you were just a fish out of water and now you need to find your natural habitat, ie a role that is a better fit for you. Start by asking yourself the below questions:

  • What are my main skills and unique selling points – both technical and soft skills?
  • What activities do I enjoy doing most – both inside and outside of work?
  • What am I passionate about?
  • What is my wider career plan?
  • What do I need from my boss in terms of support and management style?

The above can help steer you towards more suitable roles, which you would actually enjoy and perform well in. You should then update your CV, tailoring your personal statement and key skills to reflect these roles. I would also seek the advice of a recruiter on how to word your current situation on your CV when outlining your career history.

5. Work with a recruiter – and be honest with them

Reach out to a recruitment consultant who recruits for the types of roles that you are aspiring towards. Don’t just have a phone call – actually take the time to meet with them face to face so that they can get a better feel for your personality and interviewing style.

Upon meeting the recruiter, be completely upfront and honest about your recent dismissal but be professional and positive, relaying the lessons you have learned. Don’t be too quick to assign blame to your former boss. For instance, rather than saying:

  • ‘My boss threw me in at the deep end and left me to it. I struggled for weeks to hit my targets and didn’t get any support. It wasn’t my fault, but looking back I didn’t like the job anyway.’

You could say:

  • ‘I was let go in my previous role because I didn’t hit my sales targets. This was disappointing but on reflection, I’m not sure the role was the right fit for my skills and passions. However, I have learned from this experience and next time I’m struggling in a role I will take more ownership of my own performance, asking for feedback and support where needed.’

Don’t spend too much time over-explaining what happened – what’s done is done. Give them the facts, show that you have the humility and self-awareness to learn from the situation, and then move the conversation on to talking about what you do have to offer a potential employer.

Explain the types of roles you are looking for now and why your skills, passions and interests, as well as your previous experience, deem you suitable for these roles. From here you can work together to identify the kinds of opportunities that they can put you forward for.

6. Stay busy, be positive and keep your head above water

So, now that you have regrouped, updated your CV, met with a recruiter and got back to the job search, take a minute to congratulate yourself on your progress so far, because I think being let go is one of the toughest knocks a person can face in their career and it’s not easy bouncing back.

Realistically speaking, however, as you apply for jobs over the coming weeks, it might be tough staying motivated. Self-care and a positive mental attitude are key during this time, so remember the below:

  • Listen to motivational podcasts and read biographies of successful people who you look up to – no doubt they’ve had their struggles. In fact, Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey and Michael Bloomberg were all sacked by their former bosses. Take a look at their stories and let them inspire you to make the best of a bad situation
  • Reach out to your network and see if there’s anybody who could potentially mentor you through this tricky time
  • Keep up your usual routine. Use the hours you would be at work to look for jobs, go to networking events, build your online brand and learn new skills. Also, continue doing the things you would do in your leisure time to unwind – be it going to the gym, playing sports or seeing your friends

Being dismissed from your job can feel rubbish right now but one day you will simply see this as just a small blip in your career journey to date. It doesn’t define you as a professional or a person.

By Chris Dottie

Chris Dottie is managing director of Hays Spain. He joined Hays in 1996 as a consultant before assuming his current role.

A version of this article originally appeared on Hays’ Viewpoint blog.

Loading now, one moment please! Loading