“Did you hear I got fired?”
How you talk about it may help you land your next job
New York, NY – July 1, 2011 – The last thing you want to do is tell people you’ve been fired or laid-off, but one expert says your story about getting the boot can be the first step to a new job.
Career expert and corporate navigator Amanda Mitchell says how you tell family, friends and even strangers how you lost your job is as important as that next job interview.
“You should have an explanation that puts the event in context, positions you well, and helps you process the event more quickly,” says Mitchell, founder of Our Corporate Life, which provides career strategies for corporations and individuals.
“The goal is to tell the truth in a way that allows others to understand the context in a fair way. You want to have a stock answer if someone asks why you’re no longer working at your last company, and then you want to move on.”
Mitchell recommends creating a powerful story, “one that is true and doesn’t put you in the role of victim. If you were fired for cause, take responsibility for your part in the situation. If it was a lay-off, you might explain you saw this coming since part of your job is to understand how the company makes money.”
If you should get your notice – whether in a meeting with human resources or by a letter – Mitchell advises you remain calm and go to a quiet place to write down everything that happened before you talk to anyone. Note the day and time, who was at the meeting, what they said, what reasons for the firing or lay-off were given, and other details.
“You want to be strategic in how you communicate what happened – even with your family,” says Mitchell. “If you come home and curse the company to high heaven and talk about how horrible they were and how unfair it was, your friends and family will see you as a victim – which is not a power position.”
Your best connections for future work may come through friends and family, she points out, and you want them to regard you as the professional you are, especially if you plan to ask them for job references.
Take responsibility and be accountable for your part in the scenario, says Mitchell. “Any time you’re working with others, you have a hand in what happens.” For example:
Maybe you could have extended yourself in ways that would have changed perceptions of your work?
Perhaps you were in the wrong job all along, and should have moved on years ago?
Maybe it was purely economic and you should have been consistently working your network while you were working?
Mitchell says coming up with a plausible and honest story about why you were let go is also a crucial step toward getting over what can be a traumatic experience. “I’m not suggesting that you don’t vent to loved ones. Just tell them in advance that’s what you’re doing so they don’t read into it – and make sure you do it privately.”
Also be careful when using social media, email, or just ‘chatting.’
“Your guard will be down and you may feel compelled to go ‘off script’ when you hear others talking about their experience being fired or laid off. Remember that you’re always positioning yourself for that next job, which is why you want to create a powerful story for yourself, so you won’t inadvertently fall into that trap in innocuous conversations.”
Mitchell has firsthand experience when it comes to the trauma of being fired. “When I worked in corporate America, one of my job responsibilities was closing down businesses, so I’ve laid off literally hundreds of people,” she explains. “I’ve also been on the receiving end of a layoff conversation.”
She recommends taking some time to absorb what happened before you jump right back into action. “I’ve seen executives panic and immediately start calling around to their network to find jobs,” she says. “They do much more harm than good because they’ve not thought through how to handle potential questions and can inadvertently say the wrong things. Desperation is very easy to spot, and you need to project confidence and be powerful in your communications.”
About Amanda Mitchell and Our Corporate Life
Amanda Mitchell is the founder of Our Corporate Life LLC (www.ourcorporatelife.com), a company that offers a new system for reducing unnecessary workplace suffering caused by the organizational, interpersonal, and ethical issues of our time. Our Corporate Life is founded on the belief that adhering to core human values and achieving business success are always compatible, a belief crystallized during her corporate career each time she witnessed a company sacrifice profitability by wasting human capital. Subscribe to the Our Corporate Life® biweekly ezine (www.ourcorporatelife.com/subscribe) for tips on how you can thrive in the workplace.