If you’ve just been fired, you’re probably reeling from the surprise and disappointment. Even more than that, you’re probably wondering how you’ll find another job and how you’ll support yourself until then. No matter how traumatic the experience of being fired is, it’s not a death sentence for your career or for your bank account.
Keep your cool. No matter how hurt or angry you are, never argue with your employer about your termination. Once he’s decided to fire you, it’s highly unlikely that anything you say could persuade him to change his mind. Leaving on contentious terms could damage your reputation and prevent you from using the employer as a reference. If you attempt to sue or pursue other legal action, other employers may hesitate to hire you for fear you’ll do the same to them.
Assess your financial situation. Before you do anything, conduct a thorough evaluation of your circumstances, including how much money you have in savings, how much you owe and what your monthly expenses are. Calculate how long you can realistically live on your savings until you find another position. Plan a budget to help you say within those financial constraints. Cut whatever costs you can to help the money last longer.
Evaluate your career outlook. As you prepare to re-enter the job market, consider what you have to offer an as employee and whether those skills meet the needs of employers. Things may have changed since you started your last job, and what you brought to the table then may not attract employers now. Research your industry to identify what skills you need, such as new computer programs, certifications or advanced degrees. Talk to people just entering your profession and ask about their experiences. Find out what kinds of questions employers ask in interviews, what qualifications companies are seeking and what kind of salary and benefits are being offered.
Start your job search immediately. Even if your employer gives you two weeks’ notice, don’t wait those two weeks to start looking for another position. Update your resume to reflect your experience and achievements from your last job, then start searching the want ads, sending resumes to companies and networking with people in your industry to determine who’s hiring and what you need to do to get an interview.
Line up references. Being fired can make it more difficult to find another job, but with preparation, you can minimize the damage. Before you leave your old job, ask your boss if she’s willing to provide a good reference, and if not, find other references from the company, such as co-workers. If you don’t use your former boss as a reference, be prepared for the interviewer to ask why, and have an honest, credible explanation.
Negotiate your severance package. In the CNN Money article “5 Tips: How to Deal With ‘You’re Fired,’” employment attorney Steven Mitchell Sack advises newly terminated employees never to accept the company’s first offer of a severance package. Employees have leverage during lay-off or termination talks, Sack adds, because employers want to avoid potential lawsuits or lengthy pay disputes. He recommends asking for a negotiating session and speaking to an adviser or attorney to help you determine a fair package. Once you’ve agreed on an offer, get the terms in writing.