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You're Fired!

June 6, 2009
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YOU’RE FIRED! This isn’t the Donald. This is real! Two words that shake your very being to the core and can have a major impact on your career moving forward unless you take a calm approach to dealing with the situation. It creates emotion, fear and anger (all at the same time) that can force you to do and say things that you normally would never consider. Now what?

STOP. Don’t panic. Take a few deep breathes, take a 10 minute walk before you react. This is not the time to let your emotions drive your behavior. You need a plan on how to handle this situation. It some cases being terminated is not always your fault. When an employer takes the action to terminate an employee there are lots of legal and HR issues to consider. If your termination is based on non performance there should be ample documentation. You should have received both verbal and written warnings well in advance of you being terminated and this may not be a surprise. There are always two sides to a story and you deserve a chance to tell yours. Don’t let the emotions get out of control as this may not be your fault.

Then there is the proverbial silver lining in the termination itself. I’ve heard from many candidates that told me being terminated may be the best thing that ever happened to them. You might find that working for your previous employer limited your growth potential. Many people that get the ax make a decision that it will never happen again and decide to start a business and create their own destiny. I did! Maybe this termination happened for a reason. Sooner or later you will know. Until then you have to have a practical way of working through this life changing event.

Make sure you understand the reasons for your termination as your employer has an obligation to provide an explanation. While it may be painful – you absolutely need to remain calm during the termination and try to listen to every word that is said. Feel free to ask questions or take notes. Remember - this meeting is all about you! Ask about severance, unused PTO payments and your final check. Make sure you understand about the new COBRA laws as the recent changes actually works to your advantage relative to the employer’s obligation to pay a larger percentage of your COBRA payments. That’s good news! Ask about the company’s policy on releasing information on former employees. A large majority of employers now only provide dates of employment and title for legal reasons. That works to your advantage. It may seem odd – but ask your manager for a personal reference. Get it in writing if possible. Reach out to other peers and managers in the company and ask them for a reference on what is was like to work with you. Get it in writing if at all possible.

Once you get through the emotions you may find that you actually feel better once you have left the building! Don’t call your co-workers to a pity party at the local bar to slam the company and discuss the specifics of what was said in your meeting. That’s all downside. Be proactive. Start to think about what you would like to do next in your career. Develop a written plan on your job search. Create or grow your LinkedIn or Facebook account and reach out to old co-workers and former managers and recruiters to let them know you are in the market. Once you begin interviewing, don’t disparage your former employer and it does not help you in any way.

Finally have a realistic expectation of what it will take to land a new job and understand that finding a job is a full time job in itself. Work 6-8 hours each day in pursuit of your next career move. It will be challenging and frustrating at times. But remember, you work in healthcare - one of the greatest industries in the US and an industry that will always be hiring.

If you are good at what you do – you will find gold in those hills. Just keep digging until you do!



Nice post, Tim.

What's your guidance regarding financial planning in the event of a termination? In other words, how much liquid assets or cash should you keep in the bank as a cushion in the event of a termination?

Great post Tim. Although you may have to fight against every fiber of your being, it's probably not the time to try and justify your performance or, God forbid, talk them out of it!

That is correct! If they want you to leave - you should find another company that values your skills and expertise. No need to be working for an organization that does not want you around.

Absolutely! If this economy has taught us anything - we all should all have a better understanding of the term "Cash is King" - now more than ever.

ABN. I like that!

One thing that I've learned, both from networking, and my recent attendance at the X3summit09, is the prevalence of virtual organizations. More and more people are working from home, spread all over the country. That means an insane amount of teleconferencing.

Personally, it was something like 10-20% of my meetings 10 years ago. Now, as I listen to other people and hear about other career opportunity, the percentage is 50%+ almost everywhere. And, with every acquisition, out-sourcing relationship, and new hire, the percentage goes up. That's modern life.

Another good acronym: NIHITO - nothing important happens in the office!

Thanks Tim for another great post for these challenging times. One thing I would add: if you really know you're good at what you do, embrace the moment while believing that better things lie ahead. I got fired once in my life (OK it was a brand new VP bringing in her old staff) and I spent that entire afternoon sitting on a dock with friends, drinking sea breezes and watching the boats go by. It was the best thing that ever happened to me, career-wise, and I have an amazing, positive memory (if it did get a little hazy later) of that day.

As the old coach used to say "The best defense is a good offense". So unless you come from the really old, old school you should always be looking, or at least networking with one eye open to opportunity. Today no organization will guarantee you a job for life, or even one year, so why should you 'guarantee' them??
Lastly, if the place you're working at today is so great and wonderful, your networking will validate that every time.
It's a mean cruel world out there...ask Donald

Thanks to all that posted and a special hello to Frank Poggio who I reported to back in my vendor days (at Citation)! Frank - I concur with your advice ABN Always Be Networking. Always!

I agree with your advice to be more conservative in terms of a cushion. Such security will also allow you to be more discerning when evaluating opportunities. I believe the calmness that money in the bank brings is palpable in an interview, and makes a candidate much more attractive.

Save as much as you can, I think, is the message for all times and situations.

The rules have changed (a lot) in the past 12 months. I would normally say six months - but that may not be enough even if you are in HCIT. You have to think about the potential of relocation and the time it will take to land a new role. I am by no means a financial expert but I would say a cushion of 9-12 months seems to be a better number regarding cash on hand. The market will get better - but I would take more of a conservative approach to make sure you have enough cash to give you that cushion. Plus (hopefully) a termination should also provide some unpaid PTO and severance dollars.
Hope that helps!