Tips for Handling a Job Termination

Losing your job is a difficult situation to go through. Whether your termination is down to your performance or because the company had to make cutbacks, you should deal with the situation as positively as you can.

Often, however, that is easier said than done, as the emotions experienced from being dismissed can leave you spinning.

When you lose your job, it is common to experience a sense of worthlessness, shame, embarrassment and depression, but allowing yourself to dwell on the situation too long can make it that much harder to get back on your feet. The following tips are designed to not only give you some mental breathing space to internalize what has actually happened but also to provide practical tools for moving forward to the point where you can begin the job search again.

Often what is needed is a fresh perspective, a new assessment of your skillset and some exploratory research to find out how others deal with job loss and how they moved forward. In the end, the loss of a job, while traumatic, need not be an insurmountable obstacle.

Take Time to Grieve

Termination is a tough process to go through, so you may understandably feel angry, sad and confused. The best step you can take is to simply grieve. Letting go of your familiar daily life is not easy, and the feelings associated with losing a job involve many different factors.

It is possible that your comfortable and familiar routine has gone. Your interactions with colleagues and friends at the workplace have also disappeared. The sense of purpose your job gave you has gone. Your future employment is uncertain. That is a lot to deal with, so be kind to yourself initially, and take some time to process your situation before you move forward.

Allow yourself time to go through the grieving process in the same way you would after the end of a long relationship or the death of a loved one. Losing a job may not be as severe as the latter, but the emotions you go through will not be very different. You may feel like bottling up your emotions and searching for a new job the very day after your employment has been terminated. However, you will not be in the best frame of mind to move on when you are feeling anger, stress or self-pity. The best thing you can do is to take time out and relax for a couple of days to let the dust settle.

However, you should not grieve alone. The last thing you want is to sink into a depression and feel pressured because you are trying to deal with the situation all by yourself. That will ultimately make things worse. It is important to share the news of your termination with your loved ones, so you have the support you need to get through the preliminary stage of losing your job. Do not be afraid to share your emotions with your friends and family. The more you talk about how you feel, the easier it will be to let those emotions go and start thinking about the future.

Ask Your Employer Questions

When your employer gives you the bad news, you will probably not be thinking straight. However, it is important to ask questions regarding details like severance pay and references. You may even wish to appeal your termination, depending on the circumstances. If you are in a state of shock, it is better to make an appointment with your employer to discuss those issues later, if possible.

Questions to ask your employer could include the following:

  • Compensation, Severance Pay and Health Care. Are you entitled to compensation or severance pay? You may be, depending on the circumstances of your dismissal, so you need to ask. You should also check to see if you have any unused vacation time that can be converted to payment. You will usually have the right to continue your health care coverage, so make sure you ask about that matter. Sometimes, workers and their families can choose to continue their group health care plans for limited periods.
  • References. What information about you and your performance will be shared with future potential employers? Can your old boss give you a reference without mentioning the circumstances of your termination? Gaining this information will put you in a better position for approaching new employers.
  • Could you resign? You have nothing to lose by asking your employer if you could resign from your position rather than be terminated. There can be a stigma around being fired that can sometimes put off future employers. Therefore, it may be better to resign if you can. However, you might risk your eligibility for unemployment benefits and severance, so you need to carefully consider this course of action.
  • Discrimination. If you believe you have been let go because of discrimination, you may want to consider taking legal action. If your firing violated civil rights, then it is appropriate to take action. No one can be dismissed because of discrimination against race, age, sex, national origin, religion, veteran status or disability, so if prejudice was a factor in your termination, you can pursue a legal case.
  • Whistleblowing. If you have been fired because you are a whistleblower, you should be protected by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Employees who report health and safety violations in the workplace are not allowed to be discriminated against. If your termination is directly tied to your whistleblowing, you must file a report with OSHA.

Look to the Future

Once you have addressed all the questions you had and you have taken a few days to relax and come to terms with your new situation, it is time to pick yourself up and start with fresh eyes. Try to view the future as an opportunity. While you still may be reeling from getting fired, it is important to finally get back to the task of assessing your situation. This may very well be a good opportunity.

After you are terminated, it might be helpful to read other peoples’ stories of how they lost their jobs and overcame the rejection by turning their circumstances around. It can also help to talk to friends who have been in the same situation. This will help you to think about the future positively.

Ask yourself if you want to be in a similar position or if it is time to rethink your career and try something different. If you were not cut out for the job and you found it difficult to master all the necessary skills, you should think about pursuing a different career path or obtaining additional career training.

If you were fired because of your performance, take time to evaluate what went wrong. Are you aware of your shortcomings? Try to identify what they are so you can work on them or avoid them in your next workplace.

Start by looking back through your employer’s reviews and making notes of issues you were criticized for and accomplishments you were praised for. Did the employer give you development suggestions? If so, think about what was said and how you can implement changes in the future. It is also worth reaching out to former work colleagues to ask for honest feedback. The more you learn about your strengths and weaknesses, the more you can improve and find the right job for you.

Losing your job can be one of the most disruptive life events imaginable. However, it really can open new doors that lead to greater opportunities. Keep that in mind when you begin your search for a new job and stay focused on what actions you need to take in order to bounce back.

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