“You’re Fired.” Now What?

A young woman with her hair disheveled looking stressed

Whether you love or hate your job, you count on the income it brings in. So what are you supposed to do when those two terrible words, “you’re fired,” upend your entire life?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American changes jobs more than 10 times before retirement. That’s a whole lot of shuffling around, with a strong likelihood that at least one of those changes won’t be by choice.

If it happens to you, try not to lose control or give way to panic. If you approach your departure with the following tips and strategies, you can make the best of the situation and secure a new (and better!) job quickly.

Get As Much Info As Possible

Getting fired is one of the top 10 traumatic experiences. Despite the swirl of emotions you’re feeling, it’s essential to gather as much information as possible about money-related matters: severance pay, benefits, and unemployment insurance.

If your company has more than 20 employees, you may qualify for COBRA to extend your health insurance coverage until you find a new job. Your eligibility for severance pay and unemployment insurance benefits will depend upon your specific employment situation and reason for termination.

If you are being let go due to a staff reduction in force or structural changes in the company, a HR rep will probably explain the terms of your severance and other options to you. If it’s just you, or if you’re being fired for cause, It’s also wise to rip the bandaid off and ask why. The conversation may be painful when it occurs, but you can use it as a valuable learning experience to improve your future trajectory. If you understand what led to your termination, you know not to repeat the same mistakes at a new job.

Leave On Good Terms

Even if it’s just you, and not a mass lay-off, shouting, “I hope you die soon!” as you huff out the door isn’t the best way to depart from your job. You owe it to your future career opportunities to leave on good terms.

Hold back your negative comments and complaints until you’re home. Instead, apologize for any of your choices or behavior that may have led to your termination, ask for constructive feedback, and express gratitude for the experiences you’ve had on the job. Taking this mature approach may help you secure a letter of recommendation to help you in your job search – or at least, mitigate any bad feeling that could come back to bite you.

The last thing you want is an employer calling your old company and getting an earful about your aggressive exit.

File For Unemployment (If You Qualify)

Unemployment isn’t available to all unemployed adults. If you were fired for clear misconduct, like harassing a customer, stealing, or failing a drug test, you won’t be eligible to receive unemployment compensation in most states.

However, if you were terminated for other reasons, such as company cutbacks, you could be eligible for unemployment. Make sure you meet the other qualifications:

  • Your earnings/length of employment meet your state’s minimum threshold for wages or hours
  • You were laid off or fired for anything other than misconduct
  • You can demonstrate an active job search to resolve your unemployment

Unemployment benefits are paid on a weekly basis. You can expect to receive a percentage of your past earnings, not the value of your entire former salary. Adjust your budget accordingly and start your job search.

Get Back in the Job Market

Time to dust off your resume and see what updates you can add. Use accessible job search sites like Glassdoor and LinkedIn to search for open positions in your area, and set automatic job alerts to get a heads-up when suitable positions in your field get posted. Remember to tap into your personal network of friends and old colleagues as well. You never know when an opportunity or offer will present itself.

Set yourself goals, like applying for a certain number of jobs or contacting a certain number of people each day. Think about how to market and present yourself, practicing answers to interview questions. Your perseverance will pay off sooner than you think, allowing you to make a fresh start where you’ll thrive.

Don’t wait to get out of debt! Read this: A Complete, Step-By-Step Guide to Get Out of Debt.