Being laid off, fired, or otherwise terminated isn’t a good feeling. It’s a hit to your confidence, no matter how self-assured you are. The average adult who works full-time spends more time at work than performing any other single task (except sleeping, but does that really count?) so it makes sense that our careers are a huge part of our identity. It’s only human to go over what went wrong or wonder what you could have done differently. A little self-pity and wallowing in your misfortune are human nature.

While it’s natural to take getting fired personally and feel like you’re facing an uphill battle to resuscitate your career, getting fired is more common than you might think. A recent study by the Harvard Business Review followed 2,600 professionals for a decade and found that 48% of them experienced a major career setback and 18% were fired. The study also found that 91% of people who were fired went on to find an equivalent or better role within a year. Those are pretty good odds.

It might go against your instincts, but there’s good reason to maintain a positive attitude after being fired. Here are some tips to help you bounce back and find your next job opportunity.


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don’t be ashamed

Getting fired happens to the best of us. Many of the most successful people in the world have been fired from jobs in their industry. Steve Jobs was fired by Apple in the 80s before returning to lead the company in one of the most famous comeback stories of all time. Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor because ‘he lacked imagination and had no good ideas.’ Michael Bloomberg used his severance cheque to establish his namesake company and become the 9th richest person in the world. Oprah was told she was ‘unfit for television news’ because she was too invested in the stories she covered. Being fired doesn’t have to say anything about you if you don’t want it to. Allow yourself a moment to feel upset, angry, hurt or whatever other negative emotions you need to. But then pick yourself up and decide what you want to do and be next. This isn’t the end of your career, it’s a new beginning, even if it’s a little challenging to see that right now.

know your rights and read your employment contract

Most provinces in Canada have laws about how and when employers can lay off or fire employees, and when they must offer severance or other forms of compensation. The length of your service, age and other factors may play a role. Even if you’re not entitled to severance under the law, the employment contract you signed when you started your job may require your former employer to provide some form of compensation. In the majority of cases, your former employer will honour their commitments, but it’s still important that you know what you’re entitled to. If you have reason to believe that your former employer has run afoul of the law (or a legally binding contract) get in touch with an employment lawyer. Discriminatory or retaliatory firings are examples of situations where it’s worth reaching out to a lawyer. Many lawyers in this field offer no-cost consultations to determine whether or not your case has merit.

apply for EI

Employment insurance is meant to tide you over financially while you search for a new job. You might have noticed a deduction on each of your paycheques that goes to EI. That money goes into a pool to support recently unemployed Canadians and fund various types of paid work leave, such as maternity and paternity leave. According to the government of Canada’s website, as of January 1st 2019, employment insurance covers up to 55% of your earnings when you lose your job, and you can receive a maximum of about $562 per week. EI payments last between 14 and 45 weeks, depending on the unemployment rate in your area and how many hours you worked in the past year. Apply as soon as you’re eligible to make the most of your benefits. Keep in mind if you were fired for cause or because of a labour dispute you might not be eligible at all.

make a plan

Before applying to jobs, decide what direction you want to head in next. Do you want a role that’s similar to your last one? Or do you want to take this opportunity to shift your career trajectory? Maybe you’ve gained some new skills and a change of industry could be lucrative. Perhaps you want to focus on roles that have a stronger management component? Before you jump head first into looking for a new job and papering your resume all over town, decide what kind of role makes the most sense for the next stage of your career. Don’t fall into the trap of believing that you deserve whatever you can find because you were let go from your job. Your career is still yours to control.

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clean up your professional brand

Before you start applying to jobs, evaluate your professional brand and your online presence. Check out our article on how to do a thorough social media scrub. Also make sure that the message you’re putting online matches with where you want to go next, rather than where you’ve been. Avoid expressing your frustration about being fired online. Though it may be tempting to rant to your Twitter following about your terrible experience, ringing alarm bells about how you were treated unfairly or desperately need a new job can scare away potential employers. It’s not fair but many employers have a bad habit of disregarding unemployed people as less hire-able. So avoid saying things like ‘searching for new opportunities’ on your LinkedIn profile and other social bios. Employers know this means ‘I don’t have a job’ and can look upon it unfavourably. Focus on your expertise and what you do well. For example: ‘HR professional with 5 years of recruitment experience’ is preferable to ‘Searching for a new HR opportunity!’

update your resume

If you weren’t actively looking for a job before you were let go, it’s critical to update your resume before you start job hunting. It’s not enough to add your latest job or update start and end dates. Your resume is a marketing document and it should be tailored to the type of role you’re hoping to find next. Make sure it contains a clear story about your skills and work experience. Avoid the ‘I’ll take anything I can get’ mentality if you can afford it. Being fired and without steady income can be intimidating, but if you open yourself up to taking whatever job comes your way, you may end up back on the job hunting circuit sooner rather than later. Check out our ultimate resume writing guide for tips on how to write a resume that’ll help you get the job you want.

build your narrative

It’s pretty unlikely that you’ll get through the entire job hunting process without being asked about how you left your last role. You should prepare an answer that explains what happened on your terms. Your answer should be more nuanced than ‘I was let go’ – this is your chance to share your story and explain the factors that contributed to you leaving the company (even if they were out of your control). Make sure potential employers know you’re looking forward now and taking the situation as a fresh start and chance to grow. However, if a hiring manager asks outright if you were fired, it’s typically in your best interest to be honest. Being caught in a lie is not a good idea, especially if you’re providing references or there’s a chance they might speak to someone from your previous job. People are let go from jobs all the time and it shouldn’t be a deal breaker, especially if you were qualified enough to bring in for a job interview.

be selective about where you apply

When you’re currently out of a job, it can be tempting to throw your resume at every job opportunity that comes your way and see what sticks, but that can actually come back to bite you. If you’re tossing your resume all over town and not applying to jobs that interest you, you may end up in a role that’s not right for you. Take a little time to customize your applications and focus on applying for opportunities that are in line with your skills and where you want to be. You’ll have a higher chance of success, and end up in a role that you actually want.


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