Justin W. Anisman is an Employment Lawyer and principal of Anisman Law. Justin advises both companies and individuals in all aspects of employment law including wrongful dismissal, human rights and discrimination.
Being fired is a terrible emotional blow and it can often be very difficult to move on. So much of who we are as individuals arises from the jobs we hold; so much of how we define ourselves is based on “what we do” for a living. It is not surprising that getting fired is often described as one of life’s most stressful and devastating events.
Because it is quite easy to become overwhelmed, I wanted to share my advice on how to best respond to getting fired and moving on in a positive and rewarding manner.
Step 1: Remain Professional and Be Above Reproach While Being Fired
The first important moment after being fired comes during the termination call or meeting. You may receive a phone call out-of-the-blue or get called suddenly into a meeting with your boss and an HR representative. It’s hard not to feel ambushed or attacked. Legally speaking, an employer does not have to give you a reason for firing you, which often can be very frustrating.
There are lots of ways your employer can say you’ve been fired, laid off, terminated, let go, dismissed, downsized, releaved, eliminated, parted ways, unhired, retired, restructured, outsourced, released, severed, asked to resign, scaled back, destaffed, unscheduled, canned, axed, sacked, don’t come back, “your employment offer has been withdrawn”, given notice, selected out, asked to leave, “Security!”. Some ways are kinder than others.
You may believe that your termination is totally unjustified, that it is discrimination under the Human Rights Code or an act of reprisal for insisting on your employment law rights. You may be absolutely right.
However, the termination call or meeting is not the time or place to respond. The best thing you can do is to sit quietly and listen. You should feel free to ask for clarification on anything they say (without arguing) and you can ask for a reason (though they don’t have to tell you). But don’t respond, make excuses, or argue with them. Don’t sign anything. Do your best to just listen.
It is in your best interest to act professionally at all times.
Remember that, if this is a large company, the people firing you likely have been told to do so and have no ability to change their mind in that meeting. Ontario is a small community and you don’t want to burn bridges or embarrass yourself because you may end up working with these people somewhere else in the future.
You may also need references from your former employer, which may be difficult to obtain if you leave on less than professional terms.
Step 2: Try to Maintain a Positive Outlook After Being Fired
It is all too easy to fall into a rut of depression and embarrassment after being let go from your job. I’ve seen people too afraid to tell their spouse or family. Often people are too overwhelmed to get our of bed. Frankly, after being dismissed from a particularly hostile or toxic work environment, most people need a vacation.
Do not beat yourself up. Take the time you need to recover. In fact, the Courts have said that, after being fired, workers do NOT have to immediately start looking for new work but can take sometime to heal.
Overcoming or rising above the whole emotional challenges associated with getting fired is not easy and requires some grieving time. It is important to give yourself time to feel sorry for yourself, indulge in some pamper time and prepare to get ready to shift to a positive attitude that enables you to harness the opportunities that await. It is ok to permit yourself to take the time to work through the complicated emotions.
Try to think of it as an unexpected opportunity to uncover a new career, new direction and achieve personal growth. Step back and consider it a chance to discover new things about yourself and build self-awareness. Ultimately, you should be able to accept what has happened even if you don’t agree and can refocus on the future. This approach will serve you well in many respects
Step 3: Speak to an Employment Lawyer
I don’t write these articles to hard sell, but I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to speak with an employment lawyer as soon as possible after you’ve been fired. Where it is me or another lawyer, pick up the phone and call for a free consultation.
After being fired, both you and your employer have post-employment obligations. You should get advice about what your obligations are in terms of keeping your former employers information confidential, whether you are allowed to speak with former colleagues, customers or clients, about your termination and what you can say, among many other things.
Likewise, your employer almost certainly owes you termination and/or severance pay. An employment lawyer, will help you determine:
- How much notice, termination pay and severance your employer should have give to you; and
- Whether or not a claim should be filed with the Ontario Court, the Employment Standards Office or the Human Rights Tribunal;
Knowing the rules employers need to follow and learning how to protect your rights is an important part of the recovery steps from being fired. Calling an employment lawyer after being fired should be as common and natural to you as calling your insurance company after a fire, or applying for Employment Insurance.
Step 4: Apply for Employment Insurance
Employment insurance is meant to tide employees over financially while they search for a new job. So it is wise to apply for it as soon as possible following the firing.
Step 5: Begin the Search for New Employment
Once you have secured yourself emotionally and financially, it’s time to start looking for new employment. You should start job searching like it’s your job.
Resume / CV
The first step to the job search, whether you were with your employer for a long time or otherwise, is to update or create your Resume / CV. Make sure your most relevant and recent experience is included and that your resume highlights your strengths.
The resume is a marketing tool and it should be developed to respond to the type of job that you chose. It is not enough to simply add the latest job or update start and end dates. Clear statements that reflect your skills and experience help to make sure your new career objectives are achieved. Don’t be afraid to tailor your resume for the job you’re applying for.
Social Media Accounts
Once you have your CV, it is wise to review your social media accounts. Attention should be taken to make sure that the content and message are appropriate and professional.
Of note here is the importance of not expressing any frustration about being fired or your prior employer. In fact, during the highly emotional phase of being fired, it is recommended to step away from social media for a while.
Job Search Resources
For those people who have been out of the job market for sometime, you should familiarize yourself with some of the many online job posting websites. Sign up for accounts with Indeed, Monster.ca, and Google Jobs. Most companies that are hiring these days post their jobs online here.
Also, don’t forget about job recruiters who are always looking for good candidates to place with organizations in need of workers.
Preparing Interview Questions
The job-hunting process will inevitably involve being asked about why you left your last job. You should focus on developing strong answers. This activity will help you respond to difficult questions about the firing in a calm and effective manner. Remember to include in your answer what you’ve learned for your experiences. Have you identified opportunities for growth?
Also prepare to answer some of the most common interview questions:
- Tell Me About Yourself.
- Why Do You Want This Job?
- Why Should We Hire You?
- What’s Your Greatest Strength?
- What’s Your Greatest Weakness?
- What Are Your Salary Expectations?
The Take Away
The process of re-entering the job market lends itself, in many ways, to learn and grow from the experience of getting fired. While always stressful and overwhelming, often the outcome is more positive than where you started. When one door closes another one opens.