How to Recover Your Career after Being Fired


While being fired from a job is never the ideal situation and can make career progression more complicated for a little while, it is not the end of your professional life.  You can recover and make the experience a positive one in the long run.

Paul Anderson, managing director of the Seattle-based career management and job search firm ProLango Consulting Inc. said, “Sometimes it really is a blessing, and it’s almost like you got a present from the universe.  Just take advantage of that self-reflection opportunity to find something even better.”

Read on to learn how to recover from being fired.

The Reason

There are several reasons why someone could get laid off or fired.  Tony Lee on wrote,

“While it’s natural to want to mask the shame of being terminated, the truth is that incompetence and performance problems aren’t the primary reasons people are let go. The usual causes range from staff reductions, mergers and changes in corporate direction to personality clashes, political conflicts and bad chemistry with the boss. Sometimes, however, firing does reflect personal failure: a person doesn’t perform up to standards, is habitually late to work, has excessive absenteeism, takes excessively long lunch hours, has cost the company business or failed to bring new business in, or doesn’t conform to a company’s way of doing things.”

If the reason you got fired is because of something you did, it is important to accept accountability.  Being in denial about anything you did wrong will not help you get another job.  Something that could be helpful is discussing the situation with a friend, coworker, or career coach that is not biased. Ask this person to assess the situation and accredit the right amount of blame to you and your employer. Don’t do this with someone who will be overly sympathetic or just choose your side because they are loyal to you. You need to have a realistic picture of what went wrong and what led to you being fired so you don’t proceed to look for a new job with a false perception of yourself and your experience.  Try to understand why you were fired, and then learn from it.

Have an unbiased 3rd party evaluate your layoff

Depending on the situation, you could negotiate how your employer will describe your departure to future jobs. Perhaps he will be willing to describe your parting in neutral terms.  Whatever the reason for your fire, if you handle being fired with dignity and grace you are setting yourself up for more potential benefits.  Your boss most likely feels bad about having to let you go, and if you take it well, he might agree to a better severance package, or give you good references and contacts.  Also, there is always the chance you could cross paths with your former employer down the road.  Your last impression will probably stick with him, so make it a good one.

Avoid/get out of the self-defeating rut

Whatever the reason for being fired, it’s common to feel fear, powerlessness, frustration, anger, stress, insecurity, and depression.  However, don’t let the psychological strain turn you into a mess.  Stay calm. Freaking out won’t do anything to help you get back on your feet sooner.

Don’t take it out on anyone. Now is a time that your reputation is weak, and you need to do all you can to protect it. The worst thing you could do would be lashing out or seeking revenge, since this will completely burn that bridge with your boss.

Don’t sleep in until late all week, watch endless hours of TV, or play video games all day. This self-defeating rut will do nothing good for you or your career.

Stay calm after being fired

Instead, first take a few days to calm down and let go of the panic and anger you feel.  If you immediately start applying for new jobs, these negative emotions will likely shine through, make a bad impression, and scare people off.  Work through your feelings, and if needed vent your frustration by talking with trusted friends and relatives.  Once you feel like you are in a better place emotionally, redirect your energy into productive and beneficial activities. Obviously, this is easier said than done. However, it is doable and will help you get back on your feet quicker.

Fill your down time

Here are some ideas of ways to spend your time while on the hunt for your next job:

Keep busy in between jobs


Consider a new career path

While it is not a necessary move, right after getting fired is a good time to consider other career options.

When you’re unemployed, you have a chance to explore new careers and fields, find a better-fitting job, or perhaps even start your own business. An enforced sabbatical provides an excellent opportunity for self-rediscovery. Who are you? Why do you do what you do? What do you really want to do for work?”

Consider exploring new careers while you're unemployed

Take some time to reflect on your career choice and decide if you would be happier with a change.  If you are unsatisfied with the career path you were headed down, now would be a great time to try something else.

Applying for jobs

Perhaps it has been a while since you’ve had to find a job.  When you are ready to apply for jobs, recall these basic job-hunting steps:

1. Remember that your connections are your best resource.  Think through past coworkers, friends, family, teachers, neighbors, or anyone that you think could and would help connect you with the right people. Knowing someone at a company you’re applying at that will attest to your value will help overcome the blemish of having been fired.  If you don’t have many connections, or if there are other specific companies you’re interested in, apply to those as well.

Your connections are your best resource for getting a job

2. Next, touch up your basic resume, and then tailor it to each position and company you are applying for.

3. Write a unique cover letter to go with your tailored resumes.

4. Spend a lot of time preparing for your interviews.  Rehearse your answers to common questions, have stories about yourself ready, think of good questions to ask the interviewers, and wear the right clothes.


“Why were you fired?”

When you start interviewing with new companies, they are most likely going to ask why you left your last job.  When explaining why you were fired, you must answer carefully in order to not ruin your chances of being considered for the job.  When asked this question, it is very important to avoid speaking negatively about your previous boss and coworkers.  Avoid blaming others, talking about work gossip and drama at your last job, and whining about how you weren’t appreciated.  Avoid complaining, and instead give the impression that you are a good team player.  Employers see how you talk about your last job as a good indicator of what kind of employee you will be at your next.

Be honest when explaining why you were fired

When explaining why you were fired, be honest.  However, be factual, brief, and professional about how you explain.  Tell what happened, what you learned from the experience, and why it will not be a problem in the future.  Tell the truth—the interviewer could always call your previous employer, and you don’t want to be stuck in a lie.  If you weren’t fired for a mistake you made, explain that your previous employer had to let some people go due to the economic situation.  This is very understandable. Conclude with a positive attitude about how you are eager and ready to work again. provides a few excellent options of how you can respond to the “Why did you leave your last job?” question:


Spend a lot of time preparing and practicing your answer to this question and others so that you feel confident and prepared going into your interviews.  With the red flag of having just been fired, you will really have to ace your interviews and show how great of an employee you would be in order to get the job.

Don’t sell yourself short.

Just because you were fired does not mean you should simply take whatever you can get.  You might not get your dream job next, and it would be naive to expect a much higher position and a big increase in salary, but don’t start scrubbing toilets just because you can get the job.  Rosa Vargas at said,

“Research and target companies selectively. It is understandable that when you are out of work you would seek any employment with any company. However, I am advising you to instead become more strategic in your job search. Research and match your qualifications with the best opportunity. Invest considerable time in mapping out companies of interest near your home (location can be a big factor in the hiring process), and personalize your job search so that your self-marketing plan is more persuasive.”

Think through your options and be smart in your job hunt.  Be realistic but look for progression in your career.


Keep in mind that anyone could get fired for a variety of reasons, and most people do get fired at least once in their career.  Don’t let this cripple you—face the situation with a positive attitude and do all you can to move on with your career.

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