How to Move On From Getting Fired

career coaching career search job search moving on moving on from getting fired tech leader power lunch tech leaders what to do next Jan 31, 2021


Hey everyone, it's Melisa here! Today's topic for the Tech Leader Power Lunch is, “How to Move on From Getting Fired.” I am excited to share this content with you today!


  • I'll give you a quick intro in case we haven't met yet, then
  • we're going to talk about just a story that I think you might really resonate with of someone who has recently been fired and worked through this process.
  • And then we're going to dive into the three steps to move on powerfully from getting fired. And we're going to do a few exercises as we go.

So grab, if you are in a place where you can write, a paper and a pen. And we'll do a little bit of work here today. If you're driving or something like that, you can always refer back to the slides when I send them out on Monday.

Thank you for joining today! I, if we haven't met yet, I'm Melisa Liberman. I am a former tech executive who worked most of my career at in a SAS startup company, we built it to a quarter of a billion-dollar exit. And now for the last nine years, I've been focusing on my own business as a career coach and helping other tech leaders get exactly what they want out of their career, as I have with mine, so I'm excited to help you today with any with this topic that you might be struggling with.

What Happened?

Most of the people that I talked to who are in some scenario where they've been fired or let go even furloughed in this environment. They, you know, come to me and say I've always been the go-to person, I've never failed. And now all of a sudden, something unthinkable has happened. I've talked to a few people lately, they call it the incident, right? Something there's out of the blue shocking has happened.

“Jane” and 100’s More Like “Jane”

I just want to give you a little bit of a story. We'll call this person, a former client, Jane Doe just to protect her identity. But essentially, you know, she came to me and said, you know, “Melisa, I it's been a few months, I was a let go. And I'm not even embarrassed to be saying this right now to be honest with you. But I just had I need some help. I was let go and on the surface of it when I was let go. It felt like the reason was, I feel like my boss felt like I was it was I was threatening her not physically obviously, but you know with her performance and that kind of thing.” And similarly, right like if you're let go from COVID I feel like you know on the surface of things that, I was let go for this reason that feels very logical for COVID or because of budgets or perhaps the company changed direction, or perhaps your boss felt threatened, or they're just simply inept, right? There's all these reasons on the piece of paper.

But, what Jane said to me, you know, almost on the piece of paper, it makes perfect sense to me. And logically how I describe it to people makes perfect sense. But under the surface, I just have this crazy amount of second guessing and self-doubt. And I wonder like, Is it really because my boss felt threatened? Or is it really because of COVID? Or is it because something's wrong with me, something's missing - something's, you know, not there anymore that I used to have. Or maybe I didn't even ever have it before. And she's said, You know, I need some help trying to figure out how to reconcile all of this. So that because I know, it's showing up in my networking and my interviews, as I'm approaching this job search.

So we started really looking at diving in and peeling back the onion, right, - to figure out exactly what happens. And what she was making it mean, under the covers, and how that was impacting the way that she was talking to people how she was explaining what happened, how she was networking, or not networking, or how she was showing up in her job interviews, which for her, she was getting almost to the end every time. And then she wasn't getting an offer. She was like, “I'm at my wit's end, I cannot figure out like, I, you know, I'll tell you exactly what I'm saying about why I left this last job, it sounds really good, but something's wrong.” And what we figured out was, she was believing all these things about herself that weren't, that were holding her back from really powerfully interviewing, and asking for the job.

I give you that example, because I walked Jane through some of the exercises that I'm going to share with you today. And the process that I'm going to share with you today, and hopefully, it will do the same thing for you that it did for Jane, which is really get her to the place of awareness and figure out where the fact that she got fired is holding her back, and with how it was showing up in her job search, and ultimately how to address it.

3 Steps to Move On Powerfully From Being Fired

  1. Understand what happened
  2. Explain what happened
  3. Avoid further impacts of what happened, right, whatever's happened, you're probably on this webinar, because you were fired in some capacity. And so, we don't want any further impacts to occur from this.

Step 1: Understand What Happened

So many of us, especially in technology are black and white, right? There's an answer to everything. It's very clear. It's very factual, on our website, very analytical. And that's how we kind of see the world right? But there is truly no one answer as to why you would let go. No one truth. And so, like Jane, so many of us kind of have these one truth, right, like here's the public facing reason, the brave face like I was let go because of COVID. But then underneath the surface, we have this internal self-doubt and fear. Things like I said, with Jane, right, “I wonder was I really let go of because of COVID? Or was it because they didn't see the value in what I do anymore? Or my career has piqued? Or maybe I wasn't even good at what I did in the first place. I just kind of got lucky. Someone figured that out.”

So, whatever this is, for most people, there isn't one answer. There's not one truth. I was let go of code for because of COVID. Most of us have, you know, if we start peeling back the onion like I did with Jane, we start seeing there's the public facing reason the one we put on with a brave face. And then there's this internal thing that we're constantly questioning and the second guessing, which is not useful, and is what happens, what ends up impacting the ability for us to show up powerfully in this job search.

So, what is useful in this case to really understand what happened and diagnose it is to look at the fact that you were fired or let go as the circumstance, right, just that sentence, I was fired, I was let go.

That's it doesn't mean anything necessarily about you or your capabilities or that kind of thing. And I'll give you a couple of exercises to explain more in detail what I'm talking about right now. But if you're not able to get to the place where it's a neutral circumstance, it's just something that happens, and not really seeing it for the impact that it's had on you. Then it turns into things like complaining, like, why did that company make that choice? JOHN is still there. And he's a horrible employee. And somehow, I was the one who was let go, even though I'm above my numbers, or, you know, whatever that dialogue is, or it shows up, as I'm over explaining in an interview situation, right, or a networking situation about why I was let go, I can't even leave it at COVID. I have to kind of qualify and overexplain or it turns or it sounds like avoiding right? I might even be avoiding the job search entirely or networking entirely. Because I don't want to explain anything to anyone or I'm just indulging in the situation like, Oh, I overthinking thinking over and over again. Why was I let go? Why wasn't someone so let go? Why? You know, why didn't they see the value in what I'm doing? Why are they not? Maybe I don't even have any value anymore. Like those kinds of things, questioning yourself wondering about, you know, figuring out why this all happened to you. Trying to figure that out, right? There is no one answer, but you're trying to find the answer to somehow satisfy it's like when someone breaks up with you. I don't know most of us probably haven't been haven't dated in a long time. But think about back to when you were dating and someone breaks up with you, and they give you the answer whatever the answer is, but it's never enough, right? I need to know the real answer. Tell me why. So that I can fix it. Like those kinds of things. There's never that real answer out there. There's just the point of let's get to the place where for you specifically, you feel like you have come to terms with what with the fact that you were let go. And you can embrace the answer the good, bad and the ugly, and then move on without it constantly bringing you back. And creating that cycle again, of wondering and questioning.

So, in order to get to the place where you feel like you've really reconciled what happened, you're at peace with what happened. You don't need to revisit what happened for any reason, other than to simply answer a question if asked.

Exercise 1:

  • Brainstorm out what are all your thoughts about why you were fired? So, let's just kind of like Jane, right? Give me all of the thoughts put these down on the piece of paper. And here we're talking about the stuff that literally you lift up the rock and shine the light and like the cockroaches scatter, right? But really being honest with yourself in this in this process.
  • Dissect - Now I want you just to take a step back and put on your analytical glasses, and just ask yourself one by one, which of these are facts, and which of these are complete guesses? Like for my client Jane, for example, she truly thought the reason why she was fired is because she was thrive that her boss felt threatened by what she was contributing to the team.

But what that ended up doing having that thought about why she was fired, it made her feel like she should kind of lessen herself, right make herself smaller when she goes on to this job search and in the interviews. And that's what was holding her back from getting an offer, because she just kept making herself just a little bit smaller in order to feel like she wasn't threatening.

And so, for you as you think about this, like why were you let go? Think about what all of the reasons why you think those are and are they really facts or just guesses? It could be COVID, right? You can put COVID on there and that could simply be a fact. But then think about underneath the covers. Why? Why do you think you were let go out because of COVID versus someone else? Like, what are you? What are you making that mean about yourself? And then ask yourself, Is this a fact? Or is it just a? Is it just me really making up a story about myself, though I'll never be able to decide if it's true or not. And quite frankly, holding me back, right? Making me smaller, or whatever the impact is for you.

You get to see the bottom line from this exercise is that you get to choose how you see yourself or are you someone who's threatening that they wanted to get rid of? Are you someone who has peaked and it you know, their career is on the downhill slide, whatever it is that you're making it mean about yourself as to why you were let go. And what it means about your future, is what you get to decide. And we want you to be able to see what you're doing to yourself unintentionally and choose that intentionally. Loosen up what feels so real, about why you were let go and really see that those things that you're thinking about yourself, most likely aren't even true.

So again, we're trying to figure out what happened. So, you can just really get clean about it and feel at peace with it. And therefore, you can move forward 

Exercise 2:

To help you look at this from just an after action review perspective. Why were you fired or let go in in an after action review by asking yourself three questions.

Learn Through Your (ONE) After Action Review (AAR):

  1. What went well? what went well, in your last role? What did you accomplish? Who did you work really well with? How did you add value to that organization?
  2. What didn't go well?
  3. What could you have done differently?

What's your assessment of what happens? Both, you know, not just in the in the period of time where you were let go, but even up running up to that point. Looking back with objectivity What didn't go, Well, what would you? And then finally, what would you do differently if you had to do it over again. So again, this step one is all about just getting some perspective and getting to the place where you're not beating yourself up over what's happened and allowing that undercurrent of second guessing to cloud, what you're going to do moving forward.

Once you've done those two exercises, I'm going to declare you’re clean, you've now developed out an awareness and cleaned out your brain about the situation. And we're going to just want to stay clean about it. It's not a one and done. I promise you that. And I'll tell you how to stay clean when we get to step three. But for now, once you get through those couple of exercises, you can get to the place where you feel clean about what happened. And it doesn't feel so murky. Was it like my example with Jane was it? You know, because my boss felt threatened that I was let go? Or was it really because I am not good at my job and my career has piqued. Right? Which just cleaning up all of that men mess and knowing that at the end of the day, you did some amazing things, you probably had some areas for improvement and what would you do differently next time.

Step 2. Explain Why You Left

So, now let's move on to the place where you have to start explaining from a clean place, right, explaining why you left your last role. So obviously this comes up a lot you have you explain this oftentimes in networking, in interviews, and you know, even to your spouse right.

First, here’s what not to do:

  • don't avoid it. You're you are not no longer at your company. It's okay. Especially now COVID has kind of given all of us a lot more permission than what we had before, right?
  • don't brace for the question. So many people go into networking calls or interviews and more like bracing for the question, am I going to answer it? Right, is it gonna sound okay?
  • don't blame yourself. Don't blame other people.
  • Don't over explain,
  • don't second guess

So you feel clean, kind of logical about this versus making it mean all these terrible things about yourself and your future? And then get to the place where you just write out the answer, what kind of answer you going to give when someone asks, Why did you leave your last job, whether it's in a networking situation, or an interview, or whatever the scenario may be, just write out your answer, brainstorm it out and I want to point out that you may have more than one and I'll give you a couple of examples here in a minute.

One of the tips to do this is to really gear it toward the opposite of your organization. Like, and I'll give you again, I'll give you a couple of examples to that here in a moment. Like I let you don't say I left, for example, you don't say I left my organization, you're talking to Microsoft, for example. It's a large organization, you don't say things like, you know, I left my last organization because it was too bureaucratic. And I just realized I wanted something that was more fulfilling to me, right? That's not going to end well, if you're explaining like that.

But just write out your answer, knowing that you're probably going to have more than one depending on who you're talking to. And then the keys here are practicing this, feeling comfortable with it feeling like it's authentic, and aligned to exactly what you know what you want to say, and that you feel comfortable with it. And therefore, you don't start over explaining, or bracing yourself for the question, right? You feel fully comfortable with it. So, what I like to suggest to clients is, write that out, and then practice it in the mirror, or record yourself, you can use zoom to record yourself or whatever app and watch it back.

And ask do you believe yourself? Do you believe the answer feels really authentic feels really clear, concise, without overexplaining, and without feeling like, oh, there must be some there's something else. I don't really know what she's giving me this answer. But I feel like there's something more to it.

So, give yourself some practice, this isn't just kind of a one and done. This is like really owning what you're going to say, in a place that's really feels really powerful to you, and honest.

Example where your company replaced you:

What you might be thinking - if I was good enough, I would have been the one that was selected to stay and to be given more responsibility. That's what most people are thinking, you know, under the covers, right? Don't do that know, what I wrote here. Go back to step one, if you're thinking that, but in the case where you've got, you've gone through step one, and you're feeling pretty clean about it.

Example of what to say - So, let's just say you're talking to a larger company, where your role won't involve sales, for example, you could say something like my former company was a small startup, they chose to combine several positions into one and they assigned the responsibility to a sales executive really clean really simple. was in detail enough that no you know, usually people will take that for what it's worth. And obviously if you're going for a sales role, you wouldn't say that right? Or if you were going to a small startup you would adjust this so that's why I'm saying you're going to need more than one of these most likely.

Example where your company cut staff due to COVID:

What you might be thinking - is my former company was so stupid they shouldn't have fired me they should have fired john instead. Honestly, people are thinking this way and there's nothing wrong with thinking this way No one's I'm not trying to shame you. But I will say it's not going to serve you to think that and I say it in jest and kind of laughingly because obviously we don't want john to be fired most likely unless he's a bad actor, but at the end of the day, you've got to get clean about this. It's not about who was fired or who wasn't fired, it's irrelevant. Now, let's just move forward and get you to the place where you can very cleanly and crisply give an answer as to why you were let go without that baggage in your head.

Example of what to say - I loved my company, the team and our clients. Unfortunately, their role was eliminated due to COVID budget cuts simply right? without all that noise about who should have been fired, or why you were fired, or wondering if they're thinking you should have, you shouldn't, if you were good enough, you shouldn't have been fired, right? That's what causes the overexplaining when we've got all of this noise in the back of our head.

So, to wrap up this step, a couple of additional tips to help you manage your professional brand in this case:

  1. Think logically about how you want to put the end dates on your resume. I cannot tell you how many people have clients included and non-clients I talked to about what should I put as the end date on my resume? Should I still say that I'm working there, should I not like get to the place if you're if you're not working there anymore, they're not paying you, you were let go, then just put the end date on your resume. And get clean, get a good answer, like the last step. So you can move on.
  2. If you are being paid and there is some transition period, then you may want to talk with HR or your former employer and figure out what that right date is. You want think about whether you want to take on some kind of interim role like consulting and have on your resume, like x date to present where you've got your own company or you're working as a consultant somewhere so that you don't have a gap in your resume, or the gap that you've got is fairly limited.
  3. Just on a complete a side note, but there's this new feature in LinkedIn about open to work. So, there's choose two settings. Now one's open to work and one's kind of open to opportunities. Don't set the open to work one that turns your profile green. It's not the type of professional brand that you want to be putting out there.

Step 3: Move On to Avoid Further Impacts

First of all, I just want to acknowledge we're all human here. It's really our human nature to try to understand why we were kicked out of the tribe. Being in the tribe is safety, right? When we're out of the tribe, it's unsafe our life is in danger in the in the you know, caveman world, right. But at the same time indulging or trying to analyze why you were let go. And what it means about you is so counterproductive. It impacts your personal and professional relationships, it impacts your self worth and your self identity. And quite frankly, I will tell you, with almost every client I see doing this, it just ends up making their job search take longer, when they're questioning why they weren't good enough to stay in the role that they had, and they were let go. And it tastes sucks your energy, right? So I just want to offer as this third step, that the concept of being vigilant about staying clean, right, I taught you in step one, how to get clean, how to not have this as a as a baggage for yourself.

And notice very purposefully, the times where you're looking for evidence of what went wrong, where you're not good enough where you were missing the mark where your career has peaked, and we'll never repair, like all of those, that spending time thinking in that way is what's going to slow you down from moving forward and being able to clearly articulate to future employers and to networking as to what value you have to offer to a new organization. And I will leave you with one of the thoughts that I teach my clients to stay clean. And to counteract all of this mind drama, which happens for all of us, is simply telling yourself when you notice you doing this, we're not doing that today, we being our two brains, right? So literally shutting it off and saying we're not doing that today. 

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