One of the best days of my professional life, was the day I got fired. I walked out of the HR meeting and wished the company the best of luck (I meant it). And then I went to the airport so I could be in San Francisco for one of my independent coaching clients. I was eating In N out Burger by lunch time. That job set me free.
Granted, I knew it was coming, and I was prepared to quit my job in another week’s time if they didn’t pull the trigger. But, what made the difference for me? I wasn’t shocked. Financially, I was prepared for the change. The job was no longer what I wanted. My plan for “what’s next?” was already in motion. Those assurances made all the difference in my outlook.
The Harsh Reality
I was not downsized or “let go”. It was not a transitioning or “counseling out”. I was fired. Down and dirty. The company threw me away like old news, and that’s something that can happen to anyone at any time. Here are the 5 ways to prepare for being fired, so you can face the reality with feelings of liberation and excitement about your future.
1. Prepare an “F – you” fund and have it ready at all times. An F- you fund is where you have stashed anywhere from 6 months to a full year’s worth of your living expenses so if you ever find yourself temporarily without a paycheck, you don’t have to sweat the small stuff, (like rent) while you look for something else. If you are not familiar the name, “F – you fund” is a term a single person may use when making sure to have enough money to pay for their meal and a cab ride home, should a date go sour. Surely, you can see the relevance in the job world as well.
Experts suggest the average job search will take one month per every $10K in salary that you are hoping to earn. Looking for 6 figures? Expect a 10 month search. If you saved a year of reserves, then that security gives you time to think about what you want from your career, and it prevents you from compromising when the offers start rolling in.
2. Think like an entrepreneur. You may not want to be a small business owner, but if you have set up a LinkedIn profile, you are a small business. The product is you.
We are always marketing ourselves whether we like it or not. If you ask your five closest friends what you’re like, you’ll get a pretty clear picture of your brand as a friend. The same is true for your closest work associates. Every project, job, assignment, or meeting is playing into your brand as an independent professional. You are building your brand one interaction at a time.
You should be seeking out opportunities to continue to build your brand
In your current career, you should be seeking out opportunities to continue to build your brand, and continually add value to the company. If you do that for the sake of working for someone else, that mindset is called an intrapreneur. If you take that mindset outside of being an employee, and start a small business, and are continually creating value and driving innovation for your own company, then you’re an entrepreneur.
Ask yourself the tough introspective questions that will force you to grow! If you struggle with holding yourself accountable or responding with clarity, then an objective accountability partner, like a life or career coach can assist.
3. Stay active on LinkedIn. Most people don’t think about their LinkedIn page until they’ve had a bad day at work, or are getting fired. If this were the 90s, I would be telling you to keep your resume up to date (which you should do). But it’s the digital age.
Your LinkedIn page is your resume. It’s in real time, and accessible to recruiters around the world 24/7. Not only is LinkedIn a great place to showcase your professional brand, it is also filled with career coaches, mentors, recruiters, HR professionals and professional development geeks. If you stay active or LinkedIn, and make networking via their platform part of your regular behavior, then when you need to transition, it will be easier to tap into a warm network, versus a cold one, where you haven’t checked in since your last performance review.
BONUS: LinkedIn recommends jobs for you from time to time based on your profile
4. Act like an at-will employee. Most of us working for a salary fall under the category of an at- will employment agreement, but few of us take time to truly appreciate what this means. For your employer, this means that you can be fired at any time for anything, regardless of if it’s “fair” (within the bounds of the law).
For the employee, this also means you can quit your job under those same guidelines. The working relationship is fragile, and the power dynamic is more balanced than you may sometimes realize. Your employer hired you because you have skills, qualities, and experience that they need in order to progress and grow. That makes you valuable to them. If they fire you, it means your value has decreased. If you are ready to quit, it means that the experience they are providing you has decreased in value.
You can quit your job at any time. That’s ownership. That’s autonomy.
Separation occurs when the value proposition for one party decreases below an acceptable threshold. Do you know what your threshold is? Are you seeking out increased value from your employer? Are they receiving increased value from you? When the value proposition on either side is compromised, for whatever reason, the at- will contract gives either side authority to end the relationship. ie. You can quit your job at any time. That’s ownership. That’s autonomy.
5. Demand feedback and hear it out. If they fire you and you are surprised, then it means either A) You didn’t heed the signs OR B) They didn’t give you any signs. Feedback provides you with the signals you need to evaluate how you are adding value to the company. If your manager is not telling you what to do to improve performance and add value, it is your responsibility to demand constructive feedback. If you don’t know what the company needs or wants, how can you continually add value? You can’t. Likewise, if someone takes the time to give you constructive feedback, but you do not take the opportunity to leverage it to grow your value for the organization, that failure, is on you.
Caveat: If you demand feedback and your managers (direct or otherwise) are not able to articulate what the company wants and needs, RUN. You cannot build a masterpiece without the blueprints. If they don’t know what they need, then they can’t tell you. This is when the answer to “should I quit my job?” is a resounding YES.
You Are Your 1st Career Coach
- Am I prepared to quit?
- Do I want to be independent?
- Should I start a small business?
- If fired, how will I survive financially?
The questions are hard, but the answers are the difference between trepidation and liberation. Choose the latter.
Do you have a great “just got fired” story? When a door closes, another opens. What have some of your firings led you to?