Professional Resume Writer, Career Writer and Career Coach
If you’re reading this, let me be the first to tell you how sorry I am. Getting fired feels crappy, disheartening, hurtful, and all the other bad, sad words. But here’s what I want you to do. First, let yourself fumble for a minute. Then, pick your head up — sometimes getting fired is a blessing in disguise. If you think termination is around the corner, we’ll teach you how to prepare to be fired and what to do next so you land somewhere even better.
How to Know You’re About to be Fired
For many, getting fired rarely comes as a shock. (If it has, then we’re truly sorry.) The “pre-firing” stage is often riddled with signs that suggest your termination is looming. Here are a few telling signs you’re about to be fired.
Unrealistic Performance Goals
If you’ve been in your role for a reasonable time, then you know what’s considered a reasonable weekly, monthly, or quarterly goal. So, if your performance metrics suddenly seem out of reach and unrealistic, your team might be building a case against you to support termination.
Collect copies of your performance reviews, goals you’ve met or surpassed, and any other instances of feedback and praise, and keep them somewhere safe like a personal device. This will help you refresh your resume as you prepare to be fired.
Solo Project Become Group Projects
If your once autonomous workflow becomes “micromanage-y” or labeled a “group effort,” you might be on your way out. Your boss might ask you to bring a coworker up to speed on your current projects or share progress reports and notes. If a supervisor reassigns your work without notice, ask for the reasoning behind your removal on projects you’d normally be involved with.
Minor Infractions Become a Big Deal
A low-key boss who suddenly has a comment about your every lunch break, email communication, or professional decision suggests trouble. First, ensure that what you’re doing is within employee guidelines. If you discover you’re being treated differently than your coworkers, you can decide to quit or get your ducks in a row now before getting fired.
You’re Put on a Performance Improvement Plan
Performance improvement plans (PIPs) are rarely a good sign. In most organizations, it suggests that you’re falling short, your work needs to be formally documented, and it is necessary to put a plan in place for improvement. Sometimes, you can take these at face value: your boss wants to see you succeed. Other times, they’re a red flag.
If you feel the steps outlined in this plan are unreasonable, meant to frustrate you, and are created without the necessary support, consider it your sign to plan an exit strategy.
You’re the Subject of Office Gossip
In a remote work environment, it can be hard to gauge the rumblings around the water cooler, so it may be harder to detect when you need to prepare to be fired. Signs to look out for are being left off certain team emails. Colleagues may even reach out less in the more casual communication channels. In the office, however, people with knowledge of your firing might start avoiding you in the hallway or giving you weird looks.
If these signs feel familiar, don’t panic; activate. Gather key info about your performance, projects, job description, and other contributors to help update your resume and refresh your brand in time for a new job search.
Why You Should Leave the Job on Good Terms
No matter how much you’d like to go out with a bang and finally tell your boss what you really think, it’s in your best interest to keep a cool head when getting fired.
Reference Checking As Previous Employee
Nothing screams “the past will come back to haunt you” like a new-hire reference check from your previous employers. Most hiring managers will contact your former colleagues for insight on who you are as an employee, whether you’ve supplied them with a pre-filtered list of references or not.
If you left with — how should we say it…flair, don’t be surprised if that choice haunts you during your next job search.
Do what you can to maintain your professional reputation within the industry. Who knows what kind of weird six degrees of separation there are between this company and your future one? It bodes well for you to act favorably during the pre-and post-fire stage to help leave the team with a good impression once you’re gone.
Returning to the Previous Company
Things change fast within an organization. The company that just fired you could need you months later. They may even realize they made a mistake in letting you go. If you left a burning fire in your wake, your chances of rekindling any relationship are akin to the last dying ember at a bonfire — done for.
How to Get Fired In a Dignified Way
Exiting gracefully is a masterful dance of do’s and don’ts. Here are a few tips to keep in mind for getting fired honorably.
Don’t Take it Personally
If you were caught by surprise, or if you believe the termination was unfair, this can be especially difficult.
But think about it: do you really want to hang around an organization that doesn’t think you’re a good fit? Sometimes, it really is nothing personal. Frame this incident as a blessing and a way to find a better fit elsewhere.
Don’t Argue with Your Seniors
It’s pretty hard to get un-fired, so don’t let your last moments on the job be filled with argumentative tones and combative words. No burning bridges, okay? Being fired with dignity is all about how you respond. Remain cordial and cool, even if you’re angry or upset. You’d hate to let the initial sting ruin any salvageable relationships you have with your coworkers.
Ask for Explanation in Writing
Ask for clarification and examples that led to their decision to let you know. You’re entitled to an explanation, and you won’t be viewed as unprofessional if you press them for answers. If you disagree with their answers, don’t show it. Keep your lips sealed, and use their answers as motivation to grow your skills.
Contact An Attorney Before Signing Anything
If your former employer hands you a non-compete agreement, confidentiality agreement, or another type of separation agreement, don’t sign anything until you review it with a local labor attorney. In a mid-firing haze, you might sign something that could significantly impact your career for quite some time. Plus, many of these documents are negotiable.
You May Ask for Help
If you’d like, suggest an exit interview where your former boss can offer suggestions on ways to advance your skills and abilities.
Though it’s not required by the Fair Labor Standards Act, employers often grant severance pay upon termination. You should also clarify what happens to your benefits and how your former employer will handle future reference calls from prospective employers.
Express Your Gratitude
If you can, keep things positive. Leave on good terms, expressing appreciation for what you’ve learned and the people you’ve met — even if you disagree with the reasoning behind your termination.
An unexpected firing can be an opportunity to reflect on your career and make improvements, as long as you’re honest with yourself. Take time to consider what you did and did not like about your old job, supervisor, and company.
Avoid the urge to mass apply to every open job online. Knowing the type of position and company you’d like to work for next will help ensure you land somewhere even better down the road.
Getting Fired! Here is What You Need to Do
When your termination is imminent, here’s how you prepare to be fired.
Remove Personal Documents from Office Computer
You’ll lose access to all files kept on a work computer after getting fired. So while you prepare to be fired, start by moving your personal documents to a personal device. Also be sure to begin removing personal items from the office. If you merged “work” and “home” on your company-provided device, make a list of files to move. Your resume, bookmarked recipes, pictures of your dog, and more.
Get Your Personal Appraisals Copies Home
You often get access to important files like non-competes, contracts, handbooks, and non-disclosure agreements during onboarding — which means they live on your professional devices. Make sure you have a copy of these documents, as well as your performance reviews, in your own records.
Update Your Curriculum Vitae
An updated resume is key for any job search, which is likely where you are heading if you don’t have anything lined up. Throughout your career, you should continuously revisit your resume to add new employers, new skills, and new achievements. This is especially important as you prepare to be fired. If you can access the old job ad, or reference similar live ones, use it to inform your bullet points.
Start Actively Looking for a New Job
First, reflect on a few career targets. Do you want to strive for a similar position or use this as an opportunity to pivot? If possible, leverage your time off to take additional classes and courses or earn a new certification.
Then, when you’re ready, dive head first into the job market. Set job alerts and get active on Job Searcher and LinkedIn. Your network might also be able to help you find career opportunities as well.
Try to Save Your Current Job
If your firing was performance-related and your ego can handle it, ask if a PIP (performance improvement plan) is possible as a way to improve your skills and stay onboard.
If you were fired because of budget cuts, reorganization, or downsizing and are happy at your company, inquire about open opportunities in a different department or within the company.
Once your employer has made the decision to end your employment, there’s really no easy way to reverse it. Do what you can to not handle the situation poorly. How you act during this time reveals a lot about your character to your colleagues, former employer, and your network. So, take a little bit of time to wallow in your emotions. But not too much — you’ve got future employers to impress! Use these tips on how to prepare to be fired to get your ducks in a row, because there’s no time like the present.