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Lessons from an "Involuntary Job Separation"

Posted by: Diane Brady on March 4, 2008

You’ve been fired, cut back, laid off, rendered redundant. So what can you learn from it all, other than the fact that you might have been in the wrong industry at the wrong time?

ClearRock, a coaching firm based in Boston, just sent me a release that had some interesting nuggets. Here are some of the lessons it suggests learning from what it calls an “involuntary job separation”:

· A job is not a career. As managing partner Annie Stevens puts it: “A job is comprised of the duties you perform and the responsibilities you have for a particular employer. Your career, however, is the sum of all the jobs you have held, your accomplishments with these employers, your educational achievements, and your acquired learning. Jobs come and go, and the average employee can expect to be involuntarily displaced several times during his or her career.”

· Performance matters. Of course! A mediocre performance evaluation should be a warning sign that you may not have access to your office for much longer.

· There are often warning signs before a job loss. Your supervisor and other colleagues didn’t make direct eye contact with you as often as they once did. You failed to achieve the one or two most important tasks you were hired or promoted to do. People in other departments knew more about what was going on in your own area than you did. You stopped being invited to important meetings, or being consulted about future plans. You were discouraged from traveling or joining trade associations.

· Work on your potential professional and personal shortcomings. Keep your professional knowledge and skills up to date, especially when it comes to new technology or changes in your profession. Toot your own horn with your boss. Recognize the achievements of your own direct reports, and ask them for ideas.

· Keep your career network up to date. Be prepared if something unexpected should happen in your career. Keep your resume updated, stay in touch with people you may need to network with if unemployed, and continually make new potential networking contacts at trade associations, community meetings, and other events.

· Don’t rush into a new job. This is ClearRock’s final piece of advice, which may work best if you have a slush fund to pay the bills. Consider not only what you can do for a living, but what you want to do as well. If performance-related reasons for your being released were a factor, you may need to update your skills, change your attitude, or try to transfer your experience to a career for which you are better suited.

Reader Comments


March 5, 2008 2:15 PM

Read Mackay's book "We Got Fired" (I don't get any money for plugging it.)



March 5, 2008 2:20 PM

I also like Amy Dorn Kopelan's "I Didn't See It Coming" ... Here's a piece I did on her views:

Thomas H

March 6, 2008 2:35 PM

Did the author distinguish the difference between a layoff and a fire? I doubt that the advice should be the same for both. Potential employers are much more willing to hire a laid off worker than a fired one -- and the challenges to getting a new job are like night and day.


March 6, 2008 2:45 PM

The author puts both into the same category (and future employers often don't know if you've been fired or laid off, though they might suspect) ... However, nuggets like "work on your shortcomings" and "performance matters" suggests that those who were fired may have some work to do before they get into a new position.


March 6, 2008 8:00 PM

It is sickening when we have reached such a job market condition where one is considered banal and disposable. Companies fire and hire people as if they were objects. Where is the corporate responsibility toward its citizenship. Where is the role of government to protect us, workers, from being used and abused. What is capitalism coming to? I hate it when everyone I know keeps worrying about the next time they are to be fired. What type of life is this?

yer ol pal

March 7, 2008 2:48 PM

hey folks, it always makes me scratch my head when i see folks spending like a bunch of drunken monkeys. You are an indentured servant relative to the amount of debt you have, me thinks. regards


March 9, 2008 1:36 PM

The best job is to start your own company. And be a capitalist at all its glory.

Then you will have to worry about your star employee leaving your company !

Ramon Greenwood

February 11, 2009 11:43 AM

Career Advice: You're Fired, Get Over It

Anyone can get the axe at any time. It happens to good people and bad ones...hard workers as well as slackers.

"We feel you would be happier working for another company."

"Sorry, business is falling off. We no longer need your services."

"Operations are being consolidated in Mexico. The Bedrock Plant will be closed Feb. 1."

Sugar-coated or not, the message is the same: You're fired! You've been sacked. You are out of a job!

13 Steps To Survive and Prosper

Therefore, it makes common sense to know what to do to survive and prosper should you ever get the dreaded "pink slip".

1. Keep in mind that in the current environment the idea of womb to tomb job security is as dead as a hammer. Be loyal to your present employer, but never develop a romance with the organization. Know that the relationship can end at any time. There is enough suffering in store for anyone over the loss of a job without adding the pains of an unrequited love. Look out for yourself first.

2. Be alert and well informed at all times about the outlook for your employer and your job. If you know things are going down the drain, begin a below-the-radar search for other opportunities. If the axe falls, you'll have a head start on finding another job.

3. Stay prepared financially. Always try to have enough cash in reserve to cover at least three months living expenses.

4. Keep your skills up to date with the needs of the job market. Capitalize on opportunities for additional training. Read the literature of your field.

5. Maintain an up-to-date record of your accomplishments so you can produce a resume in 24 hours.

6. Nurture contacts with people in your line of work and with those likely to employ your type of qualifications. Be visible through outside activities and positive publicity.

7. Help others who lose their jobs. Also, be of assistance to those who are looking to recruit employees. They may help you some day.

8. Understand your emotions.

Psychologist Bill Weber says getting fired is very much like dealing with the death of a loved one.

"The first reaction is denial, or wishful thinking. There's been a mistake. This can't be true," Dr. Weber says. "Then the shock sets in, followed by anger, depression, frustration and fear. Worst of all is the loss of self-esteem."

9. If you get fired, allow some time for grieving; but not too much. Don't just sit there feeling sorry for yourself. It's natural to be angry with your employer, but don't let your feelings show. You still need him. Negotiate the best possible severance package possible for continuing pay and benefits, particularly insurance coverage. Don't forget good references, too.

10. Start immediately to launch your search for another, better job. Use this time to reassess the goals you have set for the rest of your life. Define the job that will enable you to achieve these objectives.

11. Prepare a plan to market yourself. Let it be known you are available; "advertise" what you have to offer. Involve your network of friends and family in the job search.

12. Be patient. Recognize it will take time to find another acceptable position.

13. Don't panic. If you possibly can afford to wait, don't jump on the first opportunity that comes down the pike, unless, of course, it really matches up with your objectives.

Finally, try to remember two things.

1. It can happen to anyone.

2. A high percentage of people end up with better jobs than the ones from which they were fired.

I wish you career success!
Ramon Greenwood, Head Career Coach


October 7, 2009 12:23 PM

I agree with Harish. The best job is that you start your own business. It does require that you are a specific kind of person and that you are willing to work hard to make things happen. No matter what kind of business you choose to get into there is always a risk but the potential rewards are good.

Investment Advisor Toronto

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