I can’t remember which day of the week was, I can’t remember if it was during the morning or the afternoon. I don’t remember what kind of clothes I was wearing or any other particular details about that day. However, I can’t forget those words I saw in an email sent by my former business partner, “You are removed from your current activities.” It took me some minutes to process what I was reading. I was being fired from the same company I helped to build and grow. The same person that used to sleep on my couch was now sending me a formal email saying I was being removed from my duties.
Once I finally understood what was happening, I remember feeling physically sick: breathing was hard, and I felt disoriented. No one ever had before told me how it feels to get fired. I had also never cared to read about the experience because I had never thought that would happen to me. How could it be? I am educated, I have years of experience in my field, and I am motivated. However, there I was being fired. How I came to that point is a long story; suffice to say I was at a very low point emotionally, and that had affected my life to the point that I was not myself. Unfortunately, the world keeps moving forward, and it will leave you behind if you don’t ask for help.
It has been over a year and a half since that blurry day. A lot has changed since then, and I have come a long way. Now I want to share with you something I learned from this experience. I learned that failure should not be something we feel ashamed of and, above all, we should not let it define who we are and whom we can become.
You can overcome something like this. I know it’s not easy, and you might feel that the world is bigger, heavier, and darker, but it will pass. I hope this article will help you see a more positive side of this experience or at least take that first step to recovery.
The first thing is to recognize and accept your feelings. You will have lots of them, and mostly negative ones. Let’s acknowledge those feelings: anger, fear, loss, anxiety, depression, disappointment. Your self-esteem will be tested, and it will get a big hit, and no matter how smart or how strong you are, nor how much experience you have; all of it will seem like it is gone because you will not feel like you are worth it.
What to do after getting fired?
Talk to someone you trust. I mean someone you really trust. Someone who makes you feel safe. You need to be around people that will not judge you. You already feel bad, so you don’t need others to add more to it.
If you are an employee you should talk to HR. If the company you are at is a professional one, they will have a clear process for you to leave the company smoothly. If you are a business partner or co-founder (like I was,) it will be harder because you might not have other people to talk to, so I suggest you talk to a lawyer or other business owners with more experience.
Take notes. Keep a record of what they say you did wrong. When you feel better, with time, you can go back and take reflect on opportunities to improve your work. You can also see if they had valid or invalid reasons. Take notes, but you don’t have to analyze this right away – first, you need to focus on your feelings.
Therapy. Your mental health is the most important thing. You need to take the steps to gain back control of your feelings, and this will help you to understand better how you got to that point where you are able to let it go.
Take some time for yourself. If you have the opportunity to take a break from any kind of work, do it. Don’t jump into another job right away. Let your body and mind rest. I know not everyone can do this. I left that company in December 2019, and I decided to take a month break, I ended up having a 4-month break because COVID-19 came into the world. I had a job, and I was in a foreign country without a clear path on how to find a new job. However, when I first stopped working, I slowly felt better as I had more time to sleep. I started eating better, and I had more time to think and take notes on what changes I wanted for my life.
Make a schedule. Have a schedule for your day. Don’t interrupt an active schedule as you might be at risk of depression. When I got fired, I had recently been diagnosed with Major Depression Disorder (MDD) and I was considered high risk for suicide. After leaving the company and after two months I decided to write on a whiteboard my daily routine even though I was stuck at home. This helped me to stay motivated and have a sense of control in my life.
Set goals. After your break, take a moment alone and write down the things you are happy with and the things you are not happy with within your life. Focus on answering yourself questions like, “How do I get that? How can I do that? How do I stop doing this?” This is not an easy task but facing and accepting reality will help you move forward. And set your goals on how you want to improve your life.
Write your CV again. I always say: remember your successes not when you are at your highest point but your lowest point. It is easy to remember our wins when everything is all right. The real challenge is to remember them when we feel that are not enough. Talk to your friends, your family, ask them what your accomplishments are, and write them down. Focus on those accomplishments when you write your CV. This will help you, little by little, to gain trust and look for new opportunities.
Empowerment from failure
I can’t remember anything clearly about the day I got fired, but I can remember the day I got my new job as a key account manager. I can also vividly remember the day, four months after I joined that new company, that I got promoted to Associate of General Manager. That was the day I started to recognize that I was good enough, that I was capable, and that I was still a valuable team player.
So, dear reader, if you are going through something similar, I want you to know that it is normal to feel lost, that it is not going to be easy, and there are no exact rules on how to handle it, but you will get through this. You will survive it just as I did.
“Let’s open ourselves to talk not just about our wins but also about our failures. Own your mistakes as you own your wins, and never forget them, learn from them, and empower yourself to be better.”