Getting Fired

Let's face it; no one likes getting fired from their job.  Getting laid off can be both professionally embarrassing and financially devastating.  Thankfully, it's possible to not only rebound, but also thrive after being terminated.  In fact, that's exactly what has happened to some very successful people.

In this article, we're going to tackle the topic of getting fired.  As part of that discussion, we'll first cite some pretty eye-opening unemployment / jobless statistics.  Next, we'll talk about several famous people that were laid off at one point in their lives, only to bounce back into a very successful career.  Finally, we'll outline steps that can help anyone that's been downsized get back on their feet.

Layoffs and Job Separations

We often hear or read about the unemployment rate in the United States.  That value is usually quoted as a percentage of the entire workforce, so it's difficult to understand exactly how many people are jobless.  It's also a "net" value, meaning it's a combination of people that were laid off and those that were hired.

 A more insightful measure captured by the Bureau of Labor Statistics is layoff events and separations.  Layoff events are a count of the number of layoffs involving 50 or more individuals.  Separations are the total number of people that were fired for one reason or another.

The table below demonstrates that in 2009, there were nearly 11,500 layoff events, which is more than double the number of events back in 2005.  The number of separations was incredibly high in 2008 and 2009 too.  Over 3,500,000 people lost their jobs in those two years alone.

Job Layoffs and Separations

Year Layoff Events Separations
2005 4,881 884,661
2006 4,885 935,969
2007 5,363 965,935
2008 8,259 1,516,978
2009 11,452 2,023,392

Fortunately, we're able to drill down one level and gain insights into why people were fired from their jobs.  Here we pulled a table of data from the fourth quarter of 2008.  While the information is not surprising, it does validate the pressure the Great Recession placed on the job market.

Layoffs and Separations (Q4, 2008)

  Layoff Events Separations
Business Demand 1,580 248,222
Organizational Changes 159 31,012
Financial Issues 329 73,370
Production Specific 24 4,644
Disaster / Safety 12 1,346
Seasonal 869 149,773
Other / Miscellaneous 609 133,347
Total 3,582 641,714

The definitions for each of the above categories are as follows:

  • Business Demand:  contract cancelations, contract completions, saturated markets, import competition, and insufficient demand for products or services.
  • Organizational Changes:  business owners change as well as internal reorganizations.
  • Financial Issues:  bankruptcies, cost cutting measures, and pressure to increase profitability.
  • Production Specific:  automation, labor disputes, material shortages, and product lines discontinued.
  • Disaster / Safety:  hazardous working conditions and extreme weather.
  • Seasonal:  job naturally terminates at the end of a season.

Successful People That Were Fired

It's understandable that people fired from their jobs can become mentally depressed.  It's natural to go through the mourning period following the loss of a job.  But it's important to realize that a life is not a failure just because a job is lost.  Ironically, failing was the opportunity of a lifetime for some very famous people.

Steve Jobs:  Apple Computers

Co-founder of Apple Inc., Steve Jobs helped to design, develop, and market some very successful lines of personal computers, including the Apple II series and the Macintosh.  Jobs was fired from Apple in 1985 after a power struggle with the company's board of directors.  By 1998, he was once again CEO of Apple and returning the company to profitability.

Lou Holtz:  University of Arkansas

An author and motivational speaker, Lou Holtz is the only coach in NCAA history to lead six different programs to bowl games, and the only coach to guide four different programs to the final top 20 rankings.  In 1976 he resigned from the N.Y. Jets after a 3 Win - 10 Loss season.  In 1977, he was National Coach of the Year at Arkansas.  Ironically, he was fired from Arkansas in 1983.

Michael Bloomberg:  Salomon Brothers

Three-time mayor and one of the richest persons in the world, Michael Bloomberg was fired from Salomon Brothers in 1981.  Mr. Bloomberg used his severance package to start Innovative Market Systems.  The company was later renamed Bloomberg L.P.

Regrouping after Getting Fired

There are many more examples of people that were terminated for one reason or another only to bounce back and find a way to be even more successful.  The one common theme found in all these examples is these individuals never gave up.

So what are some of the secrets to landing on your feet after getting laid off?  It starts with getting organized and ends with a new job:

  • Personal Finances:  the first thing to do after getting fired is to get your personal finances in order.  Make sure to receive all the money you're entitled to including a final paycheck, severance package, and unemployment benefits.  Hope for the best and plan for the worst.  Create a household budget and start lowering discretionary spending immediately, don't wait.
  • Medical / Health Insurance:  everyone that works for a company with 20 or more employees will likely be eligible for health insurance coverage under COBRA.  While many people are likely to shy away from the premiums, it could be argued that no one can afford to give up health insurance.
  • Temporary Jobs / Freelance Work:  until a more permanent position is found, consider taking a temporary job or freelancing.  The extra money each week will help meet most financial obligations until the return to a permanent job.
  • Career Path:  losing a job creates a break that is a great opportunity to rethink a career path.  Maybe the current path felt right, but the skills possessed are easily transferable to other careers too.  If there are any doubts, it's time to take a career assessment test.
  • Relocation:  another opportunity created when right-sized is the ability to relocate a home.  That's not to say it's a great time to sell a home and move.  But as the job search starts, it's time to identify geographically desirable locations.
  • Network:  statistically, networking is one of the most effective ways to get a new job; so it's time to get reacquainted with anyone that can help.
  • Resumes / Cover Letters:  it's time to dust off an old copy of a resume and cover letter, and start composing one that gets results.
  • Job Applications:  just like resume writing, there is an art and science to filling out job applications too.  Don't blow an opportunity by taking anything for granted.  Sharpening skills will maximize the chance of success.
  • Interview Skills:  the processes associated with job interviews changed a few years back.  Newer techniques such as STAR interviews and behavioral questions were introduced.  It's also important to be prepared to answer interview questions dealing with getting fired.
  • Persevere:  unless someone is extremely lucky, it's very likely that rejection will precede success. That's all part of the process.  Learn from mistakes as they happen, more opportunities will materialize.

Finally, once a new job is found don't forget to celebrate that achievement.  The road may have started out rocky and there might have been bumps along the way, but soon it'll be clear that losing a job or getting fired was not the end of the world.  In fact, for some it was just the beginning.

About the Author - Getting Fired (Last Reviewed on March 29, 2016)