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You f**ked up and got fired – now what do you do?

(EDITORIAL) Ever get fired, or have an office fail? We will examine how to handle problems and life crises in the workspace with seriousness and humor.

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One day recently, I was feeling lost and was about to use Google because I needed answers! I wanted to magically stop the world because it was spinning too fast.

Some questions have a lot of different answers. Some answers aren’t so clear and some questions are hard to ask when you are feeling like a major f@ck up. That was how I was feeling.

In this ongoing column, I will attempt to share some real-life situations, options, answers, and when needed, consult with experts to provide responses to those questions you may be too afraid to ask. Or, to consider questions you may have not even realized you needed to ask.

To kick off our column, the first I F@cked Up situation we will consider is getting let go or laid off. While they are not the same situation, they do have some similarities.

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Why, Mary Ann, what do you know about either of these situations? Well, I’ve been laid off twice, both from major news enterprises. And, I’ve been released of my duties. Neither situation feels very good, but believe me when I say, it’s not the end of the world. These situations bring with them a lot of baggage to unpack, so we will break it down. Today we deal with what to do first.

I Just Got Fired/Laid Off

So, you get called to the office. You are met either with your boss and HR or a person your company hired to separate you from them. (Like in Up in the Air) If you are being let go, you may have seen it coming – if you were paying attention. If you were laid off, depending on if other folks were let go recently, it may come as a surprise and a very harsh blow.

How you feel

Regardless of how it happened, you probably feel like crap. It’s a fact. Whether you are happy to be set free from the most toxic of toxic of work environments, or you’ve been laid off and provided with a decent severance package, you will still probably have a bit of worry, fear and feeling of “what the hell is wrong with me” self-doubt going on. And, then there’s the big question. What’s next?

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This is all pretty standard. Unless you are a narcissist and then, that is a whole different column.

When you are laid off or fired, most decent employers will try do it in the middle of the week – so you can call later with questions. If you were like me – you were a deer in the headlights. I remembered very little of the actual conversation. You will have questions you didn’t think to ask at such a moment. You will want answers. If you are released on a Friday. Your employer is really shitty because now you have the entire weekend to ruminate over the questions.

Don’t ruminate over the questions.

Feeling like crap and being pissed are normal. So, feel all the feels.

NOW, DO THIS:

Gather your things. Hold your head high. Tell your colleagues deuces. Leave the office.

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If you imbibe alcohol, stop at the store, get your favorite food and whatever beverage you like the most. Go home. Get plastered or near shit-faced – if you don’t drink, then buy a carton of ice cream or a sheet cake. I don’t encourage over consumption of alcohol OR food, but at this moment, you probably feel lower than low. Give yourself permission for this moment to let loose, honor, and celebrate it. As much as it may feel like the world is blowing up, right now you get the opportunity to say “What the hell, what do I have to lose?”

The point is: Get it out of your system, and quickly. If you get released from your position take a few days before you begin to do anything work search related. Your ego is probably hurting. People get fired for a wide variety of reasons, many of which have nothing to do with their ability to do the work. And, if you get laid off, usually it’s about money, bankruptcy and situations far beyond your control. Still, it hurts your pride and can do a number on your self-confidence and self-esteem.

BUT, DON’T DO THIS:

If you’re pissed off after being let go, especially if you were fired and if your workplace sucked you may want to scream it from the rafters and announce it all over social media. DON’T.

Don’t go on Facebook and blast: I got fired!
Don’t go on LinkedIn and say: Company XYZ are a bunch of douches.
Don’t change your LinkedIn to say you are no longer at Company X.
Don’t immediately hit Glassdoor with a crap review.
Don’t immediately email/text/PM connections saying you were fired/laid off.
Don’t immediately start looking for jobs.

Why?

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You are raw. You are pissed. You may or may not be super worried and concerned about your next paycheck. You may be really upset. You don’t want to come off as someone who is desperate, even if you really are. We will come back to this in another column.

What’s next

You’ve overeaten and gotten shit faced. You may have cried or broken stuff. Good! ARGH!

Feels so much better.

You should take a few days to rest, recharge and focus on self-care.

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But, one thing you do not want to put on hold is filing for unemployment.

File for Unemployment the day after you get let go.

Now is the time when you need to be focused and aware. When you file, don’t lie about anything, be honest and fill out the forms.

You say you don’t want to take money from the state. Well, that’s great, champ, but it’s a good fall back option.

Also, please note, if you get fired for doing something very wrong on the job, it’s likely you will not be eligible for unemployment, so don’t be surprised if you called your boss a mofo and you don’t get unemployment.

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You want to file as soon as possible because it takes weeks (from 4 to 6 but typically a little less) for the state to start paying. And, if you haven’t been saving and are living paycheck to paycheck – you know income creep – you will probably need what little unemployment provides, a lot less than your standard salary.

Unemployment filed, consider if you have any mileage you need to be reimbursed for and get that done. If you have a severance package, get those checks in the bank ASAP. If your employer let you go as part of a layoff, they may be having financial issues. So cash the check(s) fast.

Self-reflection

You’ve had time for a pity party. You’ve filed for unemployment. Now, it’s time to do some reflection.

You say, ‘self-reflection, that a lot of BS and I don’t have time for that I need money now.’

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Yeah, you probably really need some self-reflection if you don’t see the value in it.

Now is the perfect opportunity to consider some deep questions like:

What went wrong at your last job? If you were released, let go, fired, why did that happen? Whether your boss was a total asshole or not, you probably had some part in the final outcome. Own it. Now’s the time to think about what went sideways. Was it a clash of cultures? Was it a personality clash? Were your skills not what you presented on your resume? What was your work ethic?

Even if you weren’t fired you should reflect.

Think about what was going on. What did you like, hate, learn? This is an opportunity to take the experience you had and use it to discover what you want next, which should be a job where you feel celebrated and not tolerated.

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Find some surveys online where you can do self-reflection about your skills and abilities. Talk to your closest friends and ask them for feedback on what they like most about you. They care about you and can offer some real feedback to help you to regain your self-esteem.

If you haven’t done this before, take some time to do an inventory of what you like, hate, what you must have in your next position and what are deal breakers.

If you were working in a really awful workplace, you really may need time to decompress. Take the time to get outside, go for walks, do what you love. Now’s the time to sleep in and regroup. But, don’t wallow and start doing whatever you need to feel motivated for your next opportunity.

As my mom (and religious texts) always said: “This too shall pass.” So be ready.

Coming next week: You ate, drank, and reflected, so what the heck do you do now?

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Mary Ann Lopez earned her MA in print journalism from the University of Colorado and has worked in print and digital media. After taking a break to give back as a Teach for America corps member and teaching science for a few years, she is back with her first love: writing. When she's not writing stories, reading five books at once, or watching The Great British Bakeoff, she is walking her dog Sadie and hanging with her cats, Bella, Bubba, and Kiki. She is one cat short of full cat lady status and plans to keep it that way.

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