Fired? Victim is Not a Good Look: Change Your Mindset to Move Forward Successfully

By Robin Merle

It may be hard to believe that during this time of The Great Resignation, Involuntary Exits are still causing pain and suffering among fundraising staff.

Let’s face it, getting fired can happen to any one of us, especially with the notoriously high turnover in the fundraising field. How you manage your Involuntary Exit and move on with dignity and hope is a skillset you would be wise to acquire.

Let me help you with my Best Advice from my new book “Involuntary Exit: A Woman’s Guide to Thriving After Being Fired” (She Writes Press, 2021). Caveat: This advice helps any professional fundraiser no matter the gender.

Best Advice: The qualities that helped you succeed in your role don’t disappear the minute the job does.

Even when evidence screams, “Not your fault!” (perhaps there’s a new CEO, unrealistic expectations, or the random whim of a new board chair), people are devastated when they’re let go.

One woman shared, “I felt like I couldn’t manage my way out of a paper bag.” Recognize these feelings for what they are—part of your grieving process. You’ve just suffered a loss. You need time to bridge the dissonance between the identity you had at your job and the loss of that identity.

Trust me, you’re the same authentic, experienced fundraiser you were before you were let go. It’s your circumstances that have changed, not your abilities.

Best Advice: Don’t perpetuate the myth that being fired is a stigma…especially in our business.

Who do you know who hasn’t been fired, been asked to step down, or found themselves facing the untenable choice of being reorganized or leaving?

You are part of a community of professionals who are not naïve about the travails of working in the development field. Reaching out to others in the field is a balm that will soothe your scorched psyche.

Don’t hide as if you have “F-I-R-E-D” stamped on your forehead. It comes around the other way, too. You’ll be surprised by the beautiful cards and emails you receive from people who you thought didn’t even know you existed…like those board members or your colleagues in operations.

Best Advice: Don’t confuse moving quickly with moving forward.

If you’re still angry and barrel forward to meet with potential employers, you’re likely to end up with a few black and blue marks on your tender psyche as you try to explain yourself.

Take the time to emotionally process what happened to you. Don’t be surprised if there are a few clunky interviews. Eventually, as you listen to yourself, just as you used to practice your fundraising pitch, you’ll get better and feel more comfortable with your talk track because it’s yours and one you can get behind.

Best Advice: Practice Attitude Power in front of a mirror.

People often ask me how I prepare for a 9- to 10-figure request to a major Big Deal Philanthropist.

Well, I pump myself up with music. I stop worrying about what I don’t know. I visualize the request with a big YES at the end of it.

The same goes for how you prepare to sell yourself after being fired. Your attitude affects their attitude.

Glumness never raises money. Practice your pitch in whatever way feels natural for you so that you come across as confident and upbeat even when you might still be churning inside.

You may even find yourself smiling in your conversation and looking forward to a new, exciting chapter in your life. Hold on to that feeling and one day you’ll notice that you’ve changed—you have successfully faced down the fear and anger and are embracing the unknown as opportunity.

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