From Fired to Hired: Staging a Successful Comeback

You’re a C-suite executive, Senior Vice President, head of a division, or any leader who just lost her job — and you’re dealing with a complexity of emotions. You’re angry, humiliated, visited by shame in the dark hours of the night, and you wake up defiant and confident only to slide down the hill of self-doubt while sitting in the stillness of your new life. How do you get from processing your loss to staging a comeback? Current research and my own work with women leaders who were let go point to a common quality among successful re-bounders: their capacity to change their mindset from negative to positive.

This isn’t an easy flip of the switch. As a leader, you know that your career is not just about gaining financial resources. It’s about your identity and your community. When you lose a job, you lose your title, position, power, and who you think you are. This is a full-blown grieving process, and you may be mourning many things including your potential, the colleagues left behind, and your dreams of success. Heady stuff.

How Do You Begin to Move Forward?

Each day will bring new challenges. What follows is by no means a full course on processing job loss, but three steps to take immediately to build awareness and acceptance.

 Practice self-compassion. Allow yourself to grieve without judging your emotional upheaval. You can’t rush grief.

  How you talk to yourself matters. Make a list of what’s important to you now and talk about those things (to yourself and others) rather than the way you were treated.  Give energy to the future.

  Challenge the stories you’re telling yourself. Was it really the times you disagreed with your boss that led to your dismissal without cause? The job ended for business reasons. Your value is obvious, and any company would be fortunate to have you.

The “Stigma” Myth

The Harvard Business Review confirmed that the “stigma” of being fired is a myth. A study of 2,600 business leaders published in 2018 found that 45% had suffered “major setbacks such as blowing a large deal or getting fired. More than three-quarters of them went on to become CEOS.”  I found in my research that every woman I spoke with had been fired or knew someone who had been fired.  You’re not alone.

Do the Hard Work Honestly

The healing process takes time, and you want to check a few boxes before you find yourself talking to a hiring manager about a new role.

As one woman told me who successfully rose again to a new leadership role, “If you do the hard work of figuring out what you want to do next and who you want to be and sign on to do it honestly, you will only benefit. There is no downside.”

For a deeper dive into creating your new future, register for my Master Class, “From Involuntary Exit to Empowerment,” beginning November 15, 2022. By the end of four sessions, you’ll be equipped to activate change to move forward! A free, signed copy of my book will be offered to all registrants.

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