Categorized | Career

What to do if you’re about to be fired

Posted on 14 November 2008

You haven’t seen your boss in two weeks. Colleagues don’t drop by your office to chat any more. You find out about meetings you should attend after they are over. Looks like you’re about to be fired.

Most people go into denial when they realize their job is in jeopardy. They work longer and harder, hoping they are wrong or that their boss will suddenly realize how important they are.

Unfortunately, even if you recognize the warning signs and work twice as hard, your boss is not likely to change his mind. So what other options do you have? This short guide will help you prepare if you think you are about to be terminated.

Knowing what your legal rights are can provide you with the leverage you need to get a good severance package.

Take a Deep Breath
Remember that you are not alone. The latest job statistics show new unemployment claims rising to their highest level since 1992. The good news is that about the same number of people are getting new jobs as are losing them. Moreover, wages and benefits are still rising, although at a slower rate than at this time last year. If you stay calm and take the right steps before you are terminated, you will be in a better position to use this as an opportunity to advance your career.

Research Your Severance Deal
Negotiating a good severance package is critical. It allows you time to find the right job and can greatly facilitate your job search. You not only have to negotiate the fair amount of severance, but also outplacement, a later termination date, the wording of your references, keeping your voicemail or e-mail for a period of time, etc.

To get a better package, you need information and leverage. Jodie-Beth Galos, author of Firing Back, suggests that you “get your hands on the policies governing termination and severance, get copies of what’s in your personnel file, and talk to anyone who knows what others have gotten.” Although actually filing a lawsuit should be a last resort, knowing your legal rights can provide you with the leverage you need.

Get Your Finances in Order
Defer any major purchases. Cut back on spending. Put money aside if you can. Talk to an investment advisor. Try to arrange your investments so that they provide income while you are unemployed. Do whatever you can to ensure that you will have enough time to find a good job and not settle for the first thing that comes along.

Prepare a Great Resume
Don’t feel sorry for yourself; focus on the future. Think about the things you do best and the things you like to do. Then, try to determine the type of job (and type of company) that suits your vision. Make a list of your major accomplishments, both at work and outside the office. Be specific. Quantify any results you have achieved to the extent possible (“increased revenues” or “reduced costs”). Use this information to write a focused resume–and post that resume online. Also submit it to headhunters and friends.

Prepare to Job Search
Familiarize yourself with the entire process. Read books on networking, interviewing, negotiating, etc. Web sites, such as, can also be extremely helpful. Learn how to use the numerous Internet job search tools found there.

Make a List of Everyone You Know
Start with the people you know best: friends, current and former co-workers, relatives, headhunters who have called you, people in your associations and clubs, etc. Get a copy of the company directory, take it home, and add key individuals to your list.

Network With the People on Your List
Networking is essential to finding the job that you want. It is easier to do this when you are still employed, particularly if you haven’t spoken with someone in awhile. Try to set up breakfasts, lunches, and evening meetings with people you trust. Seek their advice and let them know that you are interested in other opportunities. (Note: You needn’t tell them that your present job is in jeopardy.)

Shape Up
Join a gym. Take some classes to brush up on your skills. Attitude is the most important thing in a job search. The more positive and confident you are, the more attractive a candidate you are to prospective employers. Looking and feeling good will help.

Taking action while you are still working gives you a head start on your employment search. You can move quickly if (and when) you actually do lose your job. Plus, you will have the time and confidence necessary to land the job you really want.

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3 Comments For This Post

  1. Martin Buckland says:

    Good article.

    Being “Laid off” is tough emotionally. However, generally it’s not about you, it’s a business decision, even more so in these difficult times.

    Your article makes great references to the things you should do. Always have your severance package reviewed by an employment lawyer before you sign off.

    I am currently dealing with many clients who are going through downsizing. Be sure you choose an outplacement company who will provide you with an outstanding, enticing and seductive résumé, sound coaching and be available when you need some consolation.

    Build your network, invariably your next appointment will be secured through networking or directly marketing yourself to a decision maker at one of the companies you target.

    Stay focused, stay on track, best of luck.

  2. Peter says:

    I say you better hit the job sites… surveyed human resource professionals and recruiters about which of the top 10 job sites they found the best candidates on, survey results here:

    I thought the results were interesting.

  3. Resume Tips says:

    Excellent advice Martin: “Build your network, invariably your next appointment will be secured through networking or directly marketing yourself to a decision maker at one of the companies you target.” In addition, you should attend networking events as much as your schedule will allow. Volume is never a bad thing. This increases your chances of making valuable connections. Try to search for networking events in your area.

    Resume to Referral
    Resume and Career Services

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