How to Make the Right Choices After Getting Fired


Did I tell you about the time I got fired?

It was my first job out of college. I was working as an accountant at a small firm doing tax returns for small businesses. It was run by three partners. Nice guys. But after four months, they weren’t happy with my work. And they shouldn’t have been. I was slow and made a lot of mistakes. I was a lousy accountant.

The big problem was that I was right out of college working my first professional job. I was struggling just to figure out the basics like filling out time sheets. Like I said it was a small firm. I was the first college graduate they hired. They didn’t have any training programs.

So that would be my first takeaway from the experience. If I’m going to hire someone young or new to professional work, I need to make sure there’s a program to get them into the routine. Make sure they learn how to work here. They know the skills of the profession but not how to do the job.

Not that I’m making excuses.

I should have done a better job despite their lack of training programs. I could have prepared myself better. That’s my second takeaway. I worked pretty hard in class and learned a lot about accounting, but I never learned how to be an accountant. I had chances. There were opportunities for internships at a factory where I worked during the summers in college. I made decent money on the line so I never tried to do more. I should have pushed to work as an intern in the offices and gained some valuable experience that could have saved my job later.

And I could have saved a career. When I got fired, I decided that I couldn’t ever be an accountant for any firm. So I gave up and looked for another career.

That’s what bothers me the most. Not the firing. But I hate that I gave up. I didn’t take the time to figure out my mistakes and try again. Giving up is a nasty habit. It will keep you from being successful. Thankfully I learned to lose that habit.

You can say giving up is my biggest regret. But without that, I wouldn’t be where I am today. In the career I love in the city I love with the woman I love. Everything I did since the firing has led me here. I probably wouldn’t be happy today as an accountant. But I wish I made that choice instead of letting someone else make it for me. It’s ironic that my biggest regret is the turning point that made me happy.

So I know a bit about what you’re going through. So let me walk you through your next choices.

First, you’re going to finish that beer. It will be your last tonight. This firing is all about taking control away from you. You need to exert control over something in your life. Start with drinking. Show yourself you can control it. You don’t want this to be an area that you can’t control.

Second, avoid decisions for a few days. I mean big, life-changing decisions. You can decide to do laundry and shower. Basic hygiene is good. Remember how I got here? I dumped a career in the time it took me to drive home. So take some time off from choosing your next move. Don’t make any decisions unless it involves a long weekend in your favorite retreat. You need to back off and gain some perspective on how you got here.

Third, get introspective. Be honest and understand why you’re now unemployed. You made mistakes. Understand why you made them. This may mean some Myers-Briggs testing or catching up on Dr. Phil. But you need to know how you will avoid these mistakes in the future or compensate for them. Once that happens, you can move on in this career. Or start a new one. You can’t do either without an honest assessment.

Fourth, make your life changing decisions. This company could be all wrong for you. Or you might just need to work with a different management style. That’s for you to decide. Remember what I said about control. Either way, you have options. Choose them based upon what you want and what you are capable of doing.

Fifth, remember this firing does not define the rest of your life. The more you do and accomplish, the less impact this firing will have on your life. So hit the job market, go out with friends and do the things you want to do. Choose what you want your life to be.

I know this is a long-winded way of saying, “Buck up, cowboy.” But you need to think about your life as a series of choices. Everything that happens now is a choice you make. The guy who fired you has no more affect over your life.

Here’s to choices. Cheers.


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Cubicle Curtis is the guy sitting at the next workstation. He's been in this office longer than anyone else, so he's a valuable resource of who does what and how to get things done. Before this job, he has worked just about every job between pizza delivery and accounting. Now, he's all about getting the job done and helping you figure out how to survive yours.

Discussion

  1. Jim on the 1st January

    “Choose what you want your life to be.”

    Exactly. And we all have the power to make those choices. Thanks Curtis!

  2. Becfaye on the 4th January

    Well said!!! I’ve just been through the exact same predicament. Been sitting on my desicions over Christmas, and ready to get my butt back into gear for 2010. Only choice is now… which direction?

    Thanks Curtis

    • leogirl on the 24th November

      Same thing happening to me right now. Im so glad i read this article! ty

  3. M. joshua on the 5th January

    Waiting to make a life decision is key.

    While this is paramount advice for everybody, I’d say especially so for those of us in the creative industry.

    I can’t tell you how many designers I’ve come across who aren’t in the field anymore.

    Then again, I know of a few designers who are much more content to simply be designing for the joy of it upon leaving the pro scene.

    It’s classic “sex vs. cash.”

  4. dave on the 6th January

    best thing i did when i was let go this past year was to ‘take the rest of that week off’ (i think i was let go on a wed or thurs). i took the time to enjoy life, enjoy time with my kids and wife, and really ‘stop to smell the roses’. i thought of it almost as a detox (kind of an ‘out with the bad in with the good’). think about what you are doing, what you’ve done in the past and what you did and didn’t like about your job and career.

    my brother and dad gave me the best advise. ‘make finding a job your job.’ alot of people that i know took too long off and basically ‘lived’ on their unemployment instead of thinking of it has a parachute to use until you are back on your feet.

    keep it all in perspective and put your sales hat on. you are the product that you are selling. make it right, make it work.

    hang in there. everything happens for a reason.

    • leogirl on the 24th November

      Thanks for this comment.

  5. Christine Livingston on the 7th January

    I like the sense of responsibility you took for getting fired. Sure, getting fired is shit, but I like that you saw you had the choice to be personally powerful in the situation and learn from it. Now you have a really good story to tell about what you learned from your first job and how it has served the rest of your life, and are choosing to do it positively and for other’s benefit.

    I used to do a lot of recruitment and would interview people who’d been fired. You’d be amazed at the people who point the finger at their previous bosses and who carry a chip on their shoulder even years after the event. It’s so good to see someone who looked in the mirror and decided to move on.

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