How to respond when you get fired from your job (and what to do next)

Last updated: June 25, 2024
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Eleana Bowman
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How to respond when you get fired from your job (and what to do next)
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Getting fired from your job can be devastating — especially if you have no secondary means of income. As of April 2023, layoffs and discharges stood at 1.6 million in the U.S.

While hearing you’ve been fired can be a shock to the system, you need to remain calm and handle the situation as well as possible. By doing this, you’ll avoid burning bridges and have a new job far quicker.

In this article, we’ll discuss how to respond when you’ve been fired. We’ll also give you tips on what to do next and how you should approach your future job interviews so you can land a new job.

How to respond when you get fired from your job

Here’s what to do when you get fired from your job.

1. Stay calm

Regardless of the situation and whether you were expecting your termination, staying calm is vital. Having an outburst will, undoubtedly, do more harm than good. Instead, you must demonstrate professionalism and respect — even if you’re upset about the news.

This will leave your previous employer or supervisor with a positive impression of you and could make them highlight your good qualities when future prospective employers call them as a reference.

2. Learn the reasons behind your termination

You need to ask your former employer to provide a reason why you were terminated. However, since this is a difficult conversation, it’s best to approach it gracefully and calmly so your past employer doesn’t feel attacked.

Some of the main reasons for employment termination are:

  • Stealing

  • Budget cuts

  • Misusing company time

  • Misusing company resources

  • Your position isn’t necessary anymore

  • The company is downsizing

  • Drug or alcohol possession at work

  • Having a poor attitude

  • Poor work performance

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This means layoffs can either occur due to situations out of your control or due to misconduct or poor performance. Regardless of the situation, understanding the reason for your termination could help you identify areas where you need to improve.

This will make it easier for you to fix the issue and find a new career opportunity.

3. Ask if there are other options

If you get fired for reasons out of your control, such as budget cuts, you can ask your employer if other positions are available. They may be able to offer you a different role in the same or a different department.

You could also ask your employer if they know of other opportunities for which you may be a good fit — even if they aren’t part of the same company.

Furthermore, if your termination was related to poor job performance, you could ask your employer if they would hire you back once you’ve improved your skills.

4. Determine your outstanding compensation and benefits

The reason for your termination will greatly impact whether you qualify for severance pay. While laid-off employees typically receive severance pay and extended benefits (though not required), fired employees often don’t.

Think of the different employee benefits you had at your job and determine what’ll happen to these benefits.

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Some companies offer their laid-off employees extended health insurance.

If your previous company offers termination paperwork, you can consider getting a lawyer so you can understand all the information and terms better.

Additionally, if you feel you were wrongfully fired due to unlawful discrimination, you can ask your lawyer to investigate the matter. Employers aren’t allowed to fire you on the grounds of the following:

  • Your national origin

  • Family status

  • Marital status

  • Veteran status

  • Sexual orientation

  • Gender identity

  • Disability status

  • Pregnancy status

5. Get clear on your rights

Touching on the previous tip, you must be clear on your employee rights to determine whether you’re being treated unfairly. While most U.S. employees are employed at will, meaning they can be fired without a good reason, this isn’t always the case.

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Make sure you and your lawyer read through your employee contract or handbook that outlines how the company can fire you.

6. Ask for references

If you’re on good terms with your previous employer, you can ask them for a letter of reference before you leave. Having this letter of recommendation from a company that fired you can show potential employers that you remain positive despite difficult circumstances.

Unsure if you should use your previous employer as a reference? Discover who to use as a reference and remember that choosing the right person is important.

7. Learn more about unemployment benefits

Since it’s difficult to predict how long it’ll take to find a new job, it’s a great idea to promptly apply for unemployment benefits.

You may be eligible for these benefits depending on where you live and why you were fired. Generally, you’ll be eligible if you were fired due to a lack of skills, company downsizing, budget cuts, or poor performance.

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On the other hand, if you were let go because of misconduct, such as stealing, abuse of power, and health and safety breaches, you’ll likely not be eligible for these benefits.

8. Leave on good terms

Do everything in your power to leave the company on good terms. You never know what the future might hold. Even if you don’t plan on using your ex-employer as a reference, your potential future employer may know them.

Leaving on good terms also means you won’t burn the bridge to the possibility of being rehired by your previous employer. This is especially true if you were fired due to circumstances out of your control.

How to recover after losing your job

If you’re thinking, “I got fired from my job, now what?” then here’s what you need to do next to find suitable employment.

It’s important to maintain a positive attitude after being fired. While it can take time to recover, with the right mindset and actions, you can make the process a lot easier. Here are some tips you can follow to recover from getting fired.

1. Don’t take it personally, and take time to process

It’s understandable that you may feel wronged, angry, and upset about getting fired. You can take some time to process your feelings and come to terms with the situation.

Use this time to reflect on the reasons for losing your job and determine whether you could do something differently in the future.

You can even consider the things you liked and didn’t like about the position to determine what roles or industries interest you for future career opportunities.

2. Sharpen your skills

If you lost your job due to a lack of skill, now’s a good time to learn new skills so you can stand out as a great candidate for future positions. Both hard and soft skills matter to employers.

  • Hard skills: These are the specific abilities and capabilities you have that help you perform specific tasks.

  • Soft skills: These are the personality traits, social competencies, and people skills you need to work well with others. Learn how to sharpen your soft skills.

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Some examples of hard and soft skills that’ll make you a more desirable job candidate include the following:

  • Computer skills: With technological advancements, the ability to work with a computer has become vital in all business services and the corporate environment. Some industries may also require you to master using specific computer programs, such as Microsoft Excel.

  • Communication skills: When asked what soft skills their company required most, 57% of employees said communication skills were the most important. This means employers are on the outlook for workers who are good communicators.

  • Teamwork: Employers want to hire workers who can work well in a team setting. This is especially true for larger companies with several departments consisting of teams. Thus, it’s a good idea to learn to work well with others.

3. Improve your resume

As you learn more skills, you can improve your resume to stand out from other job candidates. In addition to adding your newly learned skills, you can also add the experience, skills, and training you gained during your previous job.

Here are 15 resume tips you can follow to create a stellar resume that’ll set you up for success.

4. Reach out to your network

You may have built a professional network over the years. These include your past colleagues, study peers, professors, or even your friends and family.

Reaching out to the people you know could be an excellent way to find job opportunities. Perhaps they know of open positions and could put in a good word for you.

5. Begin to search for a new job

Once your resume is in order, you can use job boards like Jobcase to search for a new position.

Simply type in the position you’re looking for alongside the location, and Jobcase will give you a list of open roles.

If you’re tired of working in the office, you can even opt for a work-from-home job by ticking the “remote/work from home only” box. Discover work-from-home positions you can land fast.

6. Practice your interview skills

Once you’ve secured an interview, it’s time to practice your interview skills so you stand a better chance of getting the job. You can also do some research to determine the dress code. Some companies prefer business casual, while others prefer formal wear.

To help you ace your interview, we’ve prepared a list of the top interview questions recruiters ask and how you need to answer them.

How to discuss your termination in a job interview

You need to be prepared to discuss your termination during the interview. Here’s how to approach your interview the right way.

Focus on the positives

It's never good to badmouth your previous employer. This will give your interviewer a bad impression of you and your work ethic.

It’s best to focus on the positive aspects of your previous job and being fired. For example, being able to develop new skills or to pursue a new role you wouldn't have previously considered.

Discuss what you learned

You can reframe the experience of being fired by focusing on the things that you learned from the experience instead. Talk about the skills that you learned during your time working for your previous employer or during your time of unemployment.

A good way to do this is to use the STAR method:

  • Situation: Explain the situation and provide the context of what happened.

  • Task: Describe the problems and challenges you had to overcome.

  • Action: Explain how you handled the situation.

  • Results: Describe the outcome of the action you took.

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Be truthful

Don’t lie about the reason for your termination. Your interviewer will likely contact your previous employer and find out the truth.

However, before you answer this question, consider the best approach. You can prepare some points you’d like to mention about it, such as the circumstances that led to the termination.

Also, try to remain calm and collected, even if it’s still a sensitive topic for you. This will show the hiring manager that you’re professional and can put your own feelings aside.

Recover from your job loss

You now know how to respond after getting fired from your job and what you should do following the termination. Your first step is to process the situation and not be too hard on yourself.

Next, you can sharpen your skills to stand a better chance of landing future jobs. Then, you can improve your resume, reach out to your network, and start looking for positions on job boards such as Jobcase.

Also, remember to be prepared to talk about your job termination during your future job interviews and maintain a positive attitude throughout.

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