Getting fired is one of the most stressful experiences a professional can go through. I am truly sorry that this has happened to you. Since this still is very fresh, there will be little I can say to take the sting or shock away. Those feelings will go away with time. But discussing the ramifications and strategies to move forward may help put things in perspective and get you geared up and ready for the next chapter in your career.
Getting fired is not the end of the world … or your career. Far from it. Professionals are fired every day, in every way, at every level. And for various reasons too—from illegal behavior to politics to just a plain ol’ bad fit. So it’s a common occurrence in the business world that employers and employees deal with daily. With this said, getting fired is not something to take lightly. It’s a serious event that deserves serious consideration and self-reflection if you want to learn from this situation and evolve.
Before you are ready to get back in the job market, it will be important to reflect on this situation and analyze what didn’t work and why. Once you gain this insight, you will grow as a lawyer, a colleague and a person. It will also help you in your future interviews and in your next role. So rewind the tape and take a close look before getting back into the game.
Nobody these days gets fired out of the blue without any warning. There are always signs and signals—direct and indirect—that things are amiss. Your first step is to identify and dissect these past warnings. It won’t be easy or enjoyable, but if you want to become better you’ll need to learn from your mistakes and others who may have made theirs. There’s no way around it.
With a pad of paper and a pen, write down a list of names: The names of the internal and external clients; and colleagues with whom you worked the closest. Next to each name, write the answers to the questions below:
- The Working Relationships: What was the nature of the working relationship? How often did you work together?
- The Signs: Were there any personality clashes? If so, what were they and why? How did you deal with them … or didn’t you? If you did, were you successful at harmonizing the relationship? Why or why not? Were there any complaints or comments about your performance/behavior? If so, what were they? Did you address the issues—if so, how? Were any of your performance reviews negative? If so, in what way? Did you work on addressing the issues? Did it work? Why or why not?
- You: How was your general attitude? Were you unhappy about anything at work? Did you have any resentments or negative feelings? Did you do anything to resolve negativity?
After compiling this information, a picture will emerge that will help you see things a bit more clearly. Now, on a separate piece of paper, list each issue, problem or negative dynamic that you identified above and write next to each … What you would do differently now; and the best solution or course of action you will take next time—to either prevent the situation or to deal with it more effectively. Be specific. Microscopic. If you’re not sure what the best solutions are, ask an expert, colleague or friend for guidance.
Your goal is to come out of this experience with a better handle on what went wrong and how to mitigate and avoid such issues in the future. You’ll also have greater self-awareness.
Nobody wants to hear those dreaded words of sayonara. When it does happen, it’s numbingly real. But life goes on and so will your career. I promise. But where it goes from here is entirely up to you. So learn from the past, move forward … and don’t look back. Onward and upward!
Julie Brush is the founder and author of The Lawyer Whisperer (www.thelawyerwhisperer.com), a career advice column for legal professionals, also found on LinkedIn. She is co-founder of Solutus Legal Search, a legal search/consulting boutique firm, serving as a strategic adviser to lawyers, law firms and corporations.