Maybe you have never been fired. I sure have — more often than I care to remember — and I can assure you that, while the moment may be humbling, the experience has always been educational. Here are things I learned after getting the boot. They may not be earth-shattering lessons, but they’re good reminders when your earth has been shattered.
Be gracious, even at the end.
My first firing took place at my grandma’s bookstore. She said, “I told you that you can’t read when you’re working.” I said, “Just let me finish this one page.” She said, “You can finish all the pages — because you’re fired.” Fine, I told her. Besides, she didn’t pay enough. She told me that I made a lot of money for a 9-year-old. Then she said, “When you’re fired, it’s important to be as gracious as possible because there’s no point in burning a bridge any more than it’s already burned. And you never know what you might need later from the person who is firing you.” Then she took me out for ice cream.
You’d rather be where you’re appreciated, anyway.
I worked at a pizza parlor, where we treated the kitchen like a chemistry lab. The boss’s wife decided that 16-year-old girls were too tempting for him and instructed him to fire anyone who fit the above description. I tried proving my worth by inventing a method to make dough twice as fast as anyone else. But my hours dwindled. I was berated for not lining up the pepperoni exactly. It became a job I could only do wrong. The boss eventually followed his wife’s directive, and I took my pizza expertise to another restaurant, where I became the go-to pizza queen.
Even if you have a job, network like a person who needs a job.
Continuing my career in food services, I worked at an ice cream parlor. It was easy when someone ordered a flavor like daiquiri ice, which would thaw in five minutes. But hard flavors like pralines-and-cream would take most of the day to soften, and scooping them made my muscles sore. So I started directing customers to other ones. (“French vanilla? Feh. Orange sherbet — now that’s a flavor.”) When the end was near, I gave ice cream away for free. When the end arrived, I got another job right away — with someone who had benefited from my scooping largesse.
Everyone is expendable. Especially you.
Upon entering the real world, I worked at one of the first high-profile e-commerce websites. I had done my master’s thesis on interactive media, and suddenly 50-year-old managers were asking me for advice. Competitors tried to recruit me. I felt wanted and needed, and I started believing my own press. So much so that I neglected internal projects for freelance ones, thinking I was untouchable. I was the only one who understood the Internet, right? Wrong. And anyone who thinks they can’t be replaced is too.