Skip to Content

How to stay positive after getting fired


The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question “How do you bounce back after getting fired?” is by DeLisa Alexander, chief people officer at Red Hat.

I believe that things happen for a reason — especially unfair or challenging things — and I’ve seen first hand how difficult it is to be fired. Whether the firing is a reduction in force (RIF), due to an error you made or a result of a fatal flaw, there are two steps that can help you to bounce back and lift yourself up. First, decide that you are going to learn something about yourself from this horrific event. Second, be determined to use this challenging time as opportunity for you to (further) develop your resilience. Put the two together and you can power yourself into a positive future.

Today, continuous learning is a must. Yet we often do not have time to reflect on where we need to grow. By pausing to do some introspection — getting feedback and insights from peers and family and deciding how to invest in yourself — you can stay focused on something that you can control: your own skills and ability to contribute. When you take ownership of what you can control, it can help to power you in a positive and forward direction. Conversely, the more time you spend mired in the past or finger pointing, the longer it takes to bounce back.

See also: Never say this when an employer asks why you were fired

I’ve come to realize that resilience is one of the most valuable strengths that anyone can cultivate. Your ability to bounce back — to rise up, again and again, no matter how many times you stumble or fall — is a big contributor to your happiness and success in life. As you navigate the challenging weeks and perhaps months to come, keep refining and reframing the story you’re telling yourself about what this experience means for you and your future.

Getting fired can erode your self-confidence, so pay attention to your thoughts. It’s easy to start thinking that you aren’t enough: not smart enough, not skilled enough; whatever your former employer needed, you didn’t have enough of it. This is a demoralizing way to think, and it doesn’t help you move forward. Rather than focusing on your weaknesses, take inventory of your strengths. What are the things that you’re really good at? What gives you energy? What do you enjoy doing most?

This will help you as you explore new job opportunities, because you will gravitate toward organizations and positions where you can utilize your strengths. Look for jobs where there’s a strong alignment between your passions and talents and the organization’s mission. This is where you’ll be happiest, with ample opportunities to contribute and grow.

See also: Why this CEO won’t judge you for getting fired

At the same time, if there’s a villain in the story you’re telling yourself, that’s a signal that you might need to shift your mindset in order to move forward. For most of us, this means getting better at connecting with many different types of people. In any job, you’re going to have tough relationships that are hard to crack. You’re going to face moments where the person in front of you feel like a roadblock. When you’re able to pause in the moment and change the way you respond, you take control of the situation.

Think about how you show up to others, and create a vision of what kind of person (leader, coworker, manager) you want to be. Reflect on the past year, and step back to take a look at how you’re appearing to those you work with every day. If it’s not consistent with how you want to show up — with that vision for who you want to be — decide to make some positive changes. In short, use this difficult event as an opportunity to learn and grow.

Read all responses to the Leadership Insider question: How do you bounce back after getting fired?”

Why getting fired can be a good thing by Ryan Harwood, CEO of PureWow.