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Here’s the real reason you were fired

Tom Gimbel, CEO of the LaSalle NetworkTom Gimbel, CEO of the LaSalle Network
Tom Gimbel, CEO of the LaSalle Network

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 Tom Gimbel, CEO of the LaSalle Network.

Losing a job isn’t an easy thing to go through, but there isn’t time to sit around and feel sorry for yourself. The most important thing to do after being fired is self-reflection. Take an objective look at yourself and your career. If you get fired, it’s typically for one of two reasons: 1) The company is downsizing or 2) You’re not performing at a high enough level.

Reason one: There are budget cuts or mass layoffs. If an entire department is let go, that’s one thing. But if other people are kept, ask yourself what qualities they had that you didn’t. Be brutally honest with yourself. The fact of the matter is that you didn’t perform as well as the people who are still there — otherwise, you’d be there instead.

Analyze your work ethic: Were you ever the first one into the office or the last one to leave? Did you put in extra time to deliver the best product? Think about what the top performers did to succeed and outline how you can do the same. Be proactive; use the time when you’re not working to invest in your career. Research different companies. Think about what environments you work best in. Take classes and get new certifications. Go to networking events. Talk with your friends about what they’re doing to succeed in their careers. Find a mentor who can help build your network and your skillset. These steps will help you appear more desirable to potential employers.

See also: The one question you need to ask after you’re fired

Reason two: You weren’t performing at a high level. Figure out why you were underperforming: Was the role over your head? Were you not motivated by the work? Did you fail to meet deadlines? Was the environment not conducive to your work style? Was your manager overbearing? Use this knowledge when you are looking for new opportunities. Only you can control your attitude and work ethic. Only you can decide how much you’re willing to do to become better in your role. You’re the CEO of your career — you have to own it. If you felt like you were drowning, you should have been asking your manager for help or looking to outside resources — you should have been putting in the extra hours.

Too often, people are competitive in areas that don’t matter — like the golf course — but aren’t competitive at work. Approach work like you would approach trying-out for a sports team. No one is entitled to a job — you have to earn it. There aren’t participation awards, and there will always be someone waiting to take your spot. You have to want to improve. You have to want to be the best. Being fired should light a fire under you; it should make you want to work harder and grow in your field. And regardless of the reason you were let go, you’ll have to address the situation in an interview. Be honest and candid about why you were fired. Explain what your shortcomings were and what you’ve done to improve. Getting fired can be a good opportunity to explore new options, but don’t waste time. The longer you’re out of the workforce, the harder it is to get back in.

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

How to stay positive after getting fired by DeLisa Alexander, chief people officer at Red Hat

Never say this when an employer asks why you were fired by Clark Valberg, CEO of InVision

Why this CEO won’t judge you for getting fired by Kevin Chou, co-founder and CEO of Kabam

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