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 Shadan Deleveaux, co-founder of Technology For Families in Need.
A few years ago Tamberla Perry, a friend of mine from college, had one of the most traumatic experiences of her professional life. At the time, she was responsible for diversity recruiting at a large retail company. She was great at her job, and had a remarkable eye for matching candidates with companies, but she had zero passion for her work. Her job was simply something she did to pay the bills. Tamberla has one of those personalities that makes her stand out immediately. In short, she’s a character. She can be funny, solemn, passionate, energetic, all in the space of a single conversation. Her personality is a natural fit for her true passion, acting, which was something she would do from time to time as a hobby. Then, one day, her manager called her into her office and concluded a short speech by saying, “You just don’t seem like you want to be here.” She was let go on the spot. Understandably, she was devastated since being fired can feel like the ultimate form of rejection. On a positive note, Tamberla has recovered quite nicely since that day and this is how she did it.
Being fired can feel personal; it can be tempting to internalize the situation and start to doubt your skills, abilities and professional worth. Assuming that you are performing your job satisfactorily and not acting crazy at work, firing an employee(s) is a business decision that companies make from time to time. The decision boils down to the fact that your skill set is not aligned with what the company needs from your position at a particular moment in time. It is not an assessment of your worth as a person, but more so about your fit with company priorities. The first step in bouncing back is recognizing the decision for what it is and deciding to move on to a company where you will be valued. In short, take the negative feelings, and let them go.
Review your options
The period in between employment is the perfect time for self-reflection and assessment. Take a holistic approach to your career by asking yourself some macro level questions: What’s important to you professionally? What are the things that give you a sense of fulfillment in your career? What skills do you have that may be implemented in a new way to explore a completely different path? Do you have restrictions — economic or otherwise — that will affect your career decision?
Let go of your fear
Being unemployed can also feel terrifying. Those feelings of fear can cause you to jump into the first opportunity that comes your way. This can be a huge mistake that can rob you of the opportunity to make a life-improving shift in your career trajectory. Tamberla was tempted to pursue another position at a head hunting company because that was where her experience was, but she took a moment to step back and quickly realized that it would have lead to the same lack of fulfillment that she had experienced in her prior role. She made a conscious decision instead to face her fears and pursue her true passion, acting.
Take a Leap
When you’re fired you’re presented with a unique opportunity. If you loved your job, which is apparently highly unlikely according to a 2012 Gallup Survey that shows that 70% of employees are disengaged at work, then you can exclusively pursue identical opportunities. Alternatively, you can make the decision to stretch yourself professionally by simultaneously pursuing your passion. Admittedly, this can be incredibly frustrating since there are no guarantees, but the potential upside is huge. Tamberla chose this path. She left corporate America and, after a few minor gigs, landed voice over commercial campaigns, several television appearances including a recurring role in Kelsey Grammar’s TV drama series Boss, as well as a the hostess job for the Illinois Lottery on WGN America. That was followed by several productions at Steppenwolf Theatre, The Goodman Theatre and Lookingglass Theatre, three of Chicago’s Elite Tony Award-winning theatre companies. She can currently be seen in a new production Barbecue at the Public Theater in New York City. I asked Tamberla if she had any regrets about leaving her former industry to become a successful actor. Her answer? “Nope. It was the best decision of my life.”