8 Life Lessons Losing a Job Will Teach You

Life Lessons from Job LossLosing a job, either due to termination or corporate downsizing, is never easy. But, it does give you another chance to get it right!

Earlier in my career, one of my functions was to witness terminations as a member of the HR team. I was referred to as the “angel of death.” Truth be told, I look back on that role and realized I loved it.

No, I am not a sadist!

What I realized was that I was unleashing these people from a job they didn’t like. Then later in my career, while working for an outplacement company, I met with individuals to let them know they were being downsized. I did this hundreds of times and it never got easier.

So I share with you eight life-lessons you can take away from your separation that will serve you well throughout the rest of your career. (Maybe getting fired is the greatest gift your employer could have given you!)

1. Find the Right Fit

This is your chance to interview your future manager and employer with more discerning questions. Use what you’ve learned from your last experience to screen for qualities and characteristics you know you’ll work well with. Be on the lookout for red flags or subtle clues based on answers, behaviors or rumors on the street.

2. What You Need To Do Differently Next Time

Learn from this valuable life lesson. What was it about your last job that may not have made it a good fit, or what could you do differently when faced with a difficult work situation the next time around? As Winston Churchill said, “All men make mistakes, but only wise men learn from their mistakes.”

3. Always Keep You Eyes Open

Losing a job should also teach you to pay attention to what’s going on inside a company. Are there signs of declining business? Has a key client left or has there been a change in leadership, or a merger or buyout? These types of things generally mean change is coming. Also keep an eye on changes inside your company. Signs of future trouble may include: Your department is in financial trouble or the project you are working on isn’t performing as well as expected. These are clues that you may need to begin putting out feelers for a new job.

4. Be Open To New Opportunities

If your boss asked you to take on an additional project or more work, how did you respond? This may have been your boss’s way of foreshadowing the need for you to change. While it may seem unfair for a company to ask you to do more, you can also consider it a skill-building exercise that will make you more marketable. You always want to be ready for something new. If you network internally and externally, you increase the number of people who know what you do. This keeps you in people’s minds and helps position you for unposted opportunities.

5. Try Harder

Even the hardest-working employee is not protected from a layoff. But employees who exceed performance expectations and have good working relationships with managers generally fare better during times of change. It is never too late to try to patch your strained relationship with your manager or colleagues. Take the first step and approach them with the intention of fixing what you can. You’ve got nothing to lose.

6. Stay Positive

Never talk trash about your former employer, not to anyone. Negativity breeds negativity. Take the high road and try not to cast blame on anyone. Accept responsibility for the things within your control, and focus on the valuable lessons you learned from the situation.

7. Move On

You don’t want your old job back. It wouldn’t be the same. Whatever changes the organization was facing that led to your separation probably affected the culture or how things got done. And if you were terminated and think you want to fight it, think twice. Would everyone welcome you back with open arms? It is likely that your manager and colleagues would treat you differently if you returned, which could make you feel like you were walking on eggshells. Returning to work at a company that let you go may not work out well.

8. Know How to Talk About It

The job application will ask you the reason for leaving each job. Keep your answer short and void of emotion or negativity. “Laid off” and “fired” are a popular terms, but both can have a negative connotation. Instead, a better choice is “reduction in force,” or you might be able to use “position eliminated.” You can and should expect to answer why you left your last job on every application and interview. Be ready with an answer that won’t leave the wrong impression with a potential employer.

During a phone screen or interview, keep your answer short and to the point. Here is a good and bad example of how to answer the “why did you leave you job” question.

There is a silver lining to losing your job. Positively managing the situation is 100% in your court. Turn it to your advantage!


For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at CareerSherpa!


Career Sherpa


HannahAbout The Author: Hannah Morgan is a career sherpa, guiding new job seekers through the treacherous terrain of job search. If you are looking for no-nonsense advice, check out her site Career Sherpa, and follow Hannah on Twitter for the latest job search news and trends!




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