How to Bounce Back After Being Fired

August 14, 2015
Step one: Take a deep breath.

So you've been pink-slipped. Ooooh, burn! Job loss can be especially scary for women, who are the primary breadwinners in nearly two-thirds of American households.

Here's how to light a match under your ass—and go from fired to hired.

Phase One: Holy. Crap.

Negotiate. Don't sign anything right away. "You have more power than you think," says career transition expert Louise Kursmark of Best Impression Career Services in Reading, Massachusetts. "Your employer doesn't want this to be a long, uncomfortable process." Things you can ask for: an increased severance, payment on a freelance basis to finish projects, or a neutral reference (confirming dates of employment). Only ask if you can resign instead of being fired if you can afford to forgo unemployment; you're not eligible to collect if you quit.

Mourn the loss. Go ahead and unload on a good friend over a slice of molten chocolate cake (or three). But keep it off-line. A survey found that 38 percent of laid-off or fired workers bad-mouthed their former employer, in many cases on the Interwebs. "No company sees complaints about your last job on Twitter and thinks, "Oh, we've got to get some of that on our team!" says Jon Acuff, author of Do Over: Rescue Monday, Reinvent Your Work and Never Get Stuck. And they will see it: Ninety-three percent of recruiters say they look at a candidate's social media profiles. Similarly, your exit e-mail to colleagues and clients shouldn't be a page from your Mean Girls burn book. "Talk about how great it was to work with them and wish them the best," says Kursmark.

RELATED: What ACTUALLY Happens After You Tell Your Boss 'F— You'

Call Your M.D. And your dentist. Your insurance will likely last until the end of the month, so book regular checkups ASAP. After that, visit healthcare.gov to see if there's a plan that costs less than what you'll pay under COBRA.

Ditch the self-deception. Mentally own any part you played in your firing—even if it was simply staying in the wrong place for too long. "You need to look at what you did, so you don't make the same mistakes again," says Kursmark.

RELATED: 6 Signs You're About to Get Fired

Phase Two: Ack! Job Hunting!

Take a breather. Your instincts may tell you to start applying for new gigs before you've even unpacked your sad little desk plant, but high emotions can send you chasing ill-fitting roles. Mope in your yoga pants for a week, then start networking; in a survey, four out of 10 job seekers found their "favorite or best" job through a personal connection. Tell friends and former colleagues that you're seeking new opportunities, says Scott Steinberg, author of Make Change Work for You. Want something specific (e.g., an introduction)? Say so. And if someone is really going to go to bat for you—say, recommending you via an employee referral system—'fess up that you were fired. You don't want them to learn the truth elsewhere.

RELATED: 3 Successful Women Share Their Work Failures—and What They Learned From Their Mistakes

Get your house in order. Experts say it's fine to leave a short stint off your resume. If you're asked about the time gap, say: "I was there for a limited period, and I wanted my resume to focus on the experiences that are in line with what I want next. " It's okay to keep your LinkedIn status as employed for a couple of weeks; anything longer feels deceptive, says Kursmark.

Think outside the 9 to 5. "When you've been in the same job for a couple of years, it's like being in a bio-dome," says Acuff. "You emerge and say, 'The world has changed.'" So keep an open mind. Five years ago, you may have only been applying for full-time jobs, but you may want to expand your prerequisites. Part-time and temp gigs, as well as consulting work, can often lead to long-term employment, so ask interviewers if their contract opportunities could turn to full-time down the road.

RELATED: 50 Unexpected Ways to Get a Job

For interview tips on how to nail your next big gig, pick up the September 2015 issue of Women's Health, on newsstands now.

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