Whether you were let go as a result of companywide layoffs or problems pertaining to your performance, losing a job is never easy. But the way you react following that news can dictate whether your career quickly recovers or takes a long-term hit. Here are a few specific things not to do after getting the axe.
1. Tell off your manager or colleagues
It's hard to sit there and nod politely while your manager explains that you're no longer employed. But tempting as it may be to speak your mind and air the various grievances you've been keeping inside for months (or years), stay cool and avoid saying something you might come to regret. For all you know, the decision to let you go had nothing to do with your boss, and if you treat him or her with respect during that discussion, your boss is more likely to serve as a reference for you or help you find work elsewhere. The same holds true for your colleagues, so bite your tongue rather than lash out.
2. Badmouth your company publicly
Maybe you're frustrated that your company's poor management resulted in cash flow problems that led to people like yourself getting fired. And you most certainly have every right to feel that way. Just avoid sharing that sentiment on social media. Bashing your company publicly could have legal repercussions, but even in a less extreme situation, it could make you seem petty and unprofessional, thus lowering your chances of getting rehired quickly. A better bet? Ask a trusted friend over for a venting session, and unload in private.
3. Sign a severance agreement without reading it carefully
It's common for workers to receive severance pay upon getting terminated, but that money usually comes at a cost. In exchange, you'll generally need to sign a severance agreement wherein you pledge to comply with specific terms set forth by your company. Those terms might include agreeing not to disparage your employer or poach its employees. Or, they might mean agreeing not to work for a direct competitor for a certain period of time. Either way, read that document thoroughly and make sure you understand its terms. Otherwise, you could end up signing away your rights in exchange for a not-so-significant sum of money.
4. Wait to file for unemployment benefits
Provided you worked for a large enough employer for a lengthy enough period of time, you're entitled to unemployment benefits as long as you weren't terminated for cause. And while those benefits won't make up for your missing paycheck in its entirety, they'll help nonetheless. But don't wait to file for them. It can take a few weeks for unemployment to kick in, and the more you delay, the longer you'll risk going without any income whatsoever.
5. Lie about what happened on interviews
The question of why you left your last job will inevitably come up in any interview you go on, and it's an uncomfortable one at that. But don't attempt to cover up what happened, because if you're caught in a lie, you'll most certainly wreck your chances of getting hired. If you were let go because your company downsized, say so point blank. If certain actions caused you to get fired, own up to them but explain how you've taken steps to learn from them and move on. For example, if you were let go for being perpetually tardy, tell your interviewer that you recognize how unacceptable that habit is, and that you've mapped out a plan to change your schedule so as not to have it happen again.
Losing a job isn't easy, but the actions you take afterward can either soften the blow or make an already unfortunate situation even worse. Avoid these mistakes, and with any luck, you'll recover quickly and keep your career on track.
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