Lose Your Job, Find Yourself

How to make the most of getting the ax.

It's the stuff of button-down nightmares: sitting across the table from your never-takes-lunch boss, listening to him tell you how "difficult" it is for him to eliminate your position, with the company lawyer standing sentry nearby lest you flip out.

You're getting fired. Or, more precisely, Amy Shouse is. And the marketer-turned-writer—like noted badasses Kash Sree and Dennis Litky—handled it with aplomb.

Sensing that the ax was coming after her company was taken over by Bain Capital (and her charming new boss was installed), she slowly started ferrying her belongings back home via a Trader Joe's bag. That preparation—and the getting canned itself—turned the termination into something much less terminal.

Here are three of her suggestions for making the most of getting the ax:

Get the emotions out

Shouse recommends a solid, out-loud "I Got Fired" to jumpstart the processing, followed by cascades of journaling—a key practice to creative R&D and productive mornings.

Getting fired is traumatic, Shouse admits, and when you "put pen to paper and see what comes up" you can rid yourself of your fire-y demons. With all that weight unloaded, you can move forward with focus.

Dream big

Call it a "blue sky" moment: Make a list of everywhere you'd want to work. Regardless of pre-requisites, catalog the gigs that would "make your heart sing." Her list ranged from "anything nonprofit" to "truck driver," which, it seems, gives you a strange sort of permission to cast the widest and weirdest of nets.

Be Mercilessly Authentic

Shouse says that after spending too long in "corporate dungeons" toiling under "invalidating supervisors," we should undertake a new mission: "to burrow your way back into your own head and spirit."

Echoing Clay Christensen's call to measure your life, Shouse recommends a bout of career-focused self-inquiry: "Who am I? What do I want to do? Initially, these questions bounced off the walls, but after creating and following my plan, I got clarity."

Bookmark this one, so that the next time you lose your gig, you can find yourself too.

Related: Moving On: How I Found Happiness After Getting Fired

[Image: Flickr user Rick Harris]

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  • $56633281

    Here's what happened to me. And I'm still reeling...but working through the elements of shock while trying to remain positive. As we all know, some days are better than others depending on many things. Are you single, married, a parent, in your 40's (making it harder), etc.??
    The bad news for me, unlike the example of slowing taking things home, I had to go back 4-days after being let go to get my things!

  • officialnewlaunch

    sometimes when people get sacked, thats when they turn creative and venture into very successful businesses.

  • Popoftheworld

    Two years ago, after being laid off in a budget crunch, I embraced many of these same ideas. Others, too, said, "This is going to be great for you. You'll be able to do what you always wanted." I blogged, did pro bono work for great organizations that loved my work, I was credited in their publications, became LinkedIn with all the people in the industry I admired and applied to every position even remotely appropriate.
    So I'm here, still on the outside looking in. HARKONNEN is correct with his comments.There are thousands of columns about getting back on the merry-go-round after you lose your seat but as I watch it spin faster and faster, I've decided the only way to make it is to find another ride at the carnival.

  • Harkonnen

    Sometimes getting the ax is the best thing to happen to you, forcing you to confront decisions that you should have long ago. That-said, if you don't have the right skills or a good network, then it will remain a traumatic event.