Avoid the blame game
It's so tempting to slam your employer, particularly if you feel the firing was undeserved (and who doesn't?). But resist the urge. It's better for your recovery if you take the time to reflect on what has happened and then to respond rather than simply react, says Terry Pearce, president of consulting firm Leadership Communication. Pointing the finger makes you look bad — and it doesn't feel as good as you think it will.
Of course it still stings. It probably always will. But if you want to make it in your next job, you need to let go of the last one. Mourning is okay, but only for a short period of time. "My first instinct was to go on and on and tell [people] what happened at Schwab," says Pottruck. "And they would say to me, 'We don't want to talk about that. We want to talk about what's next.' Put it behind you with one or two sentences and move on to how to make the rest of your life even better than what's come so far."
Reject the comfortable
It's common for fired employees to look for redemption by trying to find the same job, or a very similar one. In some ways, getting fired gives you an opportunity to start over. Take the time to think about industries and careers you've never considered, in roles you've never contemplated. Don't run right back to the familiar just because it is.
Take some time, but not too much
Getting fired is a good opportunity to recharge your batteries, if that's what you actually end up doing. But if you don't pursue something that makes you feel good about yourself and helps you regain your mojo, you may sink into a slump. "Be real careful taking a couple of months off," says leadership consultant Howard Morgan. "Because if you spend your time saying how crummy [your experience] was, you can end up worse off."
Go with the flow
For any professional, particularly one with a lot of management responsibility, it can be devastating to realize that you've temporarily lost control of your career. But that can be a good thing, too, if you see it that way. Says Pottruck: "I'm trying to be engaged with the world . . . and let my life take its own course."
A version of this article appeared in the September 2005 issue of Fast Company magazine.