Lose Your Job, Find Yourself

How to make the most of getting the ax.

Lose Your Job, Find Yourself

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]

About the author

Drake Baer was a contributing writer at Fast Company, where he covered work culture. He's the co-author of Everything Connects, a book about how intrapersonal, interpersonal, and organizational psychology shape innovation.