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Liz Ryan Contributor

I write about bringing life to work and bringing work to life. full bio →

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

I was a Fortune 500 HR SVP for ten million years, but I was an opera singer before I ever heard the term HR. The higher I got in the corporate world, the more operatic the action became. I started writing about the workplace for the Chicago Sun-Times in 1997, but it took me ages to find my own voice. Now I write for the Huffington Post, Business Week, LinkedIn, the Harvard Business Review, the Denver Post and Forbes.com and lead the worldwide Human Workplace movement to reinvent work for people. Stop by and join us: http://www.humanworkplace.com

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Leadership 4,182 views

How To Job-Hunt After Getting Fired

The big thing about getting fired is not the process of getting fired itself, but the job-hunt afterwards. The good news is that the working world is changing fast. One of the ways that the traditional Godzilla structure keeps working people in  line is that it tells them “If you get fired, good luck getting hired anywhere else!”

It used to be a huge thing if you got fired and then had to say “I got fired from my last job” when you started your job search. You don’t have to do that now. Getting fired is not even a real thing. It just means that an employer said “Hit the road” before you said “I’m out of here.” It’s not a legal designation.

It’s just a conversation. We have to shake the toxic lemonade out of our veins and stop thinking that a job application is a legal document or more fundamentally, that organizations have more power than individual people do. That is nonsense!

If you are about to get fired, you can quit. Your boss or someone in HR can begin to say “Look, we can see that it’s not working out and so —”

and you can interrupt them and say “Let me make this easy – I quit!” However, if you don’t have another job lined up, don’t quit, because if you quit you won’t be eligible for unemployment compensation. Let them fire you. It doesn’t matter.

Most employers these days will never give a bad reference, because they don’t want to be sued. They won’t tell another employer that they fired you. All they are likely to do is to confirm the dates that you worked for them and your job titles. Here in the U.S. they can’t confirm your salary without your permission. For the same reason, many employers will not make you ineligible for rehire just because one manager terminated you.

If you sign an application or a background-checking form that gives your possible new employer the right to check your references and if your former employer tells the new employer that you are ineligible for rehire, the new employer will ask you what’s up. You’ll say “It was a difficult situation leading up to my departure.

“We had differences of opinion that were significant enough that it was obvious the fit was not good. I am surprised that I am ineligible for rehire there but of course, I don’t intend to work in that organization again in any case.”

Your relationship with your new hiring manager is the key. If he or she doesn’t trust your judgment, why would you want to work on his or her team?

You never have to say “I was fired” during your job search. We still have the outdated idea that being fired puts a mark on shame on you. It’s not true. Most of the people who get fired from their jobs in my experience are not bad people or bad employees.

We do not know how to be adults at work. We do not know how to talk about energy. When two people don’t resonate together, that is an energetic mismatch. It doesn’t make one person wrong. An immature or flustered boss may not know how to put words around the mismatch, so he or she will say “You aren’t meeting my requirement.”

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