How to make yourself marketable after getting fired

From fired to hired: How to find a job after getting axed

Anna Wintour, the legendary editor of Vogue, was once fired from a fashion stylist job—and told she would “never understand the American market.”

“I think everyone should be fired,” the English-born Wintour said of the experience. “It’s character-building.”

Maybe so. But finding a job—difficult under the best of circumstances—can be especially challenging after you’ve been fired. How do you recover from the gut-punch of an unwanted dismissal, and then roll it into your next opportunity (as Ms. Wintour apparently did)? Here is a roadmap to getting back in the game.

Take stock

Getting fired is a moment to take a deep breath and reflect on your career. Ask yourself: Why exactly did I wind up getting fired? What areas of my performance were weak, and how can I improve them? Do I need to hone my substantive skills, improve my communication, work on my attitude? Should I seek out training or job counseling? Was getting fired a sign of a mismatch between myself and the role I was taking on? Is a career shift in order?

Talk it out with a partner, friend, or counselor (but not on social media). Discuss your emotions, which may include anger and shame, so that they don’t bubble up (and work against you) at your next job interview. Get it all on the table.

This self-inventory will help you to take your next step with confidence, and lower the odds that you’ll ever have to repeat this ordeal.

Get off the couch

The longer you stay out of the job market, the harder it’s going to be to find a new position. “If it’s a month or two, it’s easily explainable. If it’s a year, it’s much more challenging,” said David Rosenblatt, managing director of the Quest Organization, an executive search and advisory firm, in a phone interview. That’s why he suggests that people take a temporary or freelance position ASAP while they’re on the search for a permanent job. This gives you something more recent and pleasant to talk about in interviews than the job you got fired from. And it provides a possibly more friendly set of references.

A temporary gig also projects the aura that you’re still in demand. “When you can say, ‘I’ve been consulting,’” Rosenblatt said, “you look more marketable.”

Cast a wide net

You might not be able to step back into the exact same role you left behind, so be open-minded. “You have to be flexible in terms of title,” said Rosenblatt. “You might have to take a step backward and take a little less salary. That will make you more marketable.” Take advantage of the many online platforms available to job searchers, from Indeed to LinkedIn to Monster to Ladders to Glassdoor, and on and on. On some level, finding the right job is a numbers game. “Use those resources to your advantage,” said Rosenblatt. “The more you put yourself out there, the more you’re going to get results.”

Communicate strategically

When you’re asked in an interview why you were let go, tell the story in a way that’s concise, honest, and mature. Don’t lash out at your former employer—anger and blame only make you look unprofessional—or tell lies that can come back to bite you. (Remember, it’s a small world. It’s likely your prospective employer knows people at your old company.) Be brief. If you go on and on, employers may get the feeling that there are issues you are trying to explain away. Instead, you want to sound like someone who has learned from the experience and confidently moved on. (If you worked out your emotional issues back in step one, this should be no problem.)

Finally, go forth and conquer

If you’ve been fired, rest assured you’re not alone. Some of most successful people in the world have been sacked. If you take the experience as a learning opportunity—if you’re open-minded, self-aware, and strategic—you’re more likely to look back on a character-building moment like Anna Wintour’s, and perhaps even as a welcome turning point in your career.

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