You Were Terminated. You Suck.

You - The Rejected?Terminated. Downsized. Right-sized. Laid off. Fired. Disengaged.

Do you identify yourself with your job title or role? I did.

I went from “I’m Jason, General Manager” to “I’m Jason, I don’t have a job” (and in my head I heard “I’m a loser.“)

I’ve seen too many professionals and executives between jobs that have taken it way too personally. I can see it in their eyes. I can hear it in their voices. I know why this hurts so much – I know because I was critical of the guy that lost a job (or couldn’t get a new one immediately).

I used to think it was their own fault for (a) not choosing a better major, (b) not getting a graduate degree, (c) not taking good risks at work, (d) not developing better relationships with key people, (e) not producing, or being valuable at work… the list goes on and on.

And then I found out it isn’t necessarily anyone’s fault. It’s not the MBA’s fault, with 20 years of incredible experience. It’s not the lawyer’s fault, who is one of the best in her field. It’s not the PhD’s fault, who was one of the best research scientists in the company.

Maybe it’s management’s fault. Maybe it’s “the owner’s” fault. Maybe it’s the customer’s fault. Maybe the economy is to blame. Maybe maybe maybe.

Maybe… just maybe, we are not immune to this unemployment thing. When I read the statistics – the ones that say I’ll change jobs nine times before I retire or I’ll change careers up to six times – I need to believe it. Because I didn’t before. I thought I was above that. I thought my degrees, experience and personal charm would make me immune. It didn’t. And it won’t in the future.

There is no immunity. I’ve talked with too many people I’ve met because of JibberJobber that should never be out of work – but they are… because of things outside of their control.

I have learned two things from this experience:

A. It happens. It happens to almost everyone. One of the best results of going to a job-seeker’s network meeting was seeing the types of people that were there. I thought I would be the most qualified, highest educated, most sophisticated person in the room. What I found were people that ran circles around me. To hear their stories was discouraging (what? Go to school for a long time and still end up here??), but it helped me understand that it happens – and there isn’t necessarily anything you can do to prevent it.

B. You have to move on. Don’t sit around trying to figure out what you could have done differently. Don’t try and figure out what is being said about you. Don’t let depression suck you in. Don’t define yourself based on what happened. Pick up the pieces, do a personal inventory, get help if you need it (I strongly recommend finding a coaching relationship to have someone else help you through this process). Figure out what job search strategies are (I took months to really dig into this) and move on.

So maybe you lost your job. But you don’t suck.

11 thoughts on “You Were Terminated. You Suck.”

  1. Jason, to carry your point just a bit further… a guy or gal with the attitude that you describe (the I lost my job I must suck attitude) is not going to get a job any time soon. The hiring companies can see it on their faces, hear it in their voices. It is one of the things that make the old saying “the best time to look for a new job is while you still have one” true.

  2. I was going to post an agreement here and a note to remember what is *in* your control and what is *out* of your control.

    However, in true Dan fashion, the post became both long and extremely self-serving. So, I’ll blog on this topic tomorrow.


  3. When you get hit with something like this, everybody goes through some period of self-doubt. How could you not? It does happen to everyone and you do have to move on at some point. How long it takes you to move on depends on the person and the situation. I have to admit reading that “changing jobs 9 times” part depressed me a bit until I realized I’ve already had 5 different jobs in the past 14 years.

    I have to slightly disagree about not sitting around to think about what you could have done differently, though. Dwelling on it to the point that it prevents you from moving on is never a good thing, but it is an opportunity to look for areas of improvement. Each situation is different, but thinking it was completely someone else’s doing is along the same lines as only blaming yourself. Neither extreme lets you grow. More than likely, it’s a little bit of both and now you can learn from it even if all you realize is “I didn’t see this coming and I should have.” On your next set of interviews, you are going to be asked, “Why did you leave your last position?” so you might as well think through the answer to that if nothing else.


  4. I agree with the Restaurant Recruiter’s comment. Attitude is everything…. you have to shin from the inside out. Life goes on… move onward and upward or stay put in pitty.


  5. This is a very important and timely topic — so many people are faced with losing a job at one time or another in today’s workplace. While I could write endlessly about this subject, I’ll just say a couple things about your post…a really good place to start in dealing with job loss is to deal with the ending. Celebrate the good things; carry forward the lessons, the relationships, the successes, and let go of the rest. Give yourself a chance to heal your wounds a little bit before you hit the streets again. Grieving is a part of the transition process. Try to find a “safe” someone to discuss with / work through the emotions, feelings to help deal with the loss, the transition. Remember the good, let go of the “not so good.” Recover, rethink, and rebuild. Build a solid foundation, once again, under your feet before you go forth. There’s a wonderful book written by Dr. William Bridges called “Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes.” I LOVE THIS BOOK and its teachings — I would encourage anyone who’s in some form of transition to read it. It puts things in perspective and provides a framework from which to launch your future. Thanks Jason for this post!

  6. Great post, Jason. I also think that when people are laid off or fired, they should use the opportunity to re-assess their career path and ask themselves if they’re really in the place they want to be. They should also take the time to recover and do things they enjoy that they didn’t have time for while they were still employed.

  7. This topic came up this morning. I spoke to a group of executive job seekers in Houston. My topic was the new book by Tom Rath, StrengthsFinder 2.0, which stresses the need to become aware of your innate talents, and then focus on strengthening them. During the discussion, we talked about the loss of identity that often comes with losing a job. One of the participants suggested that knowing our innate talents might give us an alternate identity – one that was independent of any job – and perhaps help us deal with future role changes.

  8. Indeed. It has to be said, because too often people take it personally and dwell on it. As you say, it’s important to get up, shake off the dust and move on.

  9. Jason,

    I really enjoyed this one and the comments. You do see it in people’s eyes and how they speak about their former jobs. They need to realize how much that can hurt their chances in job interiviews, etc.

    Take care,


  10. I was terminated from the job rescently. Six months back, I complaint about my manager that he was rascist, threatning to me and harrassing, making bad comments. Company has to took action, constructive termination and new manager came who is his friend. Initially, went well but she was working on me and suddenly without any cause company has terminated me. I am not understanding what to do? Any suggestions…?

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