Last week I was told that my position at my day job is being eliminated. It’s the second time this has happened in the past two years. The first time, it was under very different circumstances; to be honest, being let go from a gig that caused me very real emotional and mental stress was kind of a relief. This time, after a day of moping, I could only ask, “OK, Universe, what’s next?”
Still, everyone wants to be in control of their destiny. No matter what the reason, it can be a real blow to be told that your boss is eliminating your position—or, worse, just to be handed a pink slip with no conversation whatsoever, just an end date and a smile. But Beyoncé gave us the blueprint for how to make lemonade out of lemons, and while losing your full-time gig is never easy—believe me, I’m living it—here are five action steps to take after being let go:
1. Feel what you’re feeling.
Listen, y’all, when you get called into your boss’s office for that conversation about your position ending, there are a bunch of feelings that come with it. Even if you’d already been planning to leave, you may feel demeaned, embarrassed, sad, angry and maybe even a bit relieved.
Getting fired is difficult because everyone wants to leave a situation on their own terms. Keep this in mind, though: You get to be in your feelings for as long as you need to. Don’t let anyone tell you to “suck it up” or push you to smile when you simply don’t want to. It’s healthy to feel pain and sadness.
More important—especially in those first few days after receiving the news—avoid destructive urges to either ignore your feelings or numb them. The worst thing you can do when you’re devastated is attempt to eat, drink, smoke or screw away your feelings. Feel your feelings and work through them. Sit with them. As they say, there’s no growth in the comfort zone and no comfort in the growth zone. You need to be healthy for that next step.
2. Pull your community close.
Hopefully you have a squad that loves you and wants to see you win. So when you get that pink slip, pull your community in close. When I learned that my contract was not renewed, the first thing I did was tell my squad. And if you have a crew like mine, then you have at least one of each of these three types on board: an Olivia Pope-style strategist, a Cleo-type ride-or-die, and your very own Molly, who is your day one shoulder to cry on—and all of them are your biggest cheerleaders.
Your strategist will help you reach your best self. She’ll devise a 10-point strategy for your next step. She’s the one who might even have a short-term hookup to give you a little cushion between now and your next full-time gig—your real glow up.
Your ride-or-die? She’ll amp you up with fantasies of slashing tires and breaking out windows. Her purpose is to remind you of how great you are. If you’re angry, then she’s angry. And while she may have a drink with you or smoke with you, she won’t let you wallow, ’cause you’re her girl and ain’t nobody gonna keep you down for long.
Your day one shoulder to cry on is the sista who will love on you no matter what. Hugs, tears on her shoulder and plenty of “I love you, sis, you got this” are always at the ready. Emotion is her middle name, and you can express all of yours with her. She’ll also gently nudge you to take a walk while talking and encourage you to see your therapist because she knows you need a little push to get you back on track.
But while your friends are always there for you, keep in mind that they need a break now and then, too. When that happens, let the professionals take over: Seek out a bodyworker, yoga class, Reiki specialist or acupuncturist to do some healing outside of your friend circle. You deserve it.
3. Revisit your exit plan (or start one).
I’ve written about exit plans before but have since learned firsthand that sometimes a pink slip will interrupt even the best exit strategy. Don’t throw your exit plan away, though; instead, update and retool it (your squad will come in handy here).
Maybe you have two weeks or 90 days left on your contract, but no matter the length of time, you still need to think about your next step. What thrills you? What have you always wanted to do but were too afraid to go after? Explore those new options.
If you haven’t started an exit plan, this is a perfect time. You’re leaving anyway, so think big! Since we all have bills, you might have to find a temporary gig to get you to your next great thing, and that’s where gathering your contacts becomes critical.
4. Gather your contacts.
Unless you’re the type of person who’s trampled over everyone in your wake and burned every bridge, there’s a solid possibility that colleagues in your field have heard of you and your good work and want to support your success. Let your contacts know you’re looking and that you’d love their help.
LinkedIn is a good spot to do this via direct message, but if you know the person well, talk to him or her face-to-face over coffee or tea. Be open to new opportunities that may come your way. Your contacts may need your skill set in a way you never envisioned. If you have a specific path in mind, make sure you pull those contacts first. You may not get a new job right away, but plant those seeds and they’ll grow.
5. Exit with dignity.
We all have those fantasies of destroying expensive computers, slapping your cube mate who clipped his fingernails at his desk, and cursing out the boss as you walk away like Angela Bassett in Waiting to Exhale, throwing a match behind you. And yes, you and your ride-or-die may have joked over brown liquor about really putting a hurting on someone, but no. Stop.
Part of leaving after getting the pink slip is doing so with your dignity intact. Yes, that flip-out scene from Jerry Maguire is appealing, but ain’t nobody got time for that, and gossip spreads quickly. The best thing to do in the time you have left is to shore up your projects and move on. Don’t embarrass yourself.
You’re better than this gig. Don’t beg your supervisor for another chance or to reverse the decision—and definitely don’t bad-mouth your co-workers. Keep it cool. Do your job and keep it pushing. Also, you should start to think about what you’ll say in your next interview. Be honest, but also reflect on what you learned from the experience. Thank your boss for the opportunity, ask for feedback (if you feel up to it) and pack your stuff.
I’ve been fired twice in my life. This second time, I already had an exit strategy. Still, there’s nothing like wanting to leave on your own terms. As I reflect on my next steps, the emotion that I have to tackle is fear. Fear of going backward, fear of failure, fear of regret. Job security is real. And we all got bills to pay. But safety isn’t part of my exit strategy, and it shouldn’t be part of yours, either. When the universe opens a door, we just need to walk right on through it. And y’all, I’m running through mine!