Mending a Bruised Ego after Getting Fired

I don’t have a background in psychology or psychiatry, but I do have experience with bruised egos, having run a resume business for the past 11 years. While most people summon our services before the hatchet falls, many have been fired from their jobs without warning — sometimes after a long career with the same company. You don’t need any investigative prowess to discover who’s who. You can tell just by the sound of their voice just how fragile these clients are. I go out of my way for them because — as a writer — my ego has been battered plenty of times and it stings … every time.

The good news is that most people fired from their jobs are rehired in a fairly decent time frame by another company, but there are always a few who linger in unemployment — the ones who tend to dwell on the injustice. Even when they may have taken an initial step to hire a resume writer, you can sense everything is an effort for them. Their energy is zapped and, in some cases, they even become unresponsive — for days, sometimes weeks. While getting fired is a blow, you need to do exactly what you don’t feel like doing. Get back in the driver’s seat. Here are some suggestions if you’ve recently been fired or laid off — and they apply in pretty much any other situation when the ego gets bruised.

Do not sit in the injury. Probably the worst thing you can do when you are fired is to let it immobilize you. You’re allowed to grieve for a day — or two days at the most — but you must not let this rejection paralyze you. By all means, you should examine what went wrong — and what your part in it was (if you can figure it out) — but do not sit there and bemoan your fate for an extended period of time. It only gets worse. Take a deep breath and jump into finding a new job — by looking at job postings, freshening up your LinkedIn profile, networking with your contacts or calling a resume service. Do something proactive — you will feel better immediately.

Do not replay the scenario 50 times in your head before falling asleep. A bruised ego can turn even the most disciplined mind into an obsessive flytrap. And losing sleep will make you even more depressed than you are already feeling, so make a decision not to think about what happened, especially before bedtime. If the thought arises, dismiss it immediately. Say a prayer, chant a mantra, breathe deeply, read a good book. Do anything but think about what an absolute schmuck your former boss is. Do not give them that power over you.

Exercise or move, move, move: Whether you want to lose a few pounds or not, exercise. Your body will respond kindly to it. Often the first channel of healing occurs on a physical level. Movement will boost your endorphins guaranteed. You’ll feel more optimistic than if you sat in front of the television all day consuming chocolate chip cookies. Although your ego feels shaky, you’ll need a certain amount of confidence to land a good job. Physical movement will also help you sleep better. You’ve heard the expression that you can change a thought by moving a muscle. It’s true.

Consider your options: Once you stop thinking about your former employer, take a hard look at your finances. It takes about three months to get a new job, so you may have to dip into emergency funds (not your IRA) or curtail your spending significantly, if you don’t get a severance package. If this makes you sweat, just keep telling yourself that this too shall pass and keep moving forward. Trust the process and avoid thinking about worst-case scenarios. You will find another job. It just might not be what you imagined — and it could be better. Just remember that as much as you want to get back into the job market, don’t rush and take the first thing that’s offered. Be discerning.

Keep your mind engaged: Most career advice says you should spend eight hours a day looking for a job (in other words, your job search should be a full-time job), but, from my experience, I don’t know too many people who look for a new job eight hours a day. Instead proactively spend the mornings job hunting, but then find other activities to engage your brain — whether that’s finally sitting down with a good friend for a game of chess or pulling the paints and canvas out of the closet to create a masterpiece. You need healing right now. And redirecting your energies — doing something you enjoy — is an excellent way to start.

Socialize: The temptation will be to isolate. Fight this. Instead call up good friends and make plans to meet for a movie. Your support network is important right now. They can share their own experiences; they can allow you an hour of venting; they can refer you to someone they know who is hiring; they can tell you a joke and make you smile again. If you are not ready to talk about the bum deal you got at your last job, just ask them how they are and get out of yourself.

Your work does not define you: Humans are complex — made up of many moving parts. Your job — or your former job — is just one piece of a lovely mess, so don’t take the firing personally. You won’t always know why it happened to you; sometimes you are just the collateral damage of someone else’s self-centered agenda and sometimes you can be dead wrong about the cause of the firing. Mystery is bearable, so practice acceptance. Let go. Release. Surrender. Lots of crazy talented people have been fired (just google famous people who were fired). It made them stronger and more resilient. And, yes, sometimes it’s downright good for you.

Stay positive, even when you don’t feel like it: Your window for feeling sorry for yourself is very limited if you want to find a new job. Once you regroup (no more than 24 or maybe 48 hours), you need to be optimistic, even if the firing has triggered an insecurity. Only your best friends want to hear about your wounds. Everyone else expects you to bring light and sunshine to their lives. Don’t disappoint. Act your way back into right thinking by projecting confidence. Everything will turn out OK.