Why everyone needs to get fired every now and then

Peter Harris|

Change is scary. I’ve seen people stay in jobs that made them miserable for far too long out of the fear of stepping into an unknown situation. I’ve come close to that a couple of times myself. Because unemployment can be scary too.

I’m not one of those people who’s too afraid of the potential consequences to take risks with my career or my life. I can usually calculate the consequences of a situation and determine if the potential downfall outweighs the opportunity for advancement. So it’s not the fear of consequences that can stall me, it’s the burden of choice itself. Indecision may or may not be my biggest problem.

This is a condition that holds many people back in their careers. Worrying about making a wrong decision can lead people into making no proactive choices and simply going with the flow. Would you be better off leaving a job that is unfulfilling but secure in order to start over at something new? It can be hard to decide.

Waiting for the perfect situation to fall into your lap isn’t career management, it’s surrendering control. Which is why setbacks can actually be beneficial much of the time. There’s an upside to down.

They can give us the kick in the pants that we need in order to take control again. I’ve written before about the time I was fired from a retail job in university. That was a setback at the time, because I counted on the salary to pay my rent. However, because the job was comfortable and easy, and I was busy writing my thesis, I would probably have lingered there for far too long if I had not lost it.

That would have been just like hitting the snooze button on life.

Finding myself unemployed forced me to go out and get my first professional writing job as an advertising copy writer, tripling my income and kick starting my career. It was the best career move that I could have made.

The real worst decision we can make is in choosing not to decide at all. Wrong choices are usually just opportunities to learn how to make better choices moving forward. Making no decisions leads to stagnation.

Other upsides to being let go?

  • You don’t have to go there anymore. If you’ve been laid off because of cutbacks at the company, then you were on a sinking ship and your job wasn’t safe to begin with. That is a scary and depressing place to be. If you were fired for other reasons, then there were likely performance or personality issues at play. (And it’s almost always personality issues.) Either way, now you’re free. Being at a place where you’re not wanted is demoralizing.
  • You can go about your job search whole heartedly. Looking for work while employed is always a little bit furtive. You don’t want to display too much activity on social networks and job boards. You have to be careful who in your network knows you’re looking – and who they know at your current company. You’re limited to how much working time you can spend on a job search, etc. Once you’ve been let go, you can pursue your next career move full time with the passion it deserves.

A career journey is made up of many jobs, and for most people nowadays, completely different fields as well. They take us interesting places. So when things go bad, think of it as an opportunity for a new adventure. This is your chance to look for a more interesting job, a job that’s closer to home, or one that’s a better fit for you.

It’s better to be back in the adventure striving for something greater than to be standing on the sidelines watching life pass you by.

Of course if you can see the axe coming before you get the chop – you can line up your next gig before that happens. Which is why I wrote about the warning signs you’re about to be fired.

But just sometimes, getting fired is the best thing that can happen.

Peter Harris

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Category: Career Dilemmas
  • Claude Bouchard

    If my last job in the corporate world hadn’t been migrated to Mumbai, I wouldn’t be earning a living today as an indie crime thriller novelist, and loving it!

  • el flesh

    Being fired is no the same thing as being let go.

    • Miko

      Dude, its the same thing, different lingo. Either way you didn’t quit.

  • Farah

    What store, Peter? Canadians should organize a boycott because you are always here
    for us.

    • Peter Harris

      Thanks Farah, but I’m good. It was a long time ago, and like I said it was the best career move that I could have made. I hope it illustrates the potential bright side of a bad situation. I appreciate the support though!

  • T. Lynne Lacosse

    I concur that you need to shake things up a bit now and again … and admit that when you do and find you have made a wrong choice (because how can you ever know if you are a fit for a place until you get there)’s a little tough getting back into the job search game for fear you will make an even worse mistake. However, no matter how bad a situation may be you can always learn things about yourself that you didn’t know … good things and bad things. Knowledge that will make you a more valuable person and employee in your next position. :)

    • Yulia

      Peter, I like your wording. I get a real pleasure reading your articles.
      Your thoughts are in tune with mine.

  • Annette Thomas

    That’s easy enough to write. To tell us about a youngster who got fired from his first job. I’m 40, a single mother of 3. Would you really advise me to quit or get fired? Quitting your job without having a new is easy depending on your stage in life. Examine your life, will this decision affect only me or others I love. That is why Mike, some persons stay in dead end jobs. They have a family to consider.

    • KathrynS

      I quit a job that paid fairly well, but was causing my health to suffer so much I went to the hospital one Sunday for what I thought was a heart attack. Turned out to be a pinched nerve, but that Friday after, I gave 2 weeks notice. It took me 7 weeks after my last day to find a new job in a new career path. The pay cut caused us to go bankrupt, but the change in career path moved me into the 6 figure income category in less than 10 years.
      Now I am involuntarily unemployed and I’m looking at another career change, as my current skill set jobs are few and far between. A pay cut is inevitable, but we will muddle along.
      I thrive on change, mostly. Grab it and run with it. Makes life fun for me.

  • Yvan Tanguay

    Many thanks for the column. You are so right when you said there are always personality issues when you are issued the pink slip.
    You hit home when you wrote “it’s the burden of choice itself…indecision may ormay not be my biggest problem.

  • CL

    Peter, after you are fired, because of a personality or performance issue (as seen by your employer), how do you present yourself and this situation to your new employer, without being negatively affected? Thanks. CL