Off the curb

Feeding the Meter

How Getting Fired Can Bolster Future Success


Have you ever been fired and felt like it was the end of the world? Or, thought you would never get hired again? For most of us, it's one of our worst fears. However, contrary to what you might think, getting fired may actually bolster your future success. In fact, a 10 year study conducted by Inc. magazine found that 91% of people who were fired eventually found another position as good or better than their last! According to Inc., “some employers even actively look for those who have tanked in the past, as it indicates boldness and resilience.”

There are some cases where people actually benefited more in the long run after getting fired and the experience turned out to be the necessary stepping stone to finding the ideal position or career path. For example, sometimes people struggle with defining the specific route to take to satisfy both their talents and interests and it can take a few different shots at a career to find the job that’s the right fit. Oprah Winfrey, for instance, is proof that getting fired doesn’t necessarily mean permanent career failure. Winfrey’s early interest in a television career landed her a role as Nashville’s first African-American reporter. She was then recruited by WJZ in Baltimore to co-anchor the prime spot on the 6:00 evening news. However, Oprah’s elation about the opportunity was soon replaced with heartbreak. Her new boss felt she expressed too much personal emotion in her reports and eventually fired her. “At the time, I was devastated, devastated,” Oprah shared in an emotional moment from her online LifeClass years later. However, she subsequently advised, “getting fired can be an opportunity to put you in the next best place.” In her case, it meant moving into another spot as a daytime talk show host which lead her to one of the most successful careers in media history.   

Getting let go can also give people the opportunity to take a step back and evaluate whether or not they want to continue on their designated career path. For J.K. Rowling, famous author of the Harry Potter series, it took getting fired for her to finally begin following her passion for writing. Rowling worked as a secretary in London for Amnesty International but was constantly distracted by her ideas for novels. She admitted to constantly writing secret stories on her work computer when her imagination began to run wild. When her bosses took note of her behavior, she was fired for her inability to focus on her assigned tasks. Losing her job is what allowed her to delve deeper into creative writing. Without this experience, Rowling may never have run with her ideas and become the successful multi-billionaire author she is today. 

Getting fired can also light a fire under someone to make him or her more determined to succeed in the future. Steve Jobs is a great example of this. Jobs was fired from Apple, the company he co-founded, because of his unbearably high expectations for his co-workers. The year following his termination was clouded with uncertainty.  He faced a mid-life crisis and attempted to pursue other careers. Ultimately, Jobs accepted that his heart remained with Apple and he was determined to find his way back into the company. When sales for Apple began to slip, he was asked to rejoin the staff and contribute his creative ideas to the company’s vision. After his rollercoaster experience, Jobs claims “getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything.”

While each of these individuals are now worldwide success stories, their experiences have significant lessons. Oprah Winfrey could have let go of her passion for working in television altogether after getting fired from her initial news job. However, she decided to keep pursuing the field to find a job that fit her personality. In J.K. Rowling’s experience, getting fired from her secretary job was a blessing in disguise  allowing her to focus on what really interested her. Finally, Steve Jobs’ story proves that getting fired can be an inspiration to work harder and become more determined to achieve your goals. 

So what can you do to bounce back if you do get fired? First, consider what went wrong. Were your skills a bad match for the position? Did you have a personality clash with your boss? Did you initially take the position without fully understanding the requirements? Self reflection is vital in order to achieve success later on. Take the experience as a lesson for what can be improved upon in the future. If the subject comes up in an interview with a future company, be prepared to explain what happened without taking a stab at your former boss or employer. What a future employer wants to know is how you are going to help them in the future. You might say something like, “I learned I wasn’t a good fit for the position and upon reflection, I realize I would do better in a job that includes more interaction with people like your position offers.” Then go on to explain what skills and experience you have that will solve the potential employer’s problem and make you a valuable addition. You might ask for feedback from previous co-workers or employers to help you reframe what happened in a positive light. In a job interview, it will be more beneficial for future employers to hear from you what you learned from the experience and how it happened, rather than from your past employer. Another tip for moving forward is to set a new career goal. Ask yourself, what is your ideal position and what steps can you take to move toward it? The process of devising a game plan for your next career move can be motivational and empowering and can help move you away from your past experience.

Sallie Krawcheck, the successful CEO of a financial advising network, once said, “if you don’t get fired at least once, you’re not trying hard enough.”  So, should you purposely get fired? No, of course not! But, many successful figures like Krawcheck would argue that if it happens, it’s the people who learn from their mistakes, and face the initial hardships of getting fired, such as loss of income and self-esteem that will likely become the strongest faces in their industries down the road. Rather than dwelling on the negatives of the circumstance, it is important to accept the setback and discover ways to transform it into a positive moving forward.

By Off the Curb Features Writer Paige Holloway