The day I got fired was a beautiful, sunny day. It was also my birthday. My co-workers had brought me a big sheet cake into office with candles and everything.
The guy I was dating had sent roses. What a wonderful day I was having. Until about 5 p.m.
“May I see you in my office?” my boss asked.
I walked in, holding the cake (with candles still on it) and noticed my boss’s assistant was sitting in there. “Anyone want cake?” I asked with a nervous giggle.
There was a long pause. “Uh … no thanks,” my boss answered.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
He cleared his throat. “We’re going to have to make a change … ”
I gasped. “Am I being fired?”
“Uh … yeah,” said the assistant.
And that was it. There I stood, cake in hand, jaw on ground.
I vaguely remember driving back to my apartment, calling my boyfriend, sobbing hysterically, and asking, “What am I going to do now? Who’s going to hire someone who just got canned?!”
Nicki Perchik, CEO and founder of The NLP Group, an executive search firm on the North Shore, says that lots of people get the ax, but that no one knows that because not a lot of people admit it.
“Millions of America’s most respected executives have been let go or asked to resign. There’s no shame in it,” says Perchik, who specializes in the placement of senior and executive level professionals all over the country and internationally.
I did eventually find another job, and things worked out just fine. I actually think being booted made me a better person. It toughened me up, made me smarter, brought me down to reality, and made me more appreciative of the good things in my life.
“Embrace it. It’s part of what makes you a more dynamic and better professional,” says Perchik, who has over 20 years of experience in corporate America. “When you have real challenges, that’s when you truly gain knowledge. You learn the most from the worst bosses.”
Speaking of bosses, I recently friended the boss who fired me on Facebook. I don’t think he and I are going to become best buddies, but he did accept. Maybe, like me, he’d like to forget about the girl standing in his office holding a large sheet cake, tears streaming down her face. I’ll never forget that girl, though. She gives me confidence in fate, a thick skin, and a good, hearty chuckle.
Nicki’s advice for those who have been fired and who are interviewing:
- Be prepared. Have a three-sentence speech prepared about what happened.
- Don’t lie, but don’t advertise that you’ve been fired. Position it.
- Don’t tap dance around it. Be forthright and matter-of-fact.
- Don’t point fingers, and don’t go on and on about the injustices of the world.
- Don’t act like a victim. No one wants to hear a sob story.