Photo credit: Nathan Dumlao,

Being let go is never a pleasant experience. It feels like your employer has just slammed the door in your face. You’re filled with disbelief and in denial. You want to go to bed and wake up to a different reality, but your reality remains the same: you just got fired or laid off from your job.

Did you suspect this was going to happen as news of changes swept through the organization? Or were you simply oblivious of what was going on? Whatever your story, you’re probably full of resentment towards your former employer.

How do you move on?

By taking the steps below, you can better react, transition, and move forward from the rejection of losing a job and on to the excitement of securing another:

How to React

  1. Overcome Resentment. There’s no point getting angry with, or insulting, your boss, colleagues, or the HR representative. You may need them to provide references for you in the future. The job, and the relationships you built in the workplace, will always be part of your career history — whichever direction you decide to take it. So, even if you feel the need to storm out in a blaze of glory, remember not to self-destruct.
  2. Ask the Right Questions. Find out why you’re being fired. It’s useful to know so you can take the feedback to improve in your next job. Inquire about how your exit will be communicated to colleagues and clients because the response you get will give you a sense of the type of reference that will be written on your behalf. Before signing any exit-related document, seek clarification about any unfamiliar term or condition you come across.
  3. Aim for a ‘’No-Drama’’ Exit. Don’t make the rounds of workstations to announce your departure or disparage the company or your boss. Instead, box your belongings and leave the building as soon as possible. You can always call close associates later in the day from a neutral venue. Keep negative comments, if you must air them, for the hearing of family and close friends.

How to Transition

  1. Grieve a Little then Pivot to the Future. Indulge in some self-pity, but only for a short while. Let in those negative emotions like denial, shock, sadness, anxiety, and anger, but don’t let them take root. Rather than dwelling on the past and agonizing over what might have been, focus quickly on thinking about what you want to do next.
  2. Engage in Critical Self-Examination. Where are you? Where do you want to be – and by when? How will you get there? What do you need to get there in terms of resources – financial and non-financial? To whom could you turn for assistance? Who is available? As you explore answers to these questions, you should have a journal where you put down your thoughts. Writing down what you think allows you to get whatever is troubling you out into the open without confronting people unnecessarily and, in the process, damaging relationships. Analyze all the issues and decide to learn from them. Sometimes, you may not have the answers, but it’s enough to identify the issues and be aware of them.
  3. Break the News to Family and Friends. This is the time to turn to partners, friends, and family. Our lives have become an open book, and even though we don’t visit one another often, we keep in touch digitally through social and professional networks like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. With these platforms, time and place are no longer constraints to staying connected. You could use these channels to privately break the news to family and friends, if you’re unable to do it face-to-face. There’s always a temptation to want to go it alone, but this is a time you may benefit from the support of those around you.
  4. Relax with your Favorite Pastimes. Read books. Take online courses. De-clutter the house. Find physical and mental calm through the things you have always enjoyed doing, but never had enough time to do while working.

How to Move Forward

  1. Prepare to Return to Work. Review and update your resume. Check old appraisals for key successes which you could build into your resume. Ask for feedback from friends, mentors, and former colleagues. Don’t lie on a job application as it could be grounds for dismissal if uncovered later.
  2. Stay Credible. Before you get invited for interviews, rehearse how to respond to questions around why you left your last job. It’s best to be factual, but brief.
  3. Be Flexible About Opportunity. Temporary opportunities could open doors to permanent opportunities. So keep your mind open to the possibility of taking on an intermediate or temporary job for some time. Volunteering to stay active could also help you build new connections and bridge the employment gap in your resume. While most people are happy going down a path they know, you’re never sure what great opportunities you’re missing if you don’t start down a path less traveled.

Whether working out how to react, transition, or move forward, you can make better sense of your situation by engaging the services of a certified coach to assist you through questioning and the use of special tools that help unleash your potential. Engaging a professional coach will also help you keep thinking of next steps while remaining positive. After all, when one door closes, others open.


ABIGAIL ISOKPAN is an Executive, Career & Life Coach. She has over 20 years’ work experience as a HR & Business Leader across multiple sectors in government, pharmaceuticals, banking, and telecoms. Her coaching interventions are focused on inspiring leaders and youths to channel their strengths for transformational impact on business, people & society. She can be reached by email [email protected]