It’s happened to the best of us. We go into work one day, and are called into a meeting with our boss. They tell us that we’ve been fired – it’s over, we’re done. For many people, this experience is devastating. It can leave them feeling ashamed, anxious and lost. Getting fired is an eventuality for sales and marketing leaders in high-growth companies. In fact, one should plan on it. The average tenure of a venture-backed CMO is 18 months. Personally, my CMO tenures were 3 – 4 – 5 – 3 years with 6-9 month interludes between them when I was fired. Firing doesn’t have to be the worst thing that happens to you professionally. In fact, there are multiple steps to making the most out of getting fired.

woman organizing her belongings
Photo by Anna Shvets on

In this post, we will give you five tips for making the most out of getting fired. We will help you reframe the experience and alleviate some of the pain you may be feeling. Plus, we’ll give you some actions you can take throughout your career to make yourself more resilient and marketable!

Tip 1 – Begin with the end in mind (thanks Stephen Covey)

You need to think about your exit before you join a company. The best time to negotiate fair terms upon your departure is when the company wants you most. Normal severance terms can include 3-12 months of salary and COBRA (US Healthcare coverage is insane). 

If you didn’t negotiate in advance, don’t despair, negotiation is still an option. If you have a strong relationship with your boss, you may be able to negotiate for an extension of your health insurance and/or a role on an advisory board. If you remain as an advisor, you don’t need to signal that you’ve left your job on LinkedIn (but you can set yourself as open to new opportunities). And if the company wants you to sign a release in order to receive your separation offer, that’s another negotiation opportunity.

If you can afford an employment attorney, engaging one while negotiating your offer is a very effective way to ensure your exit is fair and unemotional.

Tip 2 – Get fired with grace and smarts

The way you respond when you get fired says a lot about you as a leader and sets the tone for how you will be perceived in the market. It’s important to be professional and graceful when you’re fired. You never know when you’ll run into your former boss or colleagues. Plus, the way you handle getting fired says a lot about your character. Spend time thinking about the best way to communicate internally that creates stability for the company and dignity for you. Do not take any intellectual property from the company.

If you are asked to sign a release in order to receive your severance package, consider having an employment attorney in your state review the document. Do not sign without reading it carefully.

Tip 3 – Always keep LinkedIn and your resume current

LinkedIn and your resume (or CV) should always be up to date and full of quantifiable impact. Set notifications so that your network is NOT alerted when you update your profile. You don’t want to tip anyone off that you might be looking for a new opportunity. Make a quarterly appointment with yourself to update your LinkedIn and CV. You won’t be caught flat-footed when you are fired.

Tip 4 – Don’t take it personally

Getting fired is not personal, it’s business. It doesn’t mean that you’re a bad person or that you’re not good at your job. In most cases, it has nothing to do with you. Companies are constantly evolving and changing direction. As a result, the team that was brought in to achieve one set of objectives is often different from the team that’s needed to achieve the next set of objectives. If you take it personally, it will be harder for you to move on and find your next opportunity. The vast majority of hiring managers in high growth industries have themselves been fired for reasons they could not control.

Tip 5 – Compose your narrative

The way you tell your story about getting fired leaving a company matters. When you’re interviewing for your next role, you’ll be asked about what happened at your last company. For the most part, companies cannot and won’t disclose the circumstances under which you left the company (unless you broke the law or are accused of doing so – then you should engage legal counsel ASAP). Prior employers will confirm your dates of employment and often nothing else. You can frame the story to reflect what you learned, why you want a new challenge and what you will bring to a new venture. Be sure to focus on the positive and highlight the impact you delivered. Expect people to do “back-door” references so be precise and accurate about your contribution and don’t embellish. You did enough!

Getting fired is not the end of the world. It is a new beginning.

No one is satisfied working at a job where they aren’t succeeding. No one is secure if their company is struggling to survive. You have a chance to reframe your story and start writing the next chapter. Be sure to keep these tips in mind as you move forward in your career!