Take Charge Following A Termination

Mar 8, 2002

CIO Update Staff

Dear Dave,

I've spent my entire 23-year career steadily moving up the career ladder. I've been promoted within companies, courted by competitors, and lured to great new jobs. This "Cinderella Career" turned into a nightmare with a bad move that has just resulted in my termination. I'm embarrassed and ashamed to the point of wanting to hide. The last thing I want to do is let the world know that I'm in the job market, especially the current one! It makes me feel as if I've failed. Where or how do I begin to pick up the pieces of my career?

--Alan P.

Dear Alan,

There's no question that losing your job is a major emotional trauma, but it's important to remember that you're not the first person to live through this experience - and you won't be the last - so don't hide!

The first thing you must do before you launch into the next phase of your career is deal with the pain and the range of emotions you are feeling. Termination is difficult, but you need to recognize that it is only one setback in your career - not the end. Now more than ever, you need to take responsibility for YOU and for your career.

By taking responsibility for your career and job search you will be able to take the talent, expertise, and passion that made you successful and apply it toward your search. By focusing on your embarrassment, shame, and sense of failure - you will become your own worst enemy.

There are very few of us who in the course of our professional lives have not ended up in a job that was a "bad move." And in the current employment market, the vast majority of terminations are not related to competency issues but are the result of corporations forced to cut back. Therefore, most of the people you come into contact with during your search will be very understanding.

Your experience and talent has served you well and will be valued by potential employers. Start taking charge by calling a few close friends and associates who you trust and respect. Share your news with them in a positive manner such as, "My most recent job turned out not to be a good fit, so I am on to seeking out my next challenge and wanted to get together to kick around some ideas."

Address the future when you talk with networking contacts. Tell them what you are looking for and where you want to land. If you are fortunate enough to have outplacement help during this transition or are working with a private career counselor, they can help you put together a well-prepared and rehearsed statement that effectively outlines your current situation and career objectives.

In short, the best place to start "to pick up the pieces" is with YOU. Acknowledge the past to be sure, but your strength and energy needs to be focused on the future. Leave your emotional baggage behind. (No one is going to be interested in that baggage!) Face the future and attack it with the same passion that made you the success.

Good luck to you,

Dave Opton is CEO and Founder of ExecuNet, an online career services center for executives. For more information on executive career management visit Questions can be sent to Dave at, he can't answer each individually but look for yours in an upcoming column.


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