Dos and Don'ts of Getting Fired

You may be a star employee, but the odds are still against you. If you are under age 30, you have a whopping 90 percent chance of getting fired in the next 20 years, a leading human resources executive told author Harvey Mackay.

"It's not a question of if you'll be fired, it's a question of when," Mackay says in his book 'We're Fir ed... and It's the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Us' (Random House). If you're one of the unlucky majority, keep in mind Mackay's tips to keep your career -- and dignity -- in tact when the axe falls.

Don't take it personally.

"(Getting fired) doesn't say you're bad," Mackay says. "It says somebody thinks you're not good enough." Look at it this way: a leading reason people get fired is employers don't make hiring decisions thoroughly enough.

Sometimes the failure is clearly your fault. Even so, don't drown yourself in self-pity. The surest way to bounce back is to put yourself out there again. Harry Truman once said, "As soon as I realize I've made one damned fool mistake, I rush out and make another one."

Do figure out why you were fired.

Most people are mistaken about the real reason they lost their jobs. They blame their boss, their co-workers or themselves, when it was actually a simple cost-cutting measure. It's easy to point fingers and fabricate stories about being fired, but it's important to find out what really did you in so you can avoid making the same mistakes again.

Don't give up on your dreams.

Michael Jordan wasn't always a basketball superstar; he was cut from his high school basketball team his sophomore year. He worked hard, made the team and led them to the state championship. Now, Jordan has six NBA championship rings and was named to the All-NBA first team 10 times.

One setback didn't deter Abraham Lincoln either -- neither did two or three. Abraham Lincoln lost six government elections before he became our nation's president.

Do 'doable' things.

One of the first things they teach soldiers who might become prisoners of war is to focus on small, doable things like washing out their socks, Mackay says. To bounce back from a career setback that leaves you feeling hopeless, start small. Find a mentor. Check out online job boards. Stay in shape. Work your way back into the swing of things, and you can end up with a bigger, better job than the one you lost.

Don't burn your bridges

It is understandable to be upset, even furious after being fired. However, it's still crucial to act like a professional. If you leave with class, you may still get a recommendation from your former boss. But don't ever commit what Mackay calls "suicide by poison pen." Writing a scathing letter to your old employer may seem tempting, but that note could find its way to the next company you apply at... and the next, and the next. You former employer will be very careful what he puts in writing. You should do the same.

Do find things that motivate you

Your family and friends are there to help you. It's also helpful to find a positive group of colleagues going through the same thing you are. These practical, action-oriented people can act as role-models and help keep you on track. But be careful: It's easy for so-called self-help groups to turn out to be a bunch of wallowing people committed to lose. Pick your company carefully.

Moral of the story: Getting fired can be a great new opportunity or the end of your career. You choose.

Next: Top 10 Companies Hiring This Week >>

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