By Todd Putman, co-author of “Be More: Find your truth, tell your story, and get what you want out of life“
“What just happened?”
Alongside the dull roar in your ears, that question pulses through the fog in your brain even as you walk out of the office and close the door.
“Did I just get let go?”
Dude, you got fired.
I’ve had to fire people, I’ve been fired. It’s brutal.
Whether it’s downsizing, rightsizing, restructuring, or a bad fit come to an end, it’s hard and it’s personal. You can call it whatever you like. It won’t make it feel any better. Your life just got turned upside down. What you do and who you are changed in an instant. At some point, you’re going to sit in a corner and cry.
After the shock, you’re ready to mobilize. Your gut reaction is to pick up the phone immediately and start leveraging the network you’ve worked hard to cultivate through the years. With only a few calls, no doubt you’ll be back on the job in a couple of weeks, right?
I have one word for you: Stop.
Put down the phone and back away from the keyboard. If you are like most people, you aren’t ready to have those conversations yet.
Do you know what you’ll ask for when you get someone on the phone? Oh right, a job. But do you know what you even want? Chances are, until about ten minutes ago, you weren’t thinking about your next thing. The job you were in was perfectly fine. The opportunities in front of you weren’t registering with you as options.
Before you start reaching out to your network, before you start using up the two, maybe three chances you have with any one individual, you need to stop and think. What do you want to be when you grow up? Can you answer that question? If not, now is the time to pause and work toward answering it.
I’ve learned firsthand how important it is to know yourself and have those filters to guide your decision-making. When you are considering a job change — at a time that you’ve chosen or one that’s been chosen for you — it’s critical to have a high level of self-awareness and to recognize no one is responsible for you except you. If you don’t take charge of your destiny, someone else will, and that may not be someone with any interest in what really matters to you.
Hardly a week goes by when I don’t hear from someone who wants to talk about a next job. I start those conversations with the question: What do you want to be when you grow up? In my mind, it’s a non- threatening way to start a conversation about career and choices. But I am consistently blown away by the number of incredibly intelligent, successful, otherwise articulate people who are tied in knots by that question.
In my perfect world, everyone would do the work to be able to answer that question as a matter of course, not just in a moment of crisis. Saying what you want to be shouldn’t be overwhelming. It’s merely a question of what you want next. It’s not irrevocably defining, at least not in my mind. It’s a way of thinking about what you want to do next. It’s not about defining your life for the rest of your life. But when you have lost your job, the most important first step you can take is to spend some time thinking in a purposeful way about what you want. Then, as you start to move toward your next thing, you do it with intent.
You see, nobody cares what you want, not the way that you do. When you make that call to ask for help, if you’re lucky, you’ll get what you ask for. But if you can’t ask in a productive way, what you get may not point you in a direction that you want. If you keep moving with pausing for introspection, one day, you might look around and find yourself someplace you never wanted to be. If you don’t take charge of your destiny, someone else will, and that may not be someone with any interest in what really matters to you.
Dude, you got fired. It’s not a pleasant thing. It hurts. Now, it’s up to you to make it count. Don’t reach out yet. Reach inside. Spend the time figuring out what you want next. Take this moment and direct your energies in a way that will allow find a next thing that matters to you and will help you get more out of life.
Todd Putman serves as General Manager for the Garden Fresh strategic business unit within the new Campbell Fresh division of the Campbell Soup Company. Todd is passionately committed to empowering people to accomplish their goals and realize their individual potential. He is the author with Lori Sparger of “Be More: Find your truth, tell your story, and get what you want out of life“. Follow him on Twitter @tbputman.