10 Great Things I Learned From Getting Fired

Sallie KrawcheckBy Sallie Krawcheck

There are some things worth being fired over. Sometimes your personal values don't mesh with the company's (regardless of what the company's "Values Statement" says).

Back in 2008, at Smith Barney, we had sold supposedly low-risk investments to our clients. But instead of their value declining modestly during the downturn, they went to very close to $0. I never found any evidence of wrongdoing; but I did recognize that we had nonetheless breached our clients' trust, regardless of what the small print said. I proposed that we share part of the losses with them – both because it was the "right thing" to do, but also very much because sharing the impact of the hit would, I thought, be the "right business thing" to do. There were others who disagreed; after much back-and-forth (and many "no's"), my team's argument won the day, but it was clear I wasn't long for the company.

Squeeze every bit of personal development out of the experience. OK, this one can be hard. But in the first few weeks out of the company, I made it a practice to ask anyone and everyone what I could have done better or how I could have managed the situation more effectively. This was hardly pleasant, but surprised people into an invaluable honest discussion.

But don't listen to your "frenemies." Know who to listen to. I remember a very senior, very connected, very savvy woman who very kindly told me that my career was over, that having a falling out with a large company was a career-ending event, regardless of the reasons. She authoritatively told me that a man might be able to have a next career chapter, but a woman couldn't. I chose to completely ignore her.

More: 8 Ways Employers Can Discriminate Against Workers -- Legally

Cut the cord with the old workplace more quickly than you may want to. Here is where I made a real mistake. I continued to speak regularly to my former colleagues; my reasoning was that I wanted to be helpful to them and continue to coach them. The truth is, it was a sad drag for them and for me. I should have closed that door faster.

It's important to have connections outside of your company. This is pretty self-explanatory. But it's easy to tell yourself that you'll form these connections later, since few people plan to be fired and the return on this investment can be hard to see, when there are always more urgent matters.

If you're able to, don't make any big decisions right away. I had a friend tell me shortly after I left: "When something like this happens, you think you're thinking straight, but you're not. You won't think straight for at least three months." If you have the luxury of avoiding any major career decisions that long, the perspective you gain after decompressing can be valuable.

Nobody cares as much about it nearly as much as you do. I promise.

More: Biggest Myths About Right-to-Work Laws

... But candor helps with future employers. Evading the question wasn't a particularly good idea in 1985, when your awkward silence may have been a giveaway. In this age of social media, it's an even worse idea. Own it.

Good results help even more. Let's face it: it's one thing to be swept out of a company because a new manager wants to put his own team in place and another because you didn't deliver business results. In finding that next job, be fact-based and specific on the business results you and your team achieved in the prior one.

If you don't get fired at least once, you're not trying hard enough. This isn't quite true yet, but it is becoming truer. As the pace of change in business increases, the chances of having a placid career are receding. And if in this period of rapid change, you're not making some notable mistakes along the way, you're certainly not taking enough business and career chances.

You can't beat someone who won't give up. Yes, I read this on a bumper sticker, but it's still true.

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn. Sallie Krawcheck is a past president of Merrill Lynch, US Trust and Smith Barney. You can follow her "Influencer posts" here:

Getting Fired Helps You Learn, from Joy Behar

Don't Miss: Companies Hiring Now

Related Stories

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum


Filter by:

I believe that companies are beginning to reflect the same failing values that our country and its citizens have adopted. Greed, no loyalty, lack of compassion, lack of appreciation for good work ethics, and a tendency to do whatever they can to keep down women, older workers, and the disabled down. There is rampant bullying in many offices.. I was let go after being with the same company for almost 20 years, Funny as it was an organization whose values were based on values of fairness, and seeing that everyone got their relative fair share. Board changed and that went out the window. I believe that my disability and age may have also been a factor, but it's very hard to prove. I must say that my disappointment in the organization is profound.

April 30 2013 at 10:16 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

In 2009, after almost 5 years of working for a domestic violence agency, I was laid-off due to budget cuts ... seems pretty straight forward except that they kept several people with far less experience and qualifications than I had - half of whom I had trained! Ultimately, they said I was let go because I had been written up ... a 3 page write-up by someone who back stabbed me after I had gotten pregnant! It was verfied she was going after me because I was pregnant, and we found this out because she spoke to H.R. about resigning because I was pregnant - she used those words! I was let go when I was 6 1/2 months along and ended up in the hospital with contractions ... there were also 2 other pregnant women who were let go. Afterwards, there were no pregnant women left in the entire agency. They then lagged it with the unemployment benefits. It was disgusting but what made things REALLY bad is that this agency was supposed to be about empowering women!! I've been working since I was 14 years old and this experience occurred when I was 32 years old so it was a bug shock especially since I had never been laid off before. It's ok though, in the end, my lawyer and I made them pay for their disgusting behavior and I learned a heck of a lot more about myself and how strong I really am!

April 30 2013 at 1:04 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Lupe's comment

I also worked in a domestic violence agency and was laid off when the grant funding was pulled. Although that was the main reason, everyone knows there are personal reasons behind being the chosen one. It's all good, though, I went back to school for nursing and am now making 3x what I was making as a DV advocate including a good $25k more than my former bosses =) Glad everything worked out for you as well!

May 23 2013 at 11:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Fed Up

#1 Find out it's better to work for yourself.

April 30 2013 at 12:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

11th thing from getting fired, the one thing which is common in each firing was you wrer the one being fired.

April 30 2013 at 11:24 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Why is it the boss/supervisor doesn't get that you get more quality hard work out of a person if you use honey instead of venom. You talk to me like crap, I'm gonna do a crappy job for ya. I don't care if you are paying me $30.00hr. I command respect. I will get it or you will and have got your @ss stomped outside of a public place my goons followed you to. I'm petite & under 5ft. tall. It's those little quiet ones you really need to watch out for.
And then I will blow the whistle on you. And then if you fire me for that...you will get your @ss stomped again.
Any questions?

April 29 2013 at 2:12 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to cslinz62's comment

Stomping doesn't work. They'll call it a mugging.

Just call his home number and leave a message that you'll meet him at the hotel as usual.

His wife will take care of the stomping/

April 30 2013 at 11:27 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Yeah just like in the automotive industry, they filed for bankrupsy in may of 09 and I got to work that monday to find myself locked out of a plant that has been my home for 15 years gates locked and I couldn't get in. It made me so mad that I went to the front office and signed my buyout paper work. Little did I know that is what they wanted me to do, I think it is just crappy that the government came along and saved them 6 months later. Here I am out on the street and still unable to find work because all of the shops left that I could any of the jobs in don't want me because I am pushing 50 and am a former member of the UAW. So here I sit stuck because my former employer is an idiot and just wanted to screw over as many people as possible so they could hire ten dollar per hour no benefit workers. Thank you america for selling the american dream down the river!!!!!

April 28 2013 at 10:58 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Unless it's a very high paying job *cough* always walk out on them if there are issues that are not being resolved. Don't give them the pleasure of firing you because then you are a double dummy.

April 28 2013 at 9:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to toddisit's comment

Walk out on them if you have another job lined up. Wait to get fired if unemployment benefits are an option.

May 23 2013 at 11:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Ah, yes...being terminated (laid-off or fired, doesn't matter as people without unions to protect their seniority get "laid off" when the company wants them to leave and not make any waves about it).

Decades ago, I was "laid off" by a company that lost its government contracts and, as such, did not a female engineer in their offices any more. After weeks of pounding the pavement and not even getting an interview, I walked into the US Navy's recruiting office and, through the Navy, found that the company was denying that I had ever worked their. Simple enough solution--I brought in my tax returns which clearly showed that they had paid me and I had paid taxes on that income.

The company went bankrupt not long after I was in uniform, happily employed by Uncle Sam's fleet at one of the best jobs I've had in my long life.

April 28 2013 at 8:22 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Jo's comment

*should be "there", not "their." Sorry.

April 28 2013 at 8:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Values??? Try working for a car dealership. Dealerships are owned by greedy, paranoid people. They think the poor economy doesnt affect them and demand that employees make them money and lots of it. Especially in the service department. Cars these days really dont need a lot of service or maintenance until they get more mileage on them (60,000 miles or more). But even at that mileage, whats needed is not a lot. Car dealership service departments want to sell you more than you need to the point of being dishonest. The guy trying to sell you the service is under pressure by his manager to make money and is forced to pressure the customer to spend money. Service is a catch 22. You have to build customer confidence and satisfaction all the while persuading the customer to spend money they dont have to. If the customer is unhappy because they think your being dishonest, you get in trouble. If you dont earn them enough money you get in trouble. I believed in selling the customer what they truly needed. This is how you build a trusting relationship with your customer so they return to you and you make money over the long run. But the company wanted you to screw the customer all the time, every time. This is how you drive customers away. SO, customer beware. Especially if you patronize the DOWNTOWN car dealership in NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE

April 28 2013 at 1:12 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Robert's comment

Robert, you are the kind of mechanic who should open his own small shop and build a clientele. You are the mechanic we are all looking for!

April 28 2013 at 2:07 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Angel Love

recently I brought my car into the dealership for a service, and they service guy said that my car was due for "Inspection 2" and it would cost over $700. I declined it because I didnt have that money to spend at that time. I went home and looked through my service receipts for my car (which I save), and lo and behold I already had that service performed and it only cost me $250. I always knew that service guys were supposed to make money for their company, but the way he approached me made me think twice. I'm glad I did. The thing that sucks is that I have to keep taking my car to the dealership because the few times I have taken it elsewhere I've had very bad experiences.

April 30 2013 at 12:01 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

What a completely inane, nonsensical, worthless article.

April 28 2013 at 12:41 PM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply

Search Articles

Picks From the Web