There are few career events as demoralizing and traumatizing as getting fired. Learning a company no longer wants you on its employee roster is often a bleak moment. This is true even if your performance has been on a downward slope or you work in an unstable industry and the news comes as no surprise. It can be true even if you hated your job. But there are ways to navigate the emotional rollercoaster.
Ahead, six steps that will help you cope with the fallout of getting fired:
Take stock of your savings
First things first, assess your financial situation and figure out how soon you need to find a new job. “Get a handle on these needs, because doing so will help you prevent and manage your anxiety,” Laura MacLeod, LMSW and founder of the From The Inside Out Project, previously told Girlboss. If you can afford to, give yourself a few weeks or even a month to recuperate.
Feel your feels
Your immediate reaction might be hurt, anger, or sadness—and that’s okay! “It is important that you give yourself permission to express your emotions in your own way, safely,” Dory Wilson, founder of advice site Your Office Mom, says. Don’t lash out on social media, as that will inevitably hurt your future employment chances.
Instead, round up your closest friends for drinks and let it all out. Or go to a yoga class, do some meditation, or do something physical to get your heart racing. If you need to cry at home while balled up in a fetal position, that’s okay too. The point is to do what works for you.
How long it takes to process the firing will also vary from person to person. “We tend to process change events in similar ways, but we go at it in a different pace,” Wilson says.
Make sure you weren’t fired for anything suspect
If you’re positive that your work performance wasn’t sub-par and that there weren’t any other conflicts that might have caused your termination, grab any documentation that might help with a potential legal case, Georgene Huang, CEO and co-founder of Fairygodboss, says.
“If you think you were fired unfairly and may have a legal claim, you should consult an attorney to get their their professional opinion. Often, consultations are free,” Huang says.Print any emails or screen grabs that may support a case you were being discriminated against, were harassed, or retaliated against.
Ask yourself some tough questions
Keep in mind that the reasons your boss or HR give for your firing might not tell the whole story. “Take the time to recall the feedback that you received over the time that you were working at that company,” Wilson says. Consider: What did my manager say about my performance? What did my co-workers say about my attitude? Was there anything, from a customer standpoint, I could have done differently?
Taking the opportunity for self-reflection will help you outline new goals for your career. Remember: reflect, don’t dwell.
Don’t forget about your strengths
When you’re feeling down in the dumps about getting fired, it’s easy to only see the negative. Chances are your self-esteem has taken a dive. After you’ve done an honest assessment of where you can improve, turn your attention to the many, many reasons why you are not a loser.
Think: What unique challenges did you meet head-on and overcome? What good things did your coworkers say about you? What are some of the accomplishments you bragged about to your friends, family, and loved ones? What are you most proud of?
Remember that your new insights will help you move forward
Employers want to hire people who have strong emotional intelligence (i.e. self-awareness). Getting fired from a job—whether it’s one you love or hate—will help you train that muscle.
Use this time to consider what about your old job you didn’t like. Maybe it was the type of work you were doing. Maybe it was your manager. Or maybe the company’s ethos didn’t align with yours. Whatever it was, you can reflect on what type of work environments you flourish in! Make it a point to seek out that kind of environment in your next role.