11 People Reveal Their “I Just Got Fired” Survival Stories

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We were all forced to “play nice” with that one two-foot asshole from the preschool sandbox — one second, Joshy G. was kvetching about how much he didn’t want to play with the “stupid” (his words, not mine) green pail and shovel. And the second Maggie swoops in to take said unconscionably-stupid pail off his hands, Joshy G. kicks into a full-blown nuclear meltdown of “no fairs” and “give backs” and cold-blooded withdrawals of birthday invitations. “You’re not invited to my birthday party” may be the harshest ultimatum ever delivered in the long, storied history of the graham-cracker-snacking, alphabet-learning elite.

And (shocker) that “no fair, give it back” dynamic translates to the Adult World quite seamlessly. As much as we all find release in complaining about the chore-like aspects of our jobs, the idea of getting fired — no matter how unforgiving the daily grind can be — strikes blind, roiling fear into the heart of all responsible, bill-paying folks. Goodness knows, I’ve talked a big game of “wanting out” of a few soul-crushing jobs; but when tensions were running high between floor managers and coworkers, you better believe that I kept my head down, my mouth shut, and my game-face squarely in place.

Sometimes, good behavior offers no reprieve. Companies downsize; government programs make funding cuts; layoffs can happen to even the most dedicated and grateful of workers. But when your chips are down, the survival instinct kicks in; I hold a very high regard for the scrappy fighters who keep their head on straight and stay in the ring when that dreaded, often publicly-humiliating sentence (“Can you come into my office to discuss something…don’t let the door hit you on the way out!”) sends them packing. As a person who takes my father’s “expect the best, but prepare for the worst” advice to heart, I found this Reddit thread very compelling and useful.

I’ve compiled the strongest tips and strategies from the thread, all offered by folks who have lived through the job-loss nightmare and come out the other side with a financially-solvent playbook for recovery. Here’s the original scenario, posted by Dissappearqueer:

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I got fired today…my current financial situation looks like this: My final check + my savings + what’s available in my checking account right now= $1,812.99. I’m currently renting in a two-bedroom apartment. My share of the rent is $547.50 each month, prior to utilities, which can run anywhere from $55 to $80. My phone bill (which is always the first to go whenever I need to cut expenses, which will probably go permanently this time) is $30. I have two credit cards, one with a $35 minimum payment and the other an $11 minimum payment. They are currently both at 100% utilization, bringing my total credit card debt to approximately $2,000.

I had purchased vision and dental insurance through my job. I do not have health insurance, not even Medi-Cal (I live in California, which was probably relevant somewhere further up in this post). I currently receive food stamps of $58 a month, but I am going to request an income verification form tomorrow to update my income to $0…food is the last thing I’m worried about, as far as budgeting in the immediate future, because one of the only benefits to having an ED is being able to go long periods of time without eating a lot.

My plan right now is that, the money I have is enough to pay my rent and my minimum credit card payments until October (meaning I will be able to pay on Aug 1st, Sept 1st, and Oct 1st, and would need to give my 30 days notice on October 1st). And that’s it, I really don’t have a plan after that. I have a Rev.com account that I signed up for a few months ago, but never actually started claiming work. So, I can do that for pocket money while scrambling around for jobs. I also have some paperwork that was given to me today, when I was fired. It’s about my retirement, but I really don’t understand what it means, and I’m not sure if the balance it lists was included in my final paycheck or if it’s even a balance I can redeem or get back.

I’m really just looking for advice. This is only the second time in my life that I’ve been unemployed, and the first time I have been fired, so my head is swimming with distress. I do not have a support network to rely on (I don’t have a family or a friend who would be able to help me financially).

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Kudos to Disappearqueer for taking the time — admits the panic — to allocate his or her financial assets, savings, insurance options, welfare benefits, and monthly budget for housing. That (in my survival handbook) is the crucial first step. Here are 11 responses from the helpful souls jumped on this thread with concrete advice.

1. “OK, so: take a deep breath and get a paper and pen. Sit at a table and write out all your expenses for the month. Overestimate on food and clothing, so there are no surprises. Then, when the list is done, start at the top (credit cards), call the card company, and tell them what has happened. Ask if you can work out a payment plan. It’s really important to talk to your creditors and start the conversation. Then, go to your welfare office and get an appointment (not online) and see what you might be entitled to. Be nice and ask questions. I have friends who work in these offices and they are always good, helpful people…You might find you can get something towards your rent.” — Arkslippy

2. “First things first. Go to your local Social Security Office. Bring your IDs, SSI card, Birth Certificate or passport, and three months of bank statements. Explain what happened. Have them explain the services available to you, so you can relax a bit and make a sustainable plan.” Magerious

3. “This actually worked for me: when I was unemployed, I was most concerned about getting an interim job that would pay the bills until I could find a “real” job that I could continue my career in. I visited retail stores that I didn’t mind working in with a printed CV and asked to speak to a manager. This was so out of the norm from the emails they typically received that I was hired the next day. I had some additional income to get me through two months, until I found another good job in my career path.” Totally_Wheysted

4. “Do some volunteer work in the mean time. Take on one shift here or there and put it on your resume. During the interview, say: “I was suddenly let go, but I don’t like doing nothing. My local animal shelter always needs help, so I opted to help them until I find another position. And remember that your school work counts as experience: you can meet deadlines, are knowledgeable in XYZ computer softwares programs,  can work well in teams, etc.” — No_Name_Idea

5. “A few years back, I was let go (best thing that ever happened to me). Go to Covered CA [editor’s note: for those not living in CA, visit the national government healthcare site here] and discuss your situation. Go to the Employment Office and take classes [national site directory here]. You’ll meet other people in the same boat, and it’ll make you feel a bit better. It is a VERY useful service that our taxes pay for. As soon as possible, find out how much unemployment is and save EVERYTHING they give you. They’ll send a form once you’re approved to report 10 jobs you’ve already applied for. Send it in right away, and they’ll send you a debit card (Bank Of America, most likely), or you can have it transferred to your bank.” — Navygent

6. “If it makes you feel better, I’ve been fired twice. Each time, it worked out in my favour. The first time, it took me two months to find another job (which paid double what my previous job had paid). The next time I was fired, I [decided to] run my own small business. You don’t need any special skills to do that. Get a lawnmower off Craigslist and start cutting people’s lawns for cash. Start painting houses. I have two family members who hate to work: my cousin runs his own “landscaping” business — and he still drives a bitchin’ truck, has a motorcycle, and two kids. My brother manages an apartment building. He gets a free apartment and a small salary to live off of. He doesn’t have much, but he doesn’t have to do much either. There’s lots of ways to make money. Don’t let employers hold you back.” Shutuphenrygeorge

7. “Find a plasma donation center. Donors in my area can make a maximum of $400 per month by donating plasma. While you are applying and interviewing for jobs, keep an eye on Craigslist gigs for quick jobs, anything from computer maintenance to yard work. I once scored a $35 per hour, three-day weekend gig on Craigslist.” Tres_cervezas

8. “This is pretty dependent on your city and what is available, but [if you don’t have a car] instead of driving for Uber or Lyft, look into becoming a courier for services like Postmates, Caviar, Doordash, etc. All you need is a bicycle and a phone (with Postmates, you can even walk). I do this on the side, but some people can manage it full-time, at least as a temporary thing. They are generally pretty quick to onboard you, once you sign up. It’s also pretty good exercise, which is a bonus.” Potato_ship

9. “Stay focused, and treat job searching as a full time job. Having an organized approach will help relieve the stress. I was out of work for a while myself, after a layoff. The first week or two was a bit of a panic (and I had a pretty good safety net, but it does get better. There are a few key elements that cover all hiring interactions:

A) Have friend(s) help you brainstorm places to apply and network with them to see if they know anyone hiring. It is often (but not always) who you know.

B) Evaluate your skills and write them down. It could be as basic as “punctual, organized, fast learner, flexible schedule, good with numbers, reliable transportation,” or more detailed: knowing specific computer skills, etc. Memorize them so you can bring them up during an interview.

C) Put together a resume. Keep it simple. Make it neat. Always have one with you. The applicants that impress are the ones that dress appropriately (does not need to be overly-fancy) and seem prepared when they show up. This tells the hiring manager that you are serious about wanting a job and have put in the thought and effort.

D) Be ready for the hard question: “Why are you out of work?” Be direct and do not bash your former employer. Practice this answer. It should be two or three sentences tops, and it should reflect a positive overall experience with your former employer (whether that is true or not).

E) Follow up with applications. Ask them what the next step is, and tell them you will check back in a few days. Managers generally are very busy and it is typical for them to put applications in a stack on the desk and let them sit for a few weeks. Keep the momentum going. This is probably the biggest mental hurdle I see with applicants: they do not want to be seen as pushy. There is a way to be “pleasantly persuasive.” A quick call (to see if they have filled the position, and to reestablish your interest) is fair game. You put the time into applying, they really do owe you a minute or two to update you on status occasionally.” Dooblieu

10. “Check-out your community college for jobs. That’s what I did in dire times. If you’re a student, and you go in asking if there are ANY jobs, they might have an open position as a Student Services front desk worker. Better than nothing. Also, my community college has a bulletin board and they have a section dedicated to jobs flyers, looking for students specifically.” Sofatalofa

11. “Re: phone. Do not shut off cell phone service yet. Do the following, and you can essentially get phone service for free: Get a free Google Voice account. During sign up, Google requires you link a current U.S. phone number (probably to prevent what we’re about to do). This is why I said don’t shut off the cell yet. If you did? Find a friend willing to lend you their phone for this project. They need not worry: They won’t be getting your texts or calls. Once you are signed up, go into Google Voice (GV) settings and set up a professional-sounding voice mail greeting. Then uncheck / deactivate call and text forwarding to the cell phone. Give everyone the GV# and put it on your resume. You can now make/receive calls, texts, & voicemail through your computer! Keep your cell charged and with you at all times. Your cell phone will still provide 911 USA emergency service, even if your cell service plan is deactivated.” TheDoctorGregman

Image via Picjumbo

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