The Virtuous CIO  

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April 24, 2011 — Getting Fired — Part 2

Last week we looked at some of the immediate consequences of getting fired. I would like to talk this week about looking forward. We can start with a few more thoughts about financial preparedness.

I spent some time in outlining things that can be done to reduce financial exposure in the event of job loss. That was just a sampler. I'm sure there are many things anyone can find to reduce expenses and obligations. It is not that difficult. The greatest challenge is in attitude. I can ask myself the question, “If a new job is just around the corner, why should I go through the pain of cutting expenses and selling my toys?”

I can fully understand the thinking. In my experience, I lost a job on a Friday and locked in a new job the following Monday. To give credit where it's due, I'm confident this was the result of a lot of prayer over the weekend, however the point is taken. I'm also prompted to think about a former colleague, who spent to extended stretches unemployed, or underemployed. The first time was for 18 months, the second over two years. He chewed through a considerable portion of his retirement savings as a result and had a morbid fear of it happening again.

Because something like this could happen to you, taking radical steps to reduce financial risk is prudent. Always remember things are replaceable. And if you are prone to complain or moan about your situation, take a look around. You can always find people who are worse off.

I would like to spend a bit of time examining an unplanned entrance into the job market. As we saw, the first step is to start networking intensively. The vast majority of new jobs come as the result of a friend, who knows somebody, who knows somebody, etc. Make appointments with the headhunters. They maintain networks of peers and are knowledgeable about openings around the country. Losing a CIO position and finding another seems to occur most often within these loose organizations of recruiters.

Stay in circulation. Free use of an office is a boon. If someone offers something like that, snap it up. There is great value in getting dressed and leaving the house each day. I've heard advice in several places suggesting a couple of weeks to vacation and catch up on chores around the house as an ideal way to clear your head. I believe that to be dangerous. Wait until you have secured a new position. If you can set the start date a few weeks in advance and your finances can sustain it, then take the vacation.

If the question of the termination comes up in a job interview, the best approach is to answer the question as factually and honestly as possible. “We had a major IT project fail and I needed to take the fall for it.” Or perhaps, “I got crossways with the CEO on a couple of policy issues and he decided I was no longer a good fit for his objectives.” If your significant error in judgment was the prime driver in getting released, don't make excuses. “I made a bad decision. I've learned from it.”

Any competent hiring manager recognizes firings are rarely clear cut and that there is usually plenty of blame to go around. An unambiguous attitude of facing up to problems puts points on the positive side of your ledger during a job interview. Make no mistake about it, though. Finding another job after getting fired is never easy.

The question of taking a job outside of your profession for low wages is debated. On the one hand, it will stretch financial resources until something more suitable is found. But it also may trap you into a menial position. I tend towards favoring the immediate job. If the management and leadership skills required for a senior IT position are truly present, they will be recognized wherever you work. Opportunities will present themselves. And, it may lead to change of career, along with other opportunities.

Getting kicked out onto the street is a frightening experience. With some careful thought and planning, it is not the end of the world, but potentially a door into a much better work experience.