"I was fired today"

Last week, I received a message from someone that gave me chills. It started with a simple declaration, “tomorrow is my last day at the firm.” While you generally feel people voluntarily leaving the firm is less than ideal, it’s part of the business world’s circle of life. When I probed more, that’s when the weight fell on my shoulders.

"I was fired today."

The firing in itself isn’t uncommon either. Business owners want to optimize profits and that requires making hard decisions sometimes that result in people being fired, laid off, restructured or whatever other terms you want to use describing people losing jobs.

Over the years, I’ve seen a number of layoffs, some decisions understandable and others less so. What puzzled me – and made a little angry in this case – was the timing.

This person was a new hire – on the job for 6 months and never assigned to a project.

The reason for his termination? Lower utilization than his peers…as if an entry level person was going to join the firm and staff his or herself on a project. Admittedly, I don’t have all the facts, but this feels irresponsible on the hiring manger’s part. My view is simple. If you bring on a new hire, do what you can to give them a chance to succeed.

I’m telling you this story because it serves as a reminder of a few key things that you always need to have top of mind when it comes to your career:

You always need to think about your next career step

Whether you want to retire at your current company or see your current gig as a springboard to your dream job, you need to be deliberate about driving action instead of waiting for something to happen to you.

Willingness to go where the work is makes a difference

When you work in client service, you need to go where the work is and you need to do work your clients want to buy. You can’t force someone to buy what you want to sell simply because it’s your passion.

Industry plays by the same rules. Because of explicit limits on the number of people at each level (i.e. there can only be one CFO), the fastest path to promotion might mean you spending a couple of years in a town that doesn’t fit with your social life. You know, someplace like Danville, Illinois.

When you’re the new person, remember that you need to make it easy for people to help you. If someone offers to give you some pointers, a) make sure you follow-up and b) don’t expect them to come to you and drop the help in your lap. Make logistics easy for them. c) follow-up!

Building relationships is not an optional activity

I’ve said it before, but it deserves repeating – your network is everything to your career.

Businesses of all types are under more pressure than ever to reduce costs, which often means reducing headcount. Of course, staying close to the powers the be makes you more than just a statistic. It also keeps you informed on the issues that are top of mind of decision makers and you can evolve your skills development accordingly.

Let me be clear. I don’t believe hard work guarantees you won’t ever get fired. I do, however, believe that if you’re going to take a loss, put up some resistance and leave no doubt that you did everything in your control.