When You Get Fired Over Zoom

Our top tips for getting closure and making a graceful exit.

Published: Mar 20, 2021

When Timothy ended the videoconference with his boss, he was reeling. He’d just been laid off. Questions whizzed through his head: What should he do now? Should he tell anyone? How soon was too soon to call his boss back and ask for more information?

As of early February 2021, more than 19 million Americans are receiving some unemployment compensation, making this a brutal job market to be cut loose into. But no matter how upset and fearful you may feel, a good exit is important. You may want to keep the door open for the firm to rehire you—a common practice in the pandemic—or, at the very least, secure a strong recommendation from colleagues in your network.

Here are our tips for getting closure before you start looking for your next job.

You may want to keep the door open for the firm to rehire you—a common practice in the pandemic—or, at the very least, secure a strong recommendation from colleagues in your network.

Let yourself grieve.

A job provides more than money; it also gives you a sense of identity, community, and purpose—and a way to envision your future. Now all of that has changed, and grief is a normal response. “Give yourself time to feel a mix of emotions,” says Val Olson, a career coach at Korn Ferry Advance. “And give yourself time to get over the loss.” You can also find closure by reflecting on your experience in that job, including what you accomplished, what you will and won’t miss, and the skills and knowledge you gained that will help you in the future.

Say your goodbyes.

While you might feel like disappearing, it’s still important to say goodbye to colleagues when you leave a job remotely. Think about what’s important for you to say, to whom, and how: collectively or one-on-one, and over what medium? If you want to stay in touch with some colleagues, extend the invitation and make a plan. “If you’re not already connected with your coworkers on LinkedIn, do so now,” Olson says. While you may never see some of your colleagues again, they could also become coworkers again in the future. After all, as many as 80% of jobs are filled through personal or professional connections.

Have an exit interview with your boss.

Since most people don’t expect to get fired, they don’t have their thoughts organized in the meeting where it happens. If you’re looking for feedback that could help you in the future, ask your boss if it’s possible to do an exit interview. (Keep in mind that some companies will require someone from HR to be there.) Come prepared with questions and keep the tone of the conversation positive so you don’t burn any bridges. This is also a good time to ask for a written letter of recommendation.

Convey a good attitude.

While you likely feel a roller coaster of emotions, career experts advise staying composed and wishing your boss and other people well. “Though this experience may be a setback, negative words will set you back even further,” says Olson. If you can’t put on a brave face and be positive, at least be neutral and keep conversations to a minimum.

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