Almost everyone will be fired or terminated at least once in their careers. It may happen through acquisition, merger, downsizing or even by misconduct or underperformance. Most departures are negotiated. If you are the only person being let go, you may have room to negotiate your terms. If you are part of a group that is being let go, the terms will most likely be tightly defined.

If you suspect that you may be a target of an upcoming layoff, get prepared. Make connections internally to identify possible alternative job moves within the company. Take stock of your financial situation to ensure you have the resources in place in the event of a gap in employment. Know your time horizon to help prioritize next steps.

If termination comes as a surprise, your first reactions may be dismay, anger or even relief. Cope with these emotions before launching into a job search. Take time to carefully consider and understand the terms of your separation before agreeing to or signing anything. It would be wise to seek legal counsel in certain circumstances, for example: discrimination, international visa, wrongful termination, complex severance agreement, non-disclosure, non-compete, etc.

You may be offered the choice to resign rather than being terminated. Things to consider are severance package terms, unemployment eligibility and employment verification verbiage.

When departing, you should do the following:

  1. Secure all files, information and contacts that you'll want to take with you
  2. Review any non-compete or other employment agreements
  3. Review your separation agreement and severance terms carefully
  4. Plan to return any company-owned equipment
  5. File for unemployment benefits (review eligibility guidelines; filing varies from state to state)
  6. Determine the best timing to inform your network
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