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[Note: This essay ran in a slightly different form in Advertising Age on December 02, 2008. It has appeared in countless blogs since then. It appears here now for the first time]

They teach you how to design. They teach you how to write. They teach you how to take a client to lunch and they even teach you how to get a job. But no one ever teaches you how to be fired.

So in these perilous times, if you are one of the folks recently employment-free, let me be among the first to welcome you to your new life. Or at least, to your new life for a while.

And while I’m not going to lie to you that there’s anything I can say which will make if enjoyable, I can offer some advice on how to survive it with a minimal amount of therapy.

So here are six simple tips on how to be fired. Take them for what they’re worth. And tell me if they make sense to you. (Hey, it ain’t like you got anything else to do…)

Step one – Get fired.

You’d be surprised how many people walk around for a couple of weeks acting like they’ve been fired before they are actually let go. Freaking out that they’re gonna be laid off, moping around the office, and then it doesn’t happen, and they’ve wasted all that time when they could’ve been, I dunno, working maybe. Or looking for a new job. Or drinking. Or anything. So don’t sweat being fired until it happens. It won’t do you any good.

Step two – Freak out

Okay, you’ve been fired. Congratulations. The axe has fallen and it’s got your neck all over it. Well, at least that’s over. And while eventually it may all work out for the best, right now, it sucks. So freak out. Grieve. Scream. Yell. Throw things. Cry. Drink. Whatever. But get it out of your system. You absolutely, positively have to deal with it now, otherwise you’ll carry it around with you for the next thirty years. Which is okay if you don’t mind it rearing its ugly head when you least want it to. And it will.

Step three – Make a story

“He who controls the story controls their destiny.” I think C.J. Cregg said that. But it’s true, and you have to assume that once you get an interview, the first thing they’re going to ask you (or maybe the second, after, “Would you please stop shaking my hand”) is “Why did you leave your last job?” How you answer this will reveal worlds about who you are. Do you say “I got fired and I have no idea why?” That seems frighteningly uncurious and rather disingenuous – neither of which are qualities anyone wants to hire. Do you say “I got fired and I hate those bastards and I will spend all my free time hunting them down like the dogs they are”. Hey, at least it shows passion. Either of these are better, however, than just standing there stammering. Some come up with something. And then stick to it.

Step four – Be the Brand

We are in the business of selling brands. Or at the very least, bringing them to life. We – of all people – should know how hard it is to be convincing about something that is ill-defined. So why would you go into the job market without a clear brand for yourself? I don’t know. And yet, everyone does it.

So after you’ve figured out what you’re going to say about why you’re suddenly so damn available, figure out why they should hire you. What’s unique about you. Or said another way – figure out they should hire you and not the ten thousand other yahoos who’ve recently been sacked because the economy is in the toilet.

Wanna be really smart? Take it a step further. Customize your brand to the people you’re talking to. You know, like you always told your clients they should do. For exactly the same reasons.

Step Five – Eliminate what you hate

There will be a part of being fired that you really hate. (I don’t mean the being broke part. Everyone hates that – everyone with any brains at least.) So figure out what it is and figure out a way to get over it. Maybe you hate not having people to hang out with. Then go to Starbucks. I’m serious. Or maybe you hate not having a routine. Make one – get up, walk the dogs, read your mail, write something, whatever. Or maybe it’s explaining to your nosy neighbors why suddenly you’re wondering around the neighborhood in your pajamas at eleven a.m. I don’t know. But figger it out and get around it. Otherwise you’re gonna add another level of stress to the stress of being out of work. And who needs that?

Step Six – Embrace Repetition

Face this fact: You’re gonna be saying the same things over and over again. You’re gonna have your elevator pitch. Or you’re gonna have the thing you tell your neighbor. Or the spiel you make in an interview. Work it, polish it, refine it – but for God’s sake whatever you do, don’t get bored with it.

Usually when we’re presenting to a client, we only have to do it once or twice – maybe three times. We’re just not used to bringing the same enthusiasm the tenth or fifteenth time that we brought the first two times. And that’s exactly what you’re gonna be faced with when you’re interviewing.

Our natural instinct, of course, is to adjust what we’re presenting. Not necessarily make it better, just make it fresher so we can keep the passion in it, because otherwise we’ll feel bored by it. But look – even though this may be the tenth time you’ve said this exact same stuff, it’s probably the first time this particular person has heard it. It’s new to them. Make it sound like it’s new to you too.

Because the sooner you learn how, the less you may have to.

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