Received a job termination letter? Do this.

Posted February 17, 2021

Terminated. Fired. Whatever you call it, it’s never pleasant. But it’s often the outcome of shoddy performance on the job. But it’s more than just an unpleasant inconvenience. On top of it all, it can pose a tough situation when it comes to getting back in the saddle and looking for another job. 

Why is termination from a job so rough? Mainly, because not only does it bring an abrupt, often unforeseen end to a working relationship, but it also means you have to explain the reasons for a job termination down the road to potential future employers. But unpleasant as it may seem, even this is achievable if you approach it in the right way. 

At CareerBliss, we’re all about helping people find and keep their happy jobs. Even if you were let go from your job, we can help you jumpstart your job search and navigate the sometimes tricky waters of finding and interviewing for a job after receiving a termination letter at your last job.

So stick with us. We’ll try to keep the process as simple and smooth as possible.

What is a termination letter?

First off, maybe you’ve never even heard of a termination letter until your coworker (or you) received one. A termination letter is a document that formally notifies an employee that they are being terminated from their job. The letter lays out the events that led up to receiving a notice of termination, as well as the details of the termination, such as company property that must be returned, the employee’s last day, any severance package or vacation days payout, etc. While termination letters are not a requirement of employers by federal law, they are often used as a way of recording the events and incidence that led to the termination in the event that a former employee attempts to sue for wrongful termination.

Reasons you might receive a termination letter

Termination letters are official dismissal orders straight from the top, letting you know that you are being relieved of your responsibilities at a company. A higher-up may present an employee with a termination letter for a number of reasons, notwithstanding the following:

  • Ongoing tardiness issues
  • Theft (time, resources, etc)
  • Not respecting managers/superiors
  • Producing poor quality work
  • Poor performance
  • Harassing others on the job
  • Being a poor company ambassador

While occasional emotions or letting something slip through the cracks may be a forgivable offense depending on how severe the fallout, ongoing offenses of the above nature will generally bring anyone down, and warrant a termination letter. And it’s no wonder, because a company should be a professional venue where everyone works together harmoniously to achieve the same end--company success.

All this talk about termination letters makes this a great time to just impress as a reminder that you should always be on your best behavior at work, striving to be excellent at everything you do, winning friends and influencing people. 

What do you do if you receive a termination letter?

First off, breathe. It may feel like the end of the world for a short time as you consider what you will do next or how to explain what happened to your family, your friends, and most importantly, future employers. But with a little grace and finesse, you really can get through it. 

If you lost your job due to waning, unmotivated performance or burnout, maybe it’s time to think of this termination as an opportunity for a fresh start in a job you love. 

As you get your resume in order to hit the job hunt, one of the biggest things you should be thinking about is how to explain your termination to someone interviewing you for what might be your next job. Breathe again. You can do it. Just remember that it’s all about how you frame it. So you’ll want to begin thinking about how to frame your experience in a positive way so that even the red flag of termination can ultimately work in your favor. 

How to explain a termination on a job application

Unless the application specifically asks if you’ve ever been terminated from a job, there’s no reason to go into it on paper. Discussing your termination letter is a better conversation to save for the interview if you can, when you and the recruiter are speaking face to face and they can see your eyes and body language and determine whether or not you’ve changed. Here are some things to keep in mind as you either fill out job explanations or prepare for an interview after receiving a termination letter.

Step 1. Make sure you’ve processed the emotions behind your termination. 

Step 2. Have positive references from your previous job (like a supervisor, coworker, or other person not involved in terminating you).

Step 3. Be sure to only speak positively about your previous employer, regardless of them terminating you.

Step 4. Stay in control of the conversation by being brief and shaping the direction of the conversation.

Step 5. Practice how to respond to questions                       

Step 6. Show and tell what you’ve learned from the situation.

Why the reason you were terminated, and how you frame it, matters

Employers aren’t just looking to hire you. They are making an investment in you and in their company. And while they can’t foresee everything, they hope that their investment in you will pay off. After all, hiring isn’t cheap. 

According to the Society for Human Resources Management’s Human Capital Benchmarking Report, the “average cost-per-hire is $4,129, while the average time it takes to fill a given position is 42 days.” And that’s not even taking into account benefits, training, insurance premium subsidies or any of the other things employers offer to sweeten the deal and keep their employees happy and healthy. 

When employers hire someone, they want to ensure that that person will be around for a while. When someone was terminated from their last job, an employer will want to know why, to determine if there are any red flags or green flags regarding your potential employment.

The would-be employer is going to weigh your response to this important question of why you left your last job against the potential risk of you doing the same thing a few months or a year down the road. Most companies aren’t fond of high turnover. They want to hire someone with dedication and staying power. 

So how you respond to this answer matters.

Regardless of if you left your job of your own volition or your were terminated, the key is always perspective and framing. You want your potential employer to know that any mistakes that you may have made were not lost on you, but that you took them as a painful lesson well-learned--and mistakes that you don’t intend to make again. 

Getting back in the job search after receiving a termination letter

A termination letter does not have to mean the end of your career. It simply means it’s time to stop for a moment and consider where you got off course, and figure out how to prevent it from happening again. Receiving a termination letter is an opportunity for reflection and improvement. Only those with a growth mindset see it as an invitation and challenge to become better and put themselves out there again.

If that sounds like you and you’re not prepared to let a kink in the road hold you back from growing and being better tomorrow, then let’s get reflective. What did your boss indicate in your termination letter was the reason for your termination? Was it due to some inability beyond yourself that prevented you from performing satisfactorily? Or did you perform badly in a way that could be remedied? Were you constantly late? What was the reason you were late? Once you’ve identified what the cause of the termination was, and why, you can begin to come up with solutions that could have prevented your termination--and that can help set you up for success at your next job.

Now, about that next job. Where do you go from here?

At CareerBliss, we specialize in helping people get back in the saddle, whether they’ve been laid off, terminated, working from home, not working, or are just looking for a new career path. We provide resources to help make sense of the sometimes convoluted job search process by giving you tools to not only learn how to handle different situations and questions that may arise in the job search process, but also to research salaries and read reviews so you can better determine if working at a certain company is right for you. 

On top of all of that, our career specialists are focused on helping people achieve happiness in the workplace. That’s why we work with real employees at real companies to rate their jobs and workplaces against the 10 factors which we found determine whether or not someone will be happy in their work or at a company. And we want to pass that all along to you.

What are you waiting for? Check out our job board of more than 8 million open job listings. And while you’re there, check out what salary you should or could be earning based on your experience and the type of job you are looking for.

The CareerBliss Team

Your career happiness is our #1 priority here at CareerBliss. To help you succeed in your career, we offer a wide variety of tools and resources to help you out along the way. Check out company reviews, salary information, career advice, and, of course, millions of jobs on CareerBliss and choose happy today!

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