'You're Fired' stirs up emotions of inadequacy, self doubt, and depression. I should know. I've been fired - a lot. Pretty sure the first time was when I was 15 and working at Baskin Robbins. I decided to go to the beach instead of the job.
Second time, I was 16 - Butera's Deli. I thought I learned from the time before and got someone to cover my shift when I went to the beach. The substitute never showed. Next job was a lifeguard at the beach. Lesson learned. Never got fired from that job. And I saved a life or two.
Third time, I wanted to get paid what other people who were Directors of Operations were paid. After all, after moving through roles in Customer Support, Sales, and Technical Support Management, I had been doing the D.O. job for 2 years and held the title for 6 months. Wasn't it time to earn the rewards for the hard work? Apparently not. I was politely encouraged to move back into sales, where a commission plan promised that I could earn whatever I was worth. Problem was, I didn't want to be in sales again for that company. So I took the 'well you can't stay in the D.O. role because we found a younger, more naive girl who will get paid less than the job is worth' option. I 'left' to get a more lucrative sales job in the booming technology industry.
Fourth time was after two years of blowing the doors off the technology company's commission plan, becoming one of the highest paid salespeople and experiencing two reorganizations that included complete restructuring to cap the comp plan (first low, then lower). The rest of the sales team dubbed me 'the comp plan assassin'. Then the company hired a consultant to 'evaluate' the sales team. He came to me one day and let me know that despite the amazing job I was doing, despite the fact that the sales techniques I had helped develop were being used to train all underperforming reps, despite raving reviews from my customers, and against his recommendations, the company had targeted me for a layoff - to replace me with someone younger and less experienced (and available for less money). So we hatched a plan to kill the latest commission plan, as I had all the others. And on the final day of the third quarter, I turned in enough sales to complete my (recently doubled) quota and earn the maximum in commission available. Pretty sure those sales I turned in also covered the next quarter's quote - or came close. And then sent in my resignation. So not really fired...more like incentivized to leave because I would be fired.
I kept that same sales coach through the next job, which had no commission cap (until 1 years after I was hired). I got myself a mentor in upper management (or three), who helped me negotiate the rungs of that corporate ladder. I stayed for many years in what had become my dream job. Until a new President of that (almost) billion dollar company decided that the 'team' led by my three mentors needed to be ousted and a new team was formed. Long story short, this was the conversation after my new direct manager traveled around the country with me to learn how my region had grown from 7million in sales to 46 million over three years:
"We believe that it's not the overpaid sales people that grow this business. We would be better off with recent college grads who we can pay less."
"We're going to consolidate all the customer support to a 'farm in one city. Customer service in our industry is just order taking."
"You know, if you were a guy with your personality, you could stay on my team."
I defended the relationship based, sales philosophy and team I had built. Our customers had just spent a week extolling the value of that overpaid group of 'order takers' and the operational successes of the products we implemented. But the sexist comment was the last straw - when I knew that the dream job was coming to an end no matter how much I argued. I asked what the management's next steps with me were. Then suggested that instead of finding the three reasons to 'write me up and let me go', I should just bring in my attorney on Monday and we could figure out a way to avoid the sexual harassment suit. Kinda not fired (again). But in reality - fired.
Then I went to work for the competition. They kept me for two years to wait out the non-compete - then took all my secrets and the first ($7 million dollar a year) account that I sold - then crushed my comp plan. So, I left.
Boy, there some lessons in there that I truly did not appreciate until years later. It's hard to appreciate the lessons through the emotions of inadequacy, self doubt, and depression
Lesson 1: If you would rather be somewhere else than work, find a way to work where you'd rather be. First, I wanted to be at the beach. That's where I went.
Lesson 2: I wanted to be in a job that paid me what I was worth. So I found it.
Lesson 3: I wanted to be a part of a customer service oriented sales team that provided true value to their customers and was fairly compensated for that value. So I built it.
Lesson 4: I need to learn how to play corporate politics. That took a while. Then I figured out...
Lesson 5: Corporations (and most people) are self serving. You can either learn to be a part of that culture, find the rare exceptions that are not self serving at the expense of employees, or build the organization that you want to work for.
Lessons 6-10 came during the building of my own organization and a whole 'nother blog post.
But the biggest lesson of all those failures was gratitude for failure in general. Here's hoping these gratitudes can be applied in your career and life:
Gratitude that you can identify what makes you happy and reach for that.
Gratitude that, if you do the (hard) work of the job you really want, you can eventually earn that promotion.
Gratitude that, if you don't wallow in the failure, but instead move on, similar or better opportunities await elsewhere.
Gratitude that you can build coaching and mentoring relationships that help enhance or develop skills and expertise.
Gratitude that if there is not a cultural fit where you are, there will be somewhere else. And the rewards of finding the right place are worth the (sometimes unpleasant) journey there.
Gratitude for your hard fought insights into how (prevailing) people and organizations behave.
Gratitude for removing yourself from the toxic people and corporations in your world and surrounding yourself with the fulfilling ones and, in the process, celebrating/nurturing those bonds instead.
Gratitude for your courage to face your fears and dream bigger because the dream lies behind just a few failures, which are really growth opportunity in disguise.
So, take a lesson or two from this reckless optimist and use your own failures as an opportunity to determine why you are grateful.
Kimble Bosworth is the founder and owner of Proforma Printelligence in Nashville, TN where, along with her team, cover their clients print, promo and multimedia. If you’re in a marketing pinch, sometimes they will even cover your ass. If you would like to connect with Kimble, here are her preferred methods: