Being “Let Go” – Part II: The Employee’s Perspective

Being "fired" or being "let go" both end up in the same place -- you out of work.  In this blog, I look at this from the employee's perspective and offer thoughts on coping strategies now that you're "in the beach club"...


You’re Fired!

I hate the term “being fired” for so many reasons, not least the fact it has become hackneyed thanks to Donald Trump and Sir Alan Sugar’s TV shows!  But we all know what it means – your employment is being terminated by the employer for something you did (or did not) do.

As an employee, if you’re being fired you have managed to convince your employer that they no longer need you.  First lesson - this was avoidable.  Maybe your work rate isn't as fast as your colleagues; perhaps your timekeeping leaves a lot to be desired; maybe you're not listening to instructions and therefore not doing what you are being asked to do; perhaps your personal hygiene is not acceptable; maybe you are too disruptive and vocal?  Whatever it is, being fired should never be a surprise to you, almost always you will have been warned in advance - sometimes it is formal and in writing, other times it's verbal.  But you can avoid being fired by not being complacent in the workplace.

  •  You may think your boss is a dick (and they may be!), but they are still your boss!  

  • You may think yourself the star performer and that rules don't apply to you -- let me tell you, I would rather have someone who was reliable all the time than a genius when they chose to be.  

Second lesson - when your boss or HR sit you down to discuss your performance, takes notes and listen carefully - hidden somewhere in these words are the things they need you to improve at.  If it has gotten to this point, they are already considering firing you but giving you the opportunity to change that outcome.

Unsure about what they’re telling you?  Ask questions for clarity.  Even if you don't feel your job is on the line, it is always a good idea to regularly ask your boss two questions: "what can I be doing better?" and "what do you need me to do differently?”  These are two different questions, and should allow even the most timid manager the opportunity to tell it to you straight.  The outcome will either be confirmation that you are doing well and are valued, or maybe you'll discover some things you didn't know - armed with this knowledge you can set about fixing them and avoid "being fired".


Being Let Go

Being “Let Go” is hard as it is typically unexpected, is not a result of some failing on your part and it has the effect of turning your world upside down.   The situation typically arises because a company needs to quickly reduce cost and as people are often its biggest outlay, then spending less on payroll has the effect of reducing burn rate or freeing up funds that can be used in other areas that might be more valuable (for example in recent years you may have seen a company close a console studio but be hiring in their mobile studio in another location).

When you are let go, what you get told – “the messaging” - is as soft as possible, as the company walks the fine line between telling you what they need to legally so they don't open themselves to any counterclaims and a genuine effort to help you move on.  You'll have many questions, many you won't even think about until after the shock has passed, and the people letting you go will often be nervous too; most likely they will be following a script and know they must say as little as possible and move on to the next person. Inevitably you'll be given a packet stuffed full of legal documents and brochures that will be explained to you but you won't be able to comprehend for a while. 

Where I think many companies fall down is focusing too much on the separation meeting e.g. when you’re actually let go – and not enough on what happens next.  Employees rarely get any follow up calls, and often the placement services that are offered aren’t that useful. Sure, the company doesn’t have a legal obligation to you any longer, but a moral duty perhaps?  A human duty to at least check in from time to time?


After You Leave

By whichever method you and the company separate, afterwards you will feel a range of emotions.  Maybe anger.  Maybe sadness. Maybe relief. Maybe you'll find yourself laughing uncontrollably, or perhaps crying.   It's hard to know how you'll feel until it happens to you.  But you will be OK.  Trust me on this.

What you do after you leave is the challenge - you could be out of work for some time. So it is important to get a plan together really quickly.  It’s tough being let go - but you will be OK. You will worry.  You will feel sad.  You will think that maybe you will never get a job again!  This is all quite normal.  And you will be OK.  Be prepared, know what you will be going through, stay active and sooner than you know you're starting your next job.  That might be a week, a month, six months, maybe more. 

Be practical.  If you have a partner, kids etc. - the pressures will be huge on you all. You need to stay strong and positive for their sake too; again know this is a process that could take time.  So think about ways to cut back on non-essential spending.  You will be OK.

Of course you'll need to get a resume together:


It’s really quite easy!

Whilst it tries to replicate both Facebook and Twitter functionality, LinkedIn is neither - it's your online resume and professional contact database - so don't share holiday pictures or anything you wouldn't want your next boss to see.  Present the best face of you on here, including a good professional profile pic.  Make a note of the URL (web-page address) of your LinkedIn profile (like my one, above), and be sure to include that on any job applications you apply for (...yours, not mine :-))

  • Ask for online recommendations and endorsements through LinkedIn from former colleagues

  • Search for people you know and connect to them – it’s through these connections that possible future employers will find you. 


Now create a separate resume (e.g. in Microsoft Word, or Google Docs etc.) that you can attach to online applications (as a PDF doc if you can).  Think of this as a summary - a very high-level one-page sales pitch about your career - not your first novel!

  • Start with your LinkedIn profile and summarize

  • Take your time here, pay attention to detail. 

  • Make sure your resume and your LinkedIn profile don’t conflict on anything. 

  • Check the spelling.

  • Aim to get your resume to one or pages in size, and include your LinkedIn URL so that if should people want more information, they can go get it easily.  

Be ready to include a cover letter with your online resume as that is the way to "sell" your skills specifically to each position.  Don't be fooled in thinking that every job for a designer, animator, producer, engineer etc. is the same - they aren't.  Terminology changes by company, expectations change by grade - so study the job description - Google for more info about the company if necessary - and use your cover letter to connect the dots between the stated requirements and your resume.  


Spread the Word

Sign up with a bunch of recruiters.  They'll all want you on their books, but in reality it's a meat market - they can sell what the market is buying, so don't think that working with them means you no longer need to be actively hunting yourself.  You do!  A recruiter is additive to your own job search.  Recruiters tend to work with specific employers and between several of them you should be able to gain an insight into the current state of the job market in your field. They will also give you feedback about your resume. 

Here are a few that I have worked with over the years and have found them helpful and reliable; this is hardly an exhaustive list but it’s a starting point:


Get Ready for the Beauty Pageant

Soon you will be interviewing - again, know this is a process and don't get your hopes too high.    Think of each job that you apply for like the Miss World contest.

  • You will need to go through all the stages, keeping up that smile and perky confidence all the way (even though you may not feel like it!)...  

  • …then come the eliminations, the short lists where you're so close to the crown you can smell it!...

  • …and you have to keep smiling (these people really don't care what you have been through, they just want to see the most ideal candidate).  

Then be ready for the rejection.  You thought you did brilliantly in the swim suit stage, the evening gown, your special talent was outstanding, the judges laughed along with you - but now it's "With great regret to inform you....?".  Remember there can only be one Miss World, and just because you didn't win, it doesn't mean you're not beautiful. This wasn’t your time. Maybe you'll win Miss Universe, so get ready to start this process all over again.  OK, enough of the analogies!

The key here is, be ready to do a lot of interviews and get a lot of rejections.  Think of them as preparing you for the right job that just hasn't opened up yet.  It’s the process.If you get the first job you apply for, well done!  But if you're on your twentieth application and struggling to stay positive, just do your best to keep smiling and know this is part of being in games.  No-one wants to hire someone who is depressed or seems like they need a lot of support - companies want strong, independent, happy, confident employees - so present yourself that way, however hard.  Have a coffee, take a deep breath, slap on some lipstick and get back out there baby!  OK – really done with the beauty contest analogies now!


Use Your Time Wisely

Other than applying for jobs, you need to keep busy.  Future employers will want to know what you have been doing with your time. They want people with character, strong in the face of adversity blah blah blah.  It is really important for you to establish a routine very early on - you had one at work, so think of this time as work time too, just that you get to do it at home for a while.  

  • Think of the week days as your work days - they're not time off or the same as weekends.  Because finding another job IS your job right now.

  • Set yourself working hours. 

  • Don't stay in bed late, as tempting as it may seem.  

  • Get up, get showered.  

  • Don't sit at home waiting for the phone to ring - jobs opportunities will come up at various times, and once you are on mailing lists etc. then start everyday with emails, checking out latest job listings.  

  • Be proactive.  Read up on industry developments and news.  

  • Comment on things you find interesting.  

  • Write your thoughts on industry events as your LinkedIn summary.  

  • Fill your day with useful things, not TV binge watching. 

So – what to do? The two hardest interview questions you will get are "what have you done with your time out of work" and "why would company X have let you go if you were so talented"?  So - be arming yourself with answers by staying busy.

  • Are there any freelance or consulting opportunities you can pick up?  Onsite at local game studios or remotely from your home?

  • If nothing paid, can you work for free part-time somewhere, just so you keep your hand in (and maybe show a company why you would be a great employee)?

  • Maybe a local startup?  

  • Maybe not in games?  

  • Maybe a local non-profit as a volunteer?

  • Education - is there a new skill you can learn?  Online classes (many free)?  

  • Think about writing a blog and contributing knowledge to your field of expertise (a good way to show your skills)?  

  • Maybe write a book? (no-one says it has to get published but writing a book is a worthwhile endeavor – and you may just get published!)

  • Perhaps offer to teach a games class or a guest lecture at your local university or high school?

  • If money is tight (what am I saying?  Of course money is tight) don't be afraid to take another job outside of games to make ends meet; the money may not be as great but it will help pay the bills and keeps you busy and productive while you wait for the right job to open up

  • Maybe you always told yourself you would get fit if you weren't so busy - well, make that part of your routine now.  Work out for an hour.  

  • Can't afford the gym?  Ok, walk around your neighborhood.  Gradually increase your distance.  Pretty soon you'll be in better shape mentally as well as physically. Sure you'll need to push yourself, but if it's part of your routine it's what you do now.

But you will be OK.

 Watch out for the next post - Part III: The Manager's Perspective

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