How to handle getting canned

We've all heard about it. There's been a recent rash of agency house cleanings. Pink slips have been raining down like confetti at a wedding. It's enough to make you wish hard for a job like the Discovery Channel croc hunter, Steve Irwin, has. Seems cleaner and less lethal than working in this biz, no?

We’ve all heard about it. There’s been a recent rash of agency house cleanings. Pink slips have been raining down like confetti at a wedding. It’s enough to make you wish hard for a job like the Discovery Channel croc hunter, Steve Irwin, has. Seems cleaner and less lethal than working in this biz, no?

If you’ve ever been ‘let go,’ you know that sick, bile-heaving, spirit-crushing, rage-inducing panic. Are you there right now? Have a feeling you’re about to know precisely what I’m talking about? Don’t sweat it. A job loss doesn’t mean a dirt nap. That’s the good news.

More good news is that there’s a lot you can do about it, speaking as someone who’s been there. While consoling yourself with a binge on Judge Judy and Jerry Springer may sound tempting, here are some ideas that are a titch more productive.

Show you the money. Let’s face it – if you take the high jump, the only thing that matters is how much dough you get. The government says that your former employer owes you one week of pay for every year of employment in lieu of notice. (They need to update that there rule, if you ask me.) Plus, they have to give you any outstanding vacation pay, expenses, etc. That’s it. That’s all. Anything after that is gravy. I’m not a lawyer, I’m proud to say, so, if you’re feeling hard done by, contact one. Something to think about before you do, though. The only thing a lawyer can do is get you more money. A lawyer likely can’t get you your job back or induce heinous bodily consequences on your former employers. If you get more money, it’ll take awhile. It’ll also cost a lot of money, in turn, and it will burn a bridge. If you’ve been royally hosed, then go ahead and let them feel your wrath. Otherwise, think about it long and hard.

Go out with class. Don’t slag the job slayers. As tempting as it may be, keep your gob shut. It’ll come back to bite you in a soft, fleshy place, for sure. Keep your chin in the air, and your eyes dry and looking in front of you, not at your feet.

You still have power. Most agency bosses don’t dig on canning people. That’s either because they’re basically decent folks, or they’re loath to have the industry chin-wagging about what it all means. It doesn’t matter. The point is that, unless you were canned for seriously pooching something or other, they will want to help you in any way that doesn’t cost money. Ask for a letter of reference. Ask for your e-mail and voice-mail to be left active. Ask for use of a fax machine and photocopier. Likely, they’ll say yes. If not, you’ll remember it when you become their client. Nyuk nyuk nyuk.

Spit-shine the resume. Get it out and get it updated. I’m no expert on resumes, but I can reinforce the importance of making sure it’s written in the English language. I don’t know how many resumes I’ve looked at over the years that I’m sure have been written by the candidate’s kid as a school project. For guidance, you can pay too much money for those goofy resume how-to books, or you can type ‘resume writing’ in a Net search engine and get boatloads of advice for free.

Know thyself. Spend some time figuring out exactly what it is you want in a job. What do you want from the work? What kind of an agency do you want to work for? Do you want to be a client? Do you want to freelance? Knowing these things will narrow your focus and help you to get the job you want, instead of any crap job that comes your way. Don’t take just anything in a panic. You don’t want to be doing this again in six months. Know yourself and know the company you’re interviewing with. Find out about agencies, clients, and potential bosses by asking around. It’s a small business – you’ll know somebody who knows somebody who knows the scoop.

Get looking. The main sources of job leads are your network, headhunters, the Net and classifieds. Use them all. Be organized and keep track of the people you’ve spoken with, when you did and details of follow-up required. There are lots of books on how to do this, too. But if you have a piece of paper and a pen, again, you can save yourself some money.

Alright, now that we’ve looked at the basics, let’s cover the most important consideration in this situation – you and your family.

Don’t panic. Easier said than done. Whatever, just don’t panic. Think of all the people you know in this biz. Think about how many boneheads you know that somehow or other always surface. Now think of your chances, given that you’re not even a bonehead. Feel better? Good. You should. You’ll get a new job.

Suck it up. You’re allowed to cry, to be afraid, to be angry. You’re allowed to show that to the ones who love you – for a little while. After the shock wears off and you’ve got a plan, make like you’re onto the next big thing, even if there is a tiny lily-livered voice in your head telling you different. Don’t self-indulgently burden you or others with fear and depression. Guess what? It’s scary not just for you, but for your family, too. Besides, you’ll get a new job.

Remember who you are and what this business is about. You didn’t get where you are because you’re a chucklehead. Agency bloodbaths have very little to do with the people who get let go. Client budget cutbacks, overly enthusiastic revenue forecasts, lost accounts – they’re all part of the biz and beyond the control of most of us. Most people who’ve been in the business for any length of time have had the door hit them on the ass on their way out. You’re in good company. And you’ll get a new job.

So, here’s the routine. Get the money. Don’t let them see you sweat. Ask for the extras. Get a plan. Suck it up. Do it. And never, ever forget how good you are and all that you have to offer. Just think – you’re about to get a new job!


Pamela Davis, who is busy taking her own advice as a freelance direct marketing specialist, can be reached at (416) 803-8803 or