Dear Coach: I Got Fired

June 28, 2024   |   Lesli Mones

What’s the Problem?

Dear Coach,

I can’t believe I’m writing these words, but… I got laid off. 

Ridiculously, I assumed I was protected because of my function, seniority, and tenure in the organization and because of the buzz and gossip I had heard swirling in the halls. 

I’ve been with the company for more than 20 years, and I’ve made a lot of sacrifices in my personal life to get to where I am now – so I’m completely stunned, embarrassed, and frankly quite scared. Despite my high status within the four walls of the organization, I am admittedly quite insecure outside of work. I’m doubting my skills and abilities in a more modern workplace, and I have no clue how to network or put myself out there for a new position. And as a woman in her early 50s, I am also nervous about my age. Ugh.

Today’s job market freaks me out, and I’m not in a financial position to retire, though I could really use some time off after a year of such turmoil at the company. 

All this to say, I’m feeling extremely unsettled, and I don’t know where to go from here. Help!


Fired & Fragile


What Do We Think?

Dear “Fired & Fragile,”

Getting laid off is hard! There’s no way around that. But we do have some thoughts on how to best navigate the situation, so let’s discuss.

First, your question tells us that:

  • You felt safe in your role, so now you’re suffering a double shock: the shock of being laid off and the shock of having missed the signals or misinterpreted the situation.
  • You haven’t stuck your nose out in the last 20 years to see what your value is, so while you may be out of touch with your value in the marketplace, that doesn’t mean you don’t have value.

So, exactly how is your problem a power problem? We think:

  • The sense of power you felt inside your organization isn’t transferring with you outside the company, into the world of work at large. 
  • You don’t know your value in the marketplace, which leaves you feeling low rank.
  • You’re assuming your skills aren’t transferable. You’re valuing expert power over experience power – the power of being a seasoned leader with two decades of experience.

What’s the Solution?

While being single-minded in your pursuit, sometimes an unforeseen opportunity can provide value you didn’t know you needed.  

To help you reframe the situation and decide how to move forward, we invite you to reflect on power, openness, and opportunity: 

  • Is there utility or type of power you can cultivate in being open to the unexpected? How can you harness that power to your advantage?
  • Being so set in our pursuits can often be like wearing blinders, preventing us from noticing or appreciating other perspectives. Is it possible you have things to learn in a different role that you haven’t seen because your career plans are so firmly formulated? 
  • Consider that this role could be a growth opportunity, really rounding you out as a leader in a way you wouldn’t have recognized had it not come across your path.
  • Imagine you were not a careful planner. If you didn’t know where you wanted to go next in your career, what kind of relationships, opportunities, and learning might exist in this role for you? 

You may be making assumptions about this role that aren’t wholly accurate, so a good first step is to get as much information as you can to ensure you have the whole picture. 

Once you have that, consider what you can add to or change about the role to make it more to your liking. Since the CEO really wants you here, perhaps you have some leverage to make changes to the role so it’s better aligned with your career goals. 

At the end of the day, you do have a choice. You can always say “no” and see where the chips fall. But we hope you’ll consider that there might be great power in going where the river takes you, opening yourself up to something unexpected. You never know; it could be just the right thing!  


Each month, we answer questions we often get from the leaders we work with and unpack how, at the end of the day, every problem is a power problem. If you have an issue you just can’t solve, get in touch! We’d love to answer your questions in an upcoming Dear Coach post. Find us at [email protected], or on LinkedInFacebook, or Twitter.