Kicked Off The Corporate Ladder
Getting Fired Was A Good Thing
“I want you to know, I’m not interviewing anywhere,” I announced to my new manager, knowing he’d be pleased he didn’t have to worry about me leaving.
“Maybe you should be,” he spat back.
After that contentious Zoom meeting finished, I had another one scheduled with a teammate. When he asked how I was, I started sobbing.
Six months later, at the end of 2020, I was fired from my job. At the time, it felt like the worst thing that could have happened to me, but it forced me to think about what I really wanted from my life.
Losing my job sucked. Losing my job was also one of the best things that happened to me.
From Good to Bad
When I started my job a year earlier, I was excited to be in an environment that was going to challenge me and give me my “PhD in sales”. I was joining a new experimental sales team and management seemed optimistic about our future.
After the first three months, our head of sales pulled my team into a room and explained, “We’re restructuring the team because we realized that if we don’t, everyone will quit in six months.”
Three months later, red eyed and angry, my first manager announced that she was being fired after three years with the company. Another guy was let go soon after. My teammate, who started the same day as me, quit next. On his last day, he invited me over for smoked beef brisket with his family and urged me to start interviewing elsewhere. “The writing’s on the wall,” he said, “I’m worried for you”.
I still didn’t want to quit.
A mantra our sales leaders loved to parrot was, “You could get an easier job and make more money somewhere else. But you are so lucky to be a part of this world class team.”
I wanted to be worthy of a world class team. Now, I recognize how this environment validated an insecurity I had. Secretly, I believed I wasn’t good at my job. Even though everyone on my team was struggling, I felt in my heart that I was the problem. Thus, I concluded that I was lucky to still be at this company.
No, I’m Not Quitting
As things got worse, I reached out to one of my older cousins who also works in software sales. I opened up and explained how things were going poorly for me, how I felt like my job was constantly on the line. He gave me the opposite advice of my coworkers. Pointing out that the one thing I could control was my output, he suggested focusing on that.
Adopting this mindset, I did whatever I could to improve a little bit each day. At first, no one had faith in me at my company and couldn’t believe I wasn’t working on an exit plan.
“You're so loyal, I’m surprised you're single,” one of my teammates quipped when I expressed for the millionth time that I wasn’t leaving.
My days were consumed with becoming better at my job. I’d meet with our sales trainer to do minute by minute breakdowns of my recorded meetings and get tactics for improvement.
Our technical solutions architect would generously meet with me almost daily. We’d walk through things like the technical features of our competitors and how I could defend our product against theirs.
I learned how to do on the fly technical demonstrations, showing off on demos, saying, “our product makes this so easy, even a sales person can do it”. Engineers loved that.
Late at night, I’d take all the information I was learning and translate it into emails that I could fire off to prospective clients in the morning.
Getting Better, Getting Fired
Slowly, my sales leadership team started to notice. My solutions architect commended me on a well executed call, shared it with our sales leader, and they praised me in front of the whole sales floor. My peers started to reach out to me with technical questions. My biggest client joked to my manager that I had a better idea of what was going on with their engineering team than my client did.
My hard work paid off.
Unfortunately, sometimes that’s not enough. It takes a while to see the fruits of your labor at a software company. Particularly mine which was also struggling with its own growing pains. At the end of the day, there was not enough time for my seeds to grow into big money makers.
My send off was one of the kindest at the company. My same manager who originally told me to interview elsewhere, organized a happy hour for my last day. He encouraged each teammate to share a favorite memory of me. On my last day, everyone on the sales leadership team called me, offered to be a reference in the future and our head of sales even organized an interview for me with another company.
When I was officially let go, I felt a sense of relief that this chapter in my life was closing. By the end, I knew I fixed the things that I could control. More importantly, I overcame my own insecurity and finally showed myself that I was a hard worker.
Knowing this, I started to think, what if I applied this work ethic to my own dreams?
Off The Corporate Ladder
During the last few weeks of my job, I decided to take advantage of the free therapy sessions provided by my company. A nice perk, but maybe a red flag that my company preemptively paid for therapy.
When I talked to my therapist about leaving my job, I toyed around with the idea of not jumping into my next sales role. She was the first person I told about my dreams of launching a podcast with my sister and pursuing more creative projects. Still I was hesitant. She helped me work through my mental blockers.
“What will people say?” I wondered.
“Who exactly are you worried about?” She gently countered.
There was no one I was worried about. The negative voice in my head was my own scared ego that wanted to stay tied to my job title and a world I knew. With her support, I made the decision to delay my return to the corporate world for one year.
After Being Fired
Two years later, I still haven’t gone back to sales. My sister and I launched our podcast and have put out almost 100 episodes. I’m taking a writing course and started publishing my writing online. Now, I’m embracing a new job title, “creator”.
Looking back, I have compassion for my former myself. There were a lot of external factors affecting the sales team that were out of my control. In the end, I’m happy I came out the other side stronger and more confident in myself.
When I tell people that getting fired pushed me out of the corporate world and into a more creative one, they often have the same response:
“You’re so lucky you got fired”.
It didn’t seem like it at the time, but now I see I am.