After nine months at KPMG accounting firm I received a call to meet with a partner about my annual review. He told me that I was the opposite of most first year employees—I had the people skills but not the technical skills to succeed at the firm. They were letting me go. Never did I think that I would get fired from my first job out of college! Looking back, this marked a defining moment in my life.
It’s been said that there are two kinds of coaches, those who have been fired and those who are going to be. It’s that time of year in college basketball. Believe it or not, being fired was one of the best things to ever happen to me! That can be true for others as well. We can let this adversity discourage us or we can use it as a stepping stone to greater things. Here’s how to find the silver lining when you’ve lost your job:
Revisit your personal vision, mission and values.
Career transition is the perfect time to reflect on where you are and where you want to be in life. Take the time to define (or redefine) your personal vision, mission or values. How does a career in coaching line up with them? Perhaps it’s not the right fit for this season of life or isn’t the best way to get to your end in mind. Or maybe you are called to coach, but not at the level you once thought.
There’s a misnomer in coaching that unless you make it as a Division I head coach, you’re not really that good. Baloney. Division I isn’t for everyone, nor is Division III. Some people thrive as head coaches, others make better assistants. These distinctions aren’t a reflection of personal worth or value, but rather of strengths and gift mix. Know who you are and where yours fit best.
My accounting experience taught me that I need to follow my heart when making career decisions. In college I wasn’t strong enough to go against what the most influential people in my life thought was best for me, even though I knew they were mistaken. When I transitioned to work with Athletes in Action I knew deep in my heart that it was exactly where I was supposed to be.
Re-evaluate your performance.
Ask yourself some tough questions about your performance and get honest! Despite how you feel, you didn’t do everything wrong. But neither did you do everything right. Whether we are in transition or not, we all need to grow. So be honest. And if you’re feeling especially courageous, ask for feedback from others on your staff or even your former AD. Some questions to get you started:
- What went well?
- What didn’t go well?
- How would I describe my team culture? Did it reflect my personal vision, mission, values? Why or why not?
- What adjustments would I make to how I managed myself, my staff or my team?
- What are the strengths that I bring to a team?
- What strengths do I need from staff or co-workers in light of my weaknesses?
- How did the athletic department (if you were a head coach) or my head coach (if you were an assistant) support or not support me? What do I need from future employers in order to be successful?
- What else did I learn that will inform my future career decisions?
Getting fired forced me out of a career I didn’t enjoy. At first I was embarrassed, but now I see how necessary that step was in helping me embrace who I am and what’s important to me. Walking from the office to my car that fateful day, I remember feeling lighter than ever with a sense of hope and anticipation about the future. The same can be true for you!