You’re Not Too Young To Start Standing Up For Yourself


So, you’ve been fired. You either know why you were fired or you don’t. It was either your fault or it wasn’t. You’ll either learn something from it or you won’t. Maybe you’re just unemployed. Maybe you were laid off or downsized. Maybe your internship didn’t turn into anything and now you’re right there with the people who were fired, rummaging constantly through your brain trying to find the next angle, the best place to start over again. You’re not the only one. In total, 20 states saw net job losses during the month of August and the unemployment rate rose in 18 of those states. What do you do here? Well there’s a lot of articles on how to get jobs and I won’t even try to get into those things. That advice is endless…

But I will say something about those who have lost their jobs after having been fired or downsized or laid off. First, I’m sorry this has happened to you and I know you’re probably scared to death unless you have some kind of support system money wise. Stand up for yourself. Do not allow any corporation or employer, no matter how large, to steal your self esteem and drive.

Back in June, my girlfriend, lead in sales in the department store where she worked, was fired for “attendance issues.” To set the stage, she made $15 an hour and had the highest sales numbers in the store which means she was also making a 2% commission on a high sales volume. She made good money for where we live, enough to live comfortably on if not save much. She was also back in school trying to get certified to expand her job opportunities later on. She was planning ahead. Then in June, as I said, she was fired. Her boss came to her and told her it was going to be her last day and told her to come upstairs to the General Manager’s office. She complied, and she sat outside that GM’s office while he and her direct boss yelled at a young male employee, berating him with the door wide open. She sat for about five minutes, she said, before she thought “I’m not going to sit here and wait to be fired again” and left.

A few days passed and she applied for unemployment. Her former employee said no and dragged out the process. She appealed and told the unemployment office that no, she’d been fired and was owed unemployment. They said no again and, after two months, an appeal was finally scheduled for today.

Now my girlfriend is wonderful in a thousand different ways but she doesn’t like to fight when justice is clear cut. The idea that people will not do what they’re supposed to and live with the responsibility of their actions really leaves a bitter taste in her mouth. And she’s not alone. I know far too many people who will let employers treat them badly just to avoid conflict, just to avoid being called a liar or told that they’re worthless. We’re brought up to believe that the opinions of our superiors are the direct, unedited word of God on such subjects, that their assessments of our character are accurate. Now, granted, people get fired for a plethora of things. Some, like stealing, deserve shunning, they deserve having unemployment withheld. But the cardinal sin my girlfriend had committed was too make too much money and try to better herself through night classes. She was working 40 hours a week and going to school 20 hours a week. I don’t care what company you are, I want a person with that work ethic on my team. But short-sighted employers don’t want that. They want free or as close as they can get it. They want slaves who fear them.

Last night she was getting together her talking points for today’s appeal hearing. She even had a section on the workplace harassment she’d faced, a slashing of her tires six months previous, her direct supervisor stealing which she’d reported. She had it all down and, beyond nervousness, she was scared to death today. She’d debated since June whether to even pursue it or whether she should just let it go and concentrate on trying to get her career back together. It’s tiring to have to keep fighting with people who will lie about you. It’s exhausting when you’re also trying to make ends meet and still going to school. But today she did it and the attorney who mediated the case between her and her employer came down on her side because she was in the right and they were clearly lying. So she won and if she hadn’t fought through it then she wouldn’t have won. She would have lost twice, once in being fired and once in not standing up for herself.

Always stand up for yourself when you’re in the right. If you’re just out of school or still in school don’t let people, especially corner cutting employers in the early stages of your career, push you around or tell you that you’re not owed something when you are owed something. Take a deep breath, get organized, and ride it out. This is your life and your right. It’s what the unemployment system is for.

This truly is a bullying world. People will take whatever you will allow them to take from you and if you allow it once or twice then you’ll always be allowing it. Your life will turn into a process of simply mitigating how badly some company or person takes advantage of the person you’re trying to be. Don’t run from conflict. Don’t run. Stand up, stiffen your back, charge and take the hit. Even if you get knocked down and they run over you you still fought and that’s yours. But sometimes, sometimes you’re going to win and when that happens, well, there’s no reward quite like succeeding for being courageous about who you are. That’s yours and, in time, it’s who you are.