How To Handle Getting Let Go From A Job

With the NFL preseason wrapping up and week one of the regular season only a few days away, organizations around the league have been faced with some tough decisions on getting their roster down to 53 players. For hundreds of NFL hopefuls and even some veterans around the league, their journey hits a roadblock.

Veteran safety T.J. Ward recently made headlines after he was released by the Denver Broncos, saying that it happened in a “completely unprofessional” manner. While he landed on his feet pretty quickly signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it got the team at the VIKTRE Career Network thinking on how this situation can be applied to a professional setting.

In the professional world, people are also let go from their jobs, or “released.” When athletes make a transition to a new career they may face similar situations when it comes to getting let go. In a new career, an athlete needs to change his or her approach to being let go.

Athletes disagreeing with being released is nothing new, neither is employees being unhappy with the way they were let go from their job. In an article for, Steve Tobak describes how to handle getting fired with grace. These lessons can be used by athletes getting released from a team, or even getting let go by a future employer in a second career.

Realize you’re not alone.

Professional athletes make up a small percentage of people who grow up playing sports. During their playing careers, they are usually in the spotlight and playing on a national stage, so when they disagree with their release or being traded to another team it often makes headlines. While T.J. Ward did not agree with how the Broncos handled his release after the success he had during his tenure there, he is not the only NFL player to have been cut during preseason roster adjustments.

Every year there are 1,000 or so preseason cuts by teams trying to get their rosters down to the league wide 53-man requirement. There are only around 1,696 active NFL players (32 teams with 53 players) each season, with more on injured reserve or practice squads. This means that there is turnover every season and players who get released are certainly not alone.

In the professional world, companies undergo personnel changes as well. Sometimes a company has to make budget cuts and one of the first ways they do this is by eliminating jobs. More often than not, it is not just one job eliminated but a handful. Again, you’re not alone.

Deal in the moment, not in the past.

On the popular HBO show Hard Knocks, one NFL team is followed throughout training camp each year. Star players become more relatable to viewers and lesser known players become fan favorites. One of the most difficult parts of the show is watching these players sometimes get cut by the general manager and head coach after hearing one of the most harrowing phrases: “Coach wants to see you. Bring your playbook.”

More often than not, these players have an idea that it is coming based on their performance. When it does happen (getting cut), it is still a difficult pill to swallow, as can be seen during this season’s episode where Tampa Bay decided to part ways with struggling kicker Roberto Aguayo.

It is easier said than done, but by leaving the past in the past and focusing on what you have accomplished, going forward you can land another opportunity in a better situation. In terms of the NFL, although players get cut during training camp (Aguayo and Ward among many others) they can get picked up by another team based on their performance. As a professional, getting let go is a difficult experience, but you can learn from that lesson and be a better person going forward.

It’s usually a blessing in disguise, but that’s not automatic.

It is easy to get caught up in the emotions of losing a job. The difficult thing is “taking a good hard look in the mirror and face the truth that maybe you had it coming,” according to Tobak. He continues, “If you handle it right, you’ll land on your feet and be better off for the experience.” Getting released from a team and signing with another might be the jolt your career needed to get back on track, or even take it to the next level.

Moving on from a company might seem like the end of the world at the time, but eventually you will find another opportunity. By approaching this opportunity with fresh eyes and excitement you may end up working harder to ensure that you don’t feel that way again (after losing your job).

Avoid making mistakes you have to live with.

After getting let go from a job, your emotions are likely running high. It is easy to react instead of respond calmly to the situation. This is a sensitive time, so it is key to keep cool and not burn any bridges that could affect your career down the line. Although it seems massive, the sports industry is actually quite small. If you’re released from a team and go on a Twitter rant about the organization, you might very well end up signing with a team down the line that in some way, shape or form has connections to the team you just publicly ranted about.

Even if you aren’t a professional athlete, maintaining your poise during this tough time is essential. The relationships you made during your tenure at the job could open doors down the road that lead to new opportunities. Maintaining a professional relationship and not burning any bridges will pay off in the long run.

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