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Ep. 13. Getting fired was the best-worst thing that has happened to me


Freelance CEO Mat Casner
The Freelance CEO Podcast with Mat Casner
Ep. 13. Getting fired was the best-worst thing that has happened to me


It was the best of times. It was the worst of times I had graduated from college and I was starting out into my new career, and I couldn’t be more excited with my opportunities that were ahead of me. I was on a new team and things were looking bright, and things were looking great. Well, I had to say that over the months that were to come, things shifted. There was some ownership changes in the company, and what was a very fun atmosphere. We were productive.

I had great team dynamics, great company culture kind of seemed to turn on a dime. We went from having this fun, productive environment to being micromanaged and scrutinized and just made going to work a drag. I don’t know if you can relate, but for me, being new into a, a job and just feeling the sense of pressure and overwhelm, the joy was no longer in my job.

I really started to get frustrated. Now, you may have actually been in a position, maybe you’re in a position right now where there’s frustration, but I was young and immature in a lot of ways and just did not process my frustration in a healthy, positive way. So let me take you back to that first job. And as I was working and as the company culture started to shift, and as we started to feel more and more pressure from the new ownership and really felt the thumb coming down on top of us all, a lot of us were feeling a lot of stress, a lot of frustration. I have to admit, I didn’t handle it well, and I allowed that frustration to really become a focal point. And I made a mistake when I was on the job.

It’s a mistake that has humbled me, humiliated me, but has also served as, as a very poignant and important message that has stuck with me for now close to 25 years. Here’s a story. I came into work one day and I was again, not happy to be there. Most everybody that I was working with was looking for other employment. However,

I took it to a brand new level and had found an opportunity and made the foolish mistake of sending out my resume through the company fax machine again. Had I been thinking clearly, I would have totally not done that, but I did, and the owner of the company found my resume on the fax machine. He promptly walked over to my desk and not so politely asked me to put all my belongings in a box, and he escorted me out of the building. Now, this was literally the most embarrassing, humiliating thing that I have ever been through professionally and for a good reason. I made a stupid mistake. My wife at the time, we worked somewhat close together, and I was actually within blocks of where she worked, and she was quite surprised when I was in the car waiting for her when she got off of her shift, and then I had to explain to her the, the whole embarrassing affair.

It was as embarrassing as it sounds, and I’m, I’m very sad that actually that’s a part of my life. But there are some takeaways. I can look back now 25 years later, and I can tell you that there are some very important lessons that I’ve learned that have served me so well even to this day, and I wanna share some of those with you. Lesson number one that I learned from getting fired from my first job out of college was don’t let your emotions dictate your actions. You may be in a situation or a job right now that you do not like. In fact, it may be oppressing, it may be horrible. What I want to tell you is that if you don’t keep your emotions in check, they will lead to irrational actions that can cause embarrassment, but can also do long term damage. Now, I realize that every situation is different, so take this advice from me and, and my perspective. But you know, you have, you’ll have your own perspective to weigh in on, but to the best of your ability, don’t let your emotions dictate your actions.

I did, and I paid for it. It caused me a lot of frustration. The frustration caused me a lot of embarrassment, pain, and, you know, I had to go find a new job. So lesson number one, don’t let your emotions dictate your actions. Do your best to maintain control if you, you need to vent, vent with someone outside of business hours, and as much as you can, keep your workplace attitude as professional as possible. Which leads me to lesson number two. While you’re at your job, while it may be frustrating, continue to do your job with as much excellence as you can. I realize that that is a challenge, and I realize that maybe asking you to dig in deep and find some grit, but what you really are trying to do is you’re really trying to do your role with as much integrity as possible. Now, again, I realize that if you’re in a situation where the, the work environment is challenging, it’s draining, it’s frustrating, this could be difficult, but you want to be looking for another opportunity in the process. But while you’re in your job, continue to serve with as much integrity and excellence as you can. That leads me to lesson number three. When it is time to leave your employment, when you have found a new position, or if worse comes to worse and you must quit your job, do so in the best manner possible. I tell myself, whenever I leave a company, I want to leave, well, I want to leave my relationships well, my relationships with my supervisors, my relationships with my peers, my relationships with the vendors and the service providers that I’m working with through my job. And if there are subordinates or people working underneath you, make sure you leave those relationships well as well. You wanna make sure that you leave the company with as many good relationships as you can.

I will tell you that when I was fired from my first job, it was very hard to maintain those initial relationships that I had. It was almost like I had fractured the relationship between the ownership and a lot of the coworkers that I left. I made it very hard on all of us. So, but what I did learn is that in newer jobs, and I would’ve, I have gone on to different jobs, better jobs, and in every new job that I took, I wanted to do well with the relationships that I had. Let me tell you why. I spent roughly 10 years between going to college and my first freelancing gig full-time. I was freelancing on the side. I had a side hustle going on.

I had clients, but through those first 10 years I was working for someone else. I was bringing my best to those jobs, and I was serving these companies with the best that I had. Now, when I would leave those jobs, I wanted to make sure that I didn’t repeat the mistakes that I made in my first job. I wanted to make sure that I left those companies well, that they thought well of me, that I did my job with integrity and with excellence, and I really wanted them to feel like when I left that they were losing something. That was the sense that I wanted the companies to feel when I was done working for them. All right? Now, let me tell you how this has played in the last 15 years of me being a freelancer.

My first contract, in fact, it was the contract that allowed me to start freelancing full-time. It provided me with enough residual income to be able to, to launch out and be a freelancer full-time. Actually came from a company that I had worked for previously. I had left that company to pursue another opportunity, and this company had thought well enough of me that there became an opportunity a few years later to replace one of the positions that I was qualified for, and this company reached out to me because we had maintained a good relationship, and I left. Well, they approached me with an opportunity that actually became the foundation of my Freelance business, and this was 15 years ago. All right? That client has been a client of mine for 15 years. In fact, my invoices to this client over the past 15 years has exceeded a million dollars.

That happened in 2020. So the longevity of treating people well in companies that you work for, well can pay huge dividends to you as a freelancer going forward. Another example, I can tell you that in the past 15 years that I have been able to maintain and grow my client list largely by not advertising, okay? I’m not saying that advertising and marketing isn’t important because it is.

I have always had some sort of marketing or advertising going out there that presents who I am to my customers or future customers and what I do and whom I serve. But I can tell you that a lot of valuable clients have come to me over the past 15 years that have either been past employers, past coworkers, past supervisors, or relationships with past vendors and service providers that I’ve worked with in my past.

So I can tell you that the success that I’ve had in my Freelance journey has come in large part with the relationships that I have been able to maintain over the past 25 years. And I would dare say that I probably would not be here talking to you right now if I didn’t have the, the, the foresight and the lessons learned from that first job that I got fired from to know that I should maintain relationships with the companies that I work for, even though I haven’t worked for some of these companies for well over 20 years. So listen, take it from me. I realize that you may be in a job that’s frustrating, and you may not be in a job that you want, and you may want to launch out there and be a freelancer. But let me tell you this. Number one, don’t let your emotions dictate your actions, okay? Stay in control if you need to vent, vent outside of the office, keep that contained so that you can maintain the integrity and the excellence with what you’re doing your work with in your office. You want to maintain that sense of integrity and excellence so that your company, when you do leave, appreciates the work you do and really feels a sense of loss when you leave.

And number three, make sure that when you ti when it’s time to leave that position that you leave, well, okay, leave the relationships intact. Keep as many of those connections as you can because those connections become great references, great referrals for future business. And as, as is I just explained, those past relationships can become very, very profitable clients for you.

So don’t discount those relationships that you’re in from this current job or maybe even jobs you’ve had in the past. Those relationships can and will be profitable for you in the future.

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