11 Things Sallie Krawcheck Learned: ‘When I Got Fired (the First Time)’

The controversial former head of BofA Merrill wealth management gives great advice in a surprising venue

Sallie KrawcheckSallie Krawcheck has gone public on a subject near and dear to her—getting fired. It’s best to pay attention, as she certainly knows what she’s talking about. The controversial former president of the global wealth and investment management division of Bank of America took to LinkedIn to offer up 11 takeaways from her experience of getting fired. Judging from the comments to her LinkedIn article, she’s (unsurprisingly) struck a nerve.

1). There are some things worth being fired over.
“Sometimes your personal values don’t mesh with the company’s," Krawcheck begins. “Back in 2008, at Smith Barney, we had sold supposedly low-risk investments to our clients. But instead of their value declining modestly during the downturn, they went to very close to $0.” Although she writes she never found any evidence of wrongdoing around those investments, she did recognize that “we had nonetheless breached our clients’ trust, regardless of what the small print said.”

“I proposed that we share part of the losses with them" while others in the company disagreed. While her point of view prevailed, she learned "I wasn’t long for the company.”

2). Squeeze every bit of personal development out of the experience...
This one can be hard, she notes. “But in the first few weeks out of the company, I made it a practice to ask anyone and everyone what I could have done better or how I could have managed the situation more effectively,” she relates. 

3). …but don’t listen to your “frenemies.
Calling Paris Hilton. But who should you listen to? Krawcheck remembers a “very senior"woman who told Krawcheck that her career was over, "She authoritatively told me that a man might be able to have a next career chapter, but a woman couldn’t." Krawcheck said she "chose to completely ignore her.”

4). Cut the cord with the old workplace more quickly than you may want to. 
It’s hard to let go, but here is where Krawcheck admits she made a serious mistake in speaking regularly to her former colleagues "It was a sad drag for them and for me. I should have closed that door faster.”

5). It’s important to have connections outside of your company.
"This is pretty self-explanatory," she notes.

6). If you’re able to, don’t make any big decisions right away.
Krawcheck says a friend told her after her firing that "You won’t think straight for at least three months.” If you have the luxury of avoiding any major career decisions that long, the perspective you gain after decompressing can be valuable, she advises.

7). Nobody cares as much about it nearly as much as you do.
“I promise.”

8) …But candor helps with future employers.
Confront the firing, and the reasons behind it, immediately with future employers. Trying to evade the question, she argues, is particularly a bad idea "in this age of social media,..Own it.”

9). Good results help even more.
“Let’s face it: it’s one thing to be swept out of a company because a new manager wants to put his own team in place and another because you didn’t deliver business results. In finding that next job, be fact-based and specific on the business results you and your team achieved in the prior one.”

10). If you don’t get fired at least once, you’re not trying hard enough.
This just might be our favorite, although Krawcheck concedes, “This isn’t quite true yet, but it is becoming truer...if in this period of rapid change you’re not making some notable mistakes along the way, you’re certainly not taking enough business and career chances.”

11). You can’t beat someone who won’t give up.
She concludes with a bumper sticker slogan, but doesn’t care, because “it’s still true.”

--------

Krawcheck is no stranger to social media. See this article from AdvisorOne in which she was named as one of the top women who tweet about Wall St.

Reprints Discuss this story
This is where the comments go.