“In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.” 
― Sheryl Sandberg

What I Learned From Getting Fired (For No Reason)

What I Learned From Getting Fired (For No Reason)

Kayla Beckmann Barnhart


Two years ago, I got fired.

And because I’m a damn professional, I wanted to learn from it. I wanted a lesson. An equation formulated of: If, next time, I do X + Y x Z it’ll work out. But, business isn’t math. Sometimes your equations are correct and your work is shown, and you still get fired.

I own a startup social media agency. Our first year was successful beyond expectations. We’ve worked with local, regional and national clients and even won a few awards. We’ve kept things small and efficient. We’ve chosen clients and projects that we’re passionate about and we’ve done damn good work for them; work that speaks for itself and has the metrics to back it up.

This situation involves a social media client that I’d had on retainer for almost a year. They had 54 Instagram followers when I was hired; I grew the Instagram account by 1,983 percent, and the interaction by 176 percent. I created Facebook ad campaigns that were viewed by 10,000 to 15,000 people a day in the target areas. We measured success from promo codes and click-throughs. Corporate raved about the quality of the content. I went above and beyond the contractual obligations and was pleasant, agreeable and accommodating, even when I disagreed with the client’s suggestions. I did this all while charging a third of the going rate at similar agencies. If there was dissatisfaction from the client, it was never communicated, despite my emails ending in “any feedback welcome and appreciated!”

Then, I got an email one day—“can you meet this week?”

Notice how your stomach dropped and your heart rate sped up just at the thought of being on the receiving end of that message? You just know something is going to go wrong.

The client suggested we meet at Panera. (What is it about a meeting at Panera that just has “you’re screwed” written all over it? Also, very risky on the client-side. It also sounds like a pressed panini to the face if things go wrong.)

Over a you-pick-two soup and salad, the client told me that, for financial and political reasons, they’d decided to move social media management in-house. They loved the work recognized how successful it has been—it was just the situation they were in. Deep breath. OK. What’s next?

Henry Ford and a throw pillow somewhere once said, “The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” Fair enough. So, I took a look at the situation and asked myself, what can I learn? I did what I always do when I want to learn something—I asked Google. There’s no shortage of advice on the topic, and some of the most popular lessons included:

  • Not thriving in an environment (inapplicable).
  • Not taking your job for granted (got it).
  • Brainstorming ways you can perform better next time (inapplicable, see results above).
  • Clarifying expectations (contract expectation met and exceeded).

None of these suggestions seemed to apply to my situation. Here’s what I know: The work was good, plain and simple. What I learned is this: sometimes there is nothing to learn. Sometimes there’s no rhyme or reason, no mistakes that were made. Sometimes budgets change, and teams reorganize and priorities shift. Sometimes it’s not you, it’s them. Sometimes Henry Ford and throw pillows are wrong.

And sometimes you just use it an an opportunity for an article, pour one out to all the followers they won’t get now, and move on.

[Editor’s note: This article is adapted from a post that originally appeared on Medium on March 14, 2016. It has been republished with permission.]




Kayla Beckmann Barnhart is the Founder and CEO of Small Fox Media, a boutique social media agency based in Denver, CO. She loves adventuring with her husband, Guy and dog, Huckleberry, a good vanilla almond milk latte, and using alliteration. Follow her on the gram at @kaylabeckmannbarnhart + @smallfoxmedia

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