So Your Boss Was Fired ... Now What?

Offer to Pitch In

But grinning and bearing it until your cheeks hurt isn't the only way to support your employer though such a rocky transition.

If you really want to look like a rock star, go to your boss' boss and offer to lend a hand, said Peter Handal, president, CEO and chairman of Dale Carnegie Training, an international training organization that helps corporations improve employee performance.

What should you say?

"I don't know what happened, but I want to help," Handal said. "Is there anything I can do?" is a great icebreaker.

"Fill the vacuum," he added. "This is an opportunity to shine."

Shapiro agreed.

"That is what companies promote," she said. "Managers have to think about the company first and then themselves. That is a leadership quality."

If the big boss does indeed charge you with a specific task, do it promptly and be sure to follow up with her, "even if it's a task that everyone hates," Shapiro said. "It's a test to see if you can do it. It's not, 'What about me?' That will sink you."

Know When to Dust Off Your Resume

Of course, there are times when none of the above will apply.

Take Lisa, the social media consultant whose boss was eliminated in 2008.

"I was in the communications department, and we were the worst offenders of bad communication," she said. "No one talked about it. It was a taboo subject."

To make matters worse, the company had begun taking aim at all of Lisa's allies in management.

"The people that I was close to at the top were no longer there," said Lisa, who felt it was only a matter of time before she too would be given her walking papers. "I was in a real catch-22 situation."

That's when it's time to start putting out feelers for a new position either inside or outside the company, Shapiro said.

"If your boss was removed in a department-wide layoff, there's a 75 percent chance your department won't survive," Shapiro said. "You will either be let go or you will be moved elsewhere in the company."

Recognizing this, Lisa updated her resume and started sniffing around for new opportunities.

"While I wanted to go to another full-time position, the recession had set in," she said. "People were not hiring. So I left the company to form my own consultancy."

Like many underemployed workers, Lisa's had her share of employment ups and downs in the past year and a half. But she's much more optimistic since 2010 began.

"Now, there are actually jobs on the job boards," she said. "That glass is half [full] as opposed to two years ago, when it was half empty."

This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.

Michelle Goodman is a freelance journalist and former cubicle dweller. She is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life: How to Survive and Thrive as a Creative Professional for Hire" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide: Practical Career Advice for Women Who Think Outside the Cube". For more information, see Anti9to5Guide.com.

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