Soulaima Gourani


Soulaima Gourani the CEO and co-founder of Happioh, a Silicon Valley-based software company disrupting the virtual and hybrid meeting industry.

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Are you the type who gets fired?

“You will get a lot of tips and good advice on how to become someone your organization wants to retain and reward.”

Layoffs are inevitable. It’s the way we handle them that will go down in history.

According to the Department of Labor Statistics, more than 26 million American workers filed for unemployment in the past weeks.

Some sectors will die completely due to digitalization and COVID-19. And suddenly some industries cannot hire fast enough new workers that being companies making face shields for front line workers, online delivery services, FedEx, United States Postal Service, Amazon, Walgreens is looking to fill thousands of positions and Walmart is hiring an additional 50,000 employees.

The coronavirus outbreak will, for sure, change our careers and lives. Some of us will have to take jobs we don’t want to have.  Because before we enter the future, we must deal with the current situation, unemployment, and unpaid bills.

Only a few months ago, I was writing about the low unemployment rates in the USA and how the future of work would look like.

What seems to be overnight, we are fast forward looking into a deep recession. Besides thinking of how you can redefine and diversify your skillset asap, you must look at your financials.

It should be no surprise that, ideally, you should have 5 to 6 months of living expenses in a savings account. Most don’t!

Many companies are cutting deep now – some of them being among the largest and most famous U.S. companies. Some industries are now completely paralyzed. I have friends and family members losing their jobs, future and lost hope in life. Some of them are depressed.

I once lost hope in life too. It was a culmination of several layoffs and tons of rejections. 

I was a street child, grew up in a foster family, and struggled to make it in school. It was never easy for me to make it to the interviews. My applications had spelling mistakes (this was way before online spell checking), and I had no playbook and no one to learn from either.

Many of your skills are passed on from your parents or your community. I, on the other hand, was busy being broke and busy surviving.

My life was one long battle. It was not until I was 20 years and something before I started to have some sense of order, direction, and determination. A few people gave me a tiny chance, and I grabbed it. I showed up, worked like a dog, did not complain, and was not too fancy for any kind of job. Cleaning in the nights, bartending – you name it. I took all those jobs.

I had no one to guide me, no mentor and I had no (yet) no idea of the concept of resilience, grit, and optimism. Remember this was before many mainstream self-help books “un masse” and pre Google. I was just a girl living in the suburbs.

Later I found out these skills are who I am. I never give up. Once a friend asked me why I never had a mental break down – I answered back, “I never could afford that” – only half-joking.

I was born into the 1973–1975 recession, hence COVID-19 is my 5th major disruption. I do not know about you, but I have experienced so many losses, deaths, adversity, and struggles that my “resilience muscle” is so strong. It is appropriately the strongest one in my entire body.

Every time something or someone tries to “burry” me, I think of myself as a seed! 

How to be thriving in a turbulent time is an art—something most of us cannot. However, I am afraid we are left with no option but to deal with it, and you MUST find a way to respond.

Is that response going to be self-medication, depression, or will you fight back?

The other day I had a call with a friend who runs a hotel and with another one who runs one of a restaurant. Both of them explaining to me how they (try to) respond to the COVID-19.

They both feel like they are in the middle of an unvisitable tsunami. I feel and fear for them, just like I do with hundreds of other people I know. They are both healthy. I am sure they will make it, however. Is it going to be easy – no? Can they lose it all? Yes.

As a young adult, I remember when the local slaughterhouse in my home town was shut down. My brother and father used to work there. I grew up among young men dreaming of working there. I was in a boiler suit, in my safety clogs, at a furniture factory working shifts from 6 am.

Dirty and hard work. I mentally survived this period of my life because I brought with me my math books and studied while breaks. It kept my mind straight. I tried to catch up in evening classes. 

Over the decades, I have witnessed many industries disappear.

The impact it had on the entire area every time a factory or workplace closed was gigantic and a tragedy. It is unbelievably sad. Years ago, I was asked if I would come and give an encouraging lecture to hundreds of workers at Odense Steel Shipyard. 

A company, most people, never believed, could even disappear. Lesson learned is when it was going to be shut down. I was invited to come and say something uplifting and motivational to the many that were being laid off.

But what exactly do you tell a 60-years-old welder who not only lost his job but is also the breadwinner? What does one say to a dismissed lunch lady? What does one say to a young person who just got his first job and now so suddenly lost it? It seems so unfair and pointless. It is not just a job, and it is a lifestyle, the existence of an entire family that is impacted—a trauma.

I have seen thousands of faces on people who are affected by the crisis of their lives and who have lost their income but also their dignity. Their faces all left an imprint on me.

I got fired three times myself. I lost everything in my life serval times. My parents went bankrupt twice. When I was just a child, I experienced how we had to run off during the night, leaving everything behind escaping from creditors. The shame and the look at my dad’s face were unbearable. The frightened look at my mom’s face. Unbearable. As an adult, one of my greatest pleasures is to be able to pay all my bills on time, being able to provide my family with a life worth living.

Living a good life should not be (this) hard. Honestly, without a home, loss of dignity, low self-esteem, everything falls apart. 

The only “good” thing about being fired during COVID-19 is that there are so many in the same situation that no one will ever wonder why you no longer have a job, and no one will wonder if your business goes bankrupt.

My advice to you is to do whatever you can to stay positive and work on your self-confidence, because without you cannot get a new job. I interviewed a professor from one of the leading universities in the world today, and he told me how there is always a solution. He is an expert in decision making and critical thinking.

We might not see it, but there is. Going through hell, a world led by fear and hit by unemployment, it is difficult for most of us to trust life and believe something good will come out of this too!

It sounds trite, but I’ve had to root myself with the hair roots after each firing. Rejection after rejection of applications, and yes, the humiliation of the system causes many to lose faith in yourself, in others, and in the order or even worse, you might lose faith in the future.

A couple of years ago, I designed some job training courses for long-term unemployed for some Danish unions. The first thing the fired people mentioned was a shame and that they lost their grit, self-respect, and, even worse, loss their dignity.

I hear it from all types of unemployed: servants, cleaning staff, teachers, bankers, and academics. I taught them to see themselves in a new light, reinvent themselves, own their past, and be optimistic on behalf of their future, albeit uncertain and not as bright as they once dreamed and hoped for.

Years ago, I started to study VUCA and implement the mindset in my life. The United States Army War College was one of the first organizations to use the VUCA acronym.

VUCA stands for:

  • Volatile – change is rapid and unpredictable in its nature and extent.
  • Uncertain – the present is unclear, and the future is uncertain.
  • Complex – many different, interconnected factors come into play, with the potential to cause chaos and confusion.
  • Ambiguous – there is a lack of clarity or awareness about situations.

Individually, these challenges can be significant, but they can be overwhelming when they’re combined. The world is “VUCA.”

Also, there is plenty of good literature and research from the trauma literature, for example, which is beneficial here. Losing one’s livelihood is a real trauma and something that needs to be treated with respect and time to heal. Even a tiny bit of coaching or therapy can be beneficial.

And remember, your value as a human being is never determined by what you have accomplished, earned, or your title! 

This fantastic lecture is designed to make you think about your job situation. The lecture takes you on a trip where you, in a positive way, will assess your market value and readiness for change. You will get a lot of tips and good advice on how to become someone your organization wants to retain and reward despite the crisis we are facing.

Have you been fired, or are you afraid that you will get fired?

Are you one of those people who have never experienced getting fired and therefore believe that they are particularly excellent or better than their coworkers? In this lecture, you will find out whether you’re being tactical (maybe even in an uncool way) is the reason you have never been fired. Learn why never having been fired is by no means an advantage.

Are you the type of person who gets fired?

Believe it or not, there are three types of people who, more often than others, experience getting fired. You could say that they have a special talent for getting fired. Most companies want to grow, and they can’t do that if they are employing too many people who constantly challenge the way they work and think. You can always question whether we are firing those people who really create value or growth.

Companies fire three types of people:

  • The naysayer. This type always says no to changes and innovation. Companies know that it costs a lot of money when employees aren’t ready for change. These years, companies sort out employees who do not embrace change and are not reasonably positive about continuous organizational adjustments. This type is also referred to as the grumbler. People of this type create a negative atmosphere in the office, and many colleagues avoid spending time with them.
  • The victim. This type constantly sees himself as a victim. He has a mentality that can best be characterized by the word victim. People don’t want to waste their time on victims. Get in the game and show some enthusiasm, energy, power, and courage.
  • The challenger. This is the type who thrives on questioning the existing structures and wants to change, improve, and enrich. This type usually has a low degree of acceptance of authority and therefore can only be managed by the best managers. Typically, a very valuable employee but often impossible to manage because he knows best!

How to avoid getting fired:

Do you dream of never getting fired because you fear the shame (is getting fired really something to be ashamed of?) or the uncertain future, or because you are too lazy to start from scratch on a new job? Attend this lecture and learn about the six good rules of conduct!

Booked by unions, private and public companies, and young leaders and schools.

Want to hear Soulaima’s own story? Listen to her podcast with Harvard Kennedy School.


Please contact Soulaima if you wish to register for a specific lecture or a combination of topics tailored to your needs.

You can also use the contact form on the right side or at the bottom of this page to send an inquiry to Soulaima.

Further reading

Write E-mails That People Want to Read (Important If You Apply for a Job via E-mail)

Blog by Soulaima Gourani
Have you recently sent e-mails to people asking them for a favor such as reading or forwarding your résumé? This blog advices on how to write e-mails that people wants to read and how to optimize your chances of getting a new job, feedback, etc. on your e-mail.
Read here

What You Should Know Before You Find a New Job

Blog by Soulaima Gourani
Are you dreaming of finding a new job? This blog consist of questions and pointers helping you decide whether or not you need a new job, and if you do, how to approach the job hunting.
Read here