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Life After Layoff: 3 Keys for Speeding Up Re-Employment

© Meg Montford, Business & Career Coach

What happened? One day you were working and the next day you were ushered out with a pink slip. What do you do now? Does looking for another position in today's economy overwhelm you? What can you do to ensure future job security?

For a company undergoing restructuring, a layoff is like pruning a tree to stimulate its growth. For you, the downsized employee, a layoff is an involuntary life-altering event. How you cope with it will impact your future employment experiences. Even if you are lucky to get outplacement services, mastery of certain core competencies is a must. To boost layoff recovery, become an expert in the key actions of Connect, Clarify and Commit. To get ahead of the curve, hire an expert like a Career Coach to personally guide you.

Connection

Connection consists of: 1) connecting with yourself, 2) connecting with a career support team, and, of course, 3) connecting with hiring authorities. Let's briefly explore these action steps.

A layoff can be a traumatic experience - in many ways similar to a loved one's death or perhaps a divorce. It is critical to get in touch with your feelings. Let yourself experience the stages of grief (including the pain) as so aptly explained by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in her book, "On Death and Dying." These stages include shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Although you may feel emotions sparked by these stages at any time during the layoff healing process, most individuals will need to go through all six stages to achieve a healthy perspective about re-entering the workplace.

Recovering from layoff shock can be a lonely process, so assemble a career support team to act as your personal advisory board. This team should include your Career Coach, a trusted and qualified professional who will support your efforts to discover where you can improve, what you want to change, and how to optimize your job search for re-employment success. Who else belongs on this team? Family, friends and colleagues…some, perhaps, experiencing a layoff, too. A note of caution: the purpose of a support team is one of positive energy and forward movement, not an ongoing "pity party" - so choose your support team members wisely!

As you move forward, hiring authorities will become your connection focus. Interviews, and how to get them, will become your main goal. This is where preparation becomes critical. Know your work history inside out. Develop an articulate way to verbalize your accomplishments and how they added value to your past employer's bottom line. Practice your personal "unique selling proposition" or 30-second commercial to use in networking situations, telephone interviews and face-to-face meetings. Role-play interview situations with your Career Coach to acquire a comfort-level in telling your "stories" to potential employers.

Clarification

What must be clarified as part of your reemployment process? A layoff offers you time to examine your career history, career path and career goals. Are your values in alignment with your career? Values may be personal, spiritual or professional in nature. If they are out of sync, career satisfaction will elude you. A lot has been said recently about values, or lack of, in the workplace. Only when your values mesh with your company's culture will you be happy. Only when you find a way to work your passion will you jump out of bed in the morning with an "I can't wait to get to work" attitude.

Not only review your values, but also evaluate your skills and interests. With assistance from a Career Coach, access assessments to explore possible shifts in your career direction. Don't assume that just because you have worked in the same industry for the past 10 or 15 years you are stuck there. (Career Coach note: I left a 12-year career to begin another in the career management field where I have been working my passion for the past 17 years.)

Examine your educational background…what would you have to do to brush up on stale skills or retrain for a new field? What interests do you have that could be transformed into a rewarding career? Let curiosity, not fear, motivate your exploration. We live in an ever-changing world where companies struggle to maintain profitability. They seek employees who embrace change and drive innovation. We're never too old to learn new things. In fact, learning is a lifelong process. What knowledge areas do you want to expand? How can you lead the cutting-edge of innovation? (Career Coach note: Is now the right time to explore starting your own business?)

Discover where your career values, interests and skills merge, then filter them through business reality…the final clarification prior to launching a career change. Now, and only now, are you ready to write your resume. Your resume must be PERFECT! It will be your primary marketing tool used to get interviews. It will be your brochure, your calling card; it will make your first impression for you. Even if you are a good writer, you may be too close to your own situation to do justice to your resume. Hire a professional resume writer who knows how to position you on paper.

Commitment

Finally, create your action plan and commit to working it. Research companies and job leads, network in professional circles (85% of all positions are secured through networking), develop a system for posting to the job boards and track your results, and use your Career Coach to keep you on course. Now is NOT the time to take a vacation!

Maintain a positive attitude by accepting the past as past; learn from it and let it go! Realize that the job search process in a numbers game…you will have to collect your set of "no's" to get a "yes." Above all else, be true to yourself. Don't accept just any job offer or you will be searching again soon, a victim of the "rebound" syndrome. Remember, job security comes from within you. No one owes you a job…you've learned that lesson, right? Develop a "brand me" approach to your career with you as your own most important product. Then, success will become yours!

(Published in 6FigureJobs.com newsletter, February 2003, Volume 2.)

Author's note: Now in 2008, we are once again facing the challenges of a slow-down economy. The same advice in the above article still is relevant - follow it to find your job satisfaction.

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