As I listened to the message, the woman’s tone was one of panic and confusion. “I have just been laid off after 20 years at the same job. I received a severance package, but I am in my mid fifties and will need to continue working. I never took any additional training all these years, and don’t have a clue how to conduct a job search. Can you help me?”
Several questions starting with “Why…, What… and How…?”, raced through my mind, but I banished them very quickly, because it wasn’t the time to be self-righteous. She was in a serious crisis, and needed a listening ear.
Conversely, I was recently contacted by two senior management professionals, one was a referral from a client, and the other found me online. In both cases, changes are taking place in their respective companies, and they have an inkling that layoffs are imminent. Although both believe there could be internal opportunities, they are not taking any chances. They are being proactive and are making plans for what may or may not happen. After all, it’s better to hope for the best, but for the worst.
Layoffs happen quite frequently, and no one ever gets used to it. Falling oil prices have led to massive layoffs in the Canadian energy industry. Rogers Communications recently eliminated several hundred middle management positions as part of its revitalization plan. And recently, Microsoft announced it would be laying off 7,800 of its employees from its phone division. This is enough for any employee or job seeker to be terrified.
The truth is, downsizing, rightsizing, restructuring, or whatever other name it is called, is a way of life in today’s economy. When it’s time to restructure, years of service and loyalty will not guarantee anyone a position in a revitalized organization.
But, it’s not all doom and gloom. If by some misfortune you are laid off, there are several strategies you can use to cushion the blow and minimize its impact:
- Give yourself permission to be angry. Don’t bottle up your feelings. Anger, as long as it’s not misplaced, could have a healing effect. However, do not vent at work or with coworkers or your boss. Such behaviour could be construed as negative and unprofessional; could damage relationships, and thwart your chances of getting a good reference. Find a safe place where you can let off the steam.
- Get support. Find a trustworthy person who will listen to you, and give you some good advice. Stay away from anyone who is inclined to help you bash the company or your boss as this is counter-productive. There might also be free and fee-based resources within your community you could explore to see if they can help you find a new career path.
- Engage in self-care. This is an opportunity for you to put yourself first. This is not the time to beat upon yourself and question your ability or self-worth. Take that long-awaited vacation to clear your head and develop strategies to help you bounce back. Use this time to redirect your energy into something productive. Get some exercise, or just relax.
- Spotlight your assets. Turn this negative experience into something positive. Begin by spotlighting your assets. What are you good at? What have you accomplished? What awards, recognitions and comments have you received from your supervisor, coworkers and customers? Write out an inventory of your transferable skills that could benefit another employer. All of these are your assets – documented evidence that validate your capabilities – and will help you when you are ready to craft your résumé.
- Review your résumé and online profiles. A one-size-fits-all résumé will not work in today’s competitive job environment, neither will an incomplete LinkedIn Profile. The résumé needs to be strategic, and oozing with value. This takes time as you will need to assess all of your skills, attributes and achievements, and determine how to showcase them in a way that differentiates you from your competitors. Your online profiles are also essential pieces of your marketing.
- Remember this phrase: “This too shall pass”. What you are feeling now is real, but it won’t last forever. Sometimes a layoff is just the prescription you need to propel you to action. Ask yourself some soul-searching questions: “Is it time for me to retool, brush up on my skills or go back to school to gain additional skills? Do I have what it takes to start a business? What do I really enjoy doing, and should I be exploring this as a career option?”
- Maintain a positive attitude. The road to a successful job search, especially in such a competitive job market, is paved with disappointments and frustrations, but don’t give up. Tap into your network; join a support group like a job-finding club, engage in social media groups and networking activities that will put you in touch with people who can offer assistance. Be cautious when introduced to other people’s networks, as you don’t want to begin asking ‘strangers’ for help before they get to know you, and vice versa.
These seven tips are not all-inclusive, neither are they meant to trivialize the emotional impact, but they are steps in the right direction to help you deal with a layoff.
Plan Ahead Before the Layoff Axe Falls (first published on Job-Hunt.org)