Job Search

Layoff notice not the end of your career

by Dr. John McFerran, PhD, CMC, CPsych, FCHRP

The stark reality of today's economy is that no matter how happy some people are at work, no matter how good they are at what they do -- they may still lose their jobs to downsizing, technology or global financial factors.

Being laid off is one of life's most stressful experiences, ranking along with death and divorce and other times of change when there is a deep sense of loss.

Yet, being handed a layoff notice does not have to be the end of your career. In the days, weeks or months ahead, having a good action plan can help you recover as soon as possible from this setback. The following are tips for getting back on your feet quickly:

Don't panic and act out of fear or anger.

Your first instinct may be to storm out of the office, followed by the setting-in of panic, regret and self-doubt. Take a deep breath and collect your thoughts. Act rationally by sorting out the logistics of your departure with human resources (severance, unused vacation time, letter of reference, etc.). When the time comes, say an appropriate goodbye and leave with dignity. As with any exit, you do not want to chance burning your bridges.

Embrace change as an opportunity.

You've heard of people losing their jobs and saying, "That was the best thing that ever happened to me!" Very likely, you won't feel like that immediately after being handed a pink slip, but you might in the future once you've successfully transitioned into the next phase of your career. Being laid off could be the motivation you've needed to start your own business, upgrade your education or embark in an entirely new direction. Do your best to stay positive and receptive to new opportunities.

Consider using professional services.

It's common practice these days for employers to provide career transition support for their displaced employees. Make sure you take full advantage of this expertise. You need to sort through your immediate financial situation and take stock of the valuable skills and knowledge that you can offer prospective employers. You might also want to talk with a financial planner about your monetary concerns, a counsellor about emotional stress, and a recruiter or headhunter about giving you a leg up in gaining access to hidden job opportunities.

Create a personal support system as well as a professional network.

There is no shame in being laid off, so cast a wide net by telling friends, family and even work acquaintances that you are available and actively seeking work. This not only gets the word out, but builds a support system of people who are understanding of your situation and are willing to listen when you need to talk.

One word of advice is not to rely too heavily on old work colleagues as they may only serve to remind you of past feelings connected to your former job. This is not beneficial when you need to keep your energy level high in your new search.

Make your search for a new job your next new job.

Yesterday you may have been employed by someone else, but today, you start working for yourself. Your first assignment is marketing yourself. Create an office space at home that will allow you to focus on the task ahead, and establish regular office hours during which you will conduct your job search. A professional approach will yield the results you want.

Think about what you really want before going out and getting it.

Before sending off 100 copies of your current resumé, think about what you really want to do and what purpose your current resumé serves. Does it accurately reflect your skills, accomplishments and the level of responsibility achieved on your last job? If you want to change your career direction, you may need to change your resumé as well. Have individuals whose opinion you trust review and give feedback on your resumé and take a look at other templates for tips on freshening up your self-marketing approach.

Most importantly, take care of yourself.

Perhaps the most valuable advice is to nurture your own needs. With your mental and physical resources tapped, you need to keep your stamina up. This means listening to your brain and body when it tells you it needs sleep, nourishment, fresh air and exercise. Your priorities may have changed, but the need to strike a healthy balance is more important than ever.

As job loss suddenly creates free time for people who are normally used to being busy for eight or more hours a day, it is vital to make the most of this time by caring for yourself and ensuring you're ready for the next big opportunity ahead.

-- With reporting by Barbara Chabai


This article was originally published in the Winnipeg Free Press.