Laid Off? Your 'Get Hired' Plan
Unless you're in complete denial of what's happening in the world around you, by now you're well-aware that layoffs are rampant in today's economy.
In February 2009* alone, employers made 2,769 mass layoffs compared with 1,672 mass layoffs in the same month last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Each layoff involved at least 50 people from a single employer filing for unemployment insurance. Since December 2007, when the recession was declared to have started, there have been 28,481 mass layoffs, and more than 2.9 million people have filed for unemployment benefits during that time.
The numbers show that it no longer matters if you've been with a company for 15 years, if you're highly educated, if you're a top performer or even if you're friends with the boss. Layoffs are happening, and they are happening to everyone.
"If the company is determined to cut head count by a certain percentage, no amount of exposure, of reminding the boss how successful you've been in helping the company achieve its goals, will save your job," says Martha Finney, author of "Rebound: A Proven Plan for Starting Over After Job Loss" (FT Press). "They'll miss you when you're gone, but they've already determined that you're gone anyway."
Voice of experience
Charles** worked for a family-owned real-estate and agricultural business for 10 years. He has two master's degrees, moved up quickly within the company and had a long-term plan to take over the IT department.
When the housing market collapsed, the company began to go through some tough times and it became evident to Charles that companywide layoffs were on the horizon.
"I honestly thought I was safe because I had really good rapport with the family," he says. "My boss's boss was the CFO and he had asked me work on a special project analyzing some of the various business units and what it would cost to dispose of them. He told me not to read anything into that. 'Don't worry about things,' he said."
When the project was finished, Charles was laid off.
"I thought I'd work for this company for the rest of my life. I believed that good work would give me job security. As long as I do really good work, why would a company let me go?" he says. "Even though I knew trouble was on the way, I thought I was in a good position because I had multiple talents and had worked for every operation there. If you're going to shrink your work force, you'd think you would keep people who can do multiple things."
Charles' story is probably much like your own if you were laid off -- you were shocked, angry and bitter, and your confidence was shaken. But the worst thing you can do is blame yourself.
"Recognize that this period of layoffs is just another moment in time, having nothing to do with your essential value and meaning," Finney says.
Now that you've come to terms with your many emotions, what you need is a plan.
In her book, Finney teamed up with Bill Berman, Ph.D., a Connecticut-based corporate psychologist, to come up with steps to take toward getting hired.
(And no, tapping away on your laptop while you're stretched out on the sofa in your PJs doesn't count.)
1. Take some time to stop
Take a step back and figure out where you stand. Know how long you can afford to explore your possibilities and where you want to go next.
"The worst thing you can do when you get laid off is run right out and grab whatever you can," Berman says. "Step back and think about what you want to do, what you loved about the work you were doing before and how it matches with what you want to be doing one year, three years, five years from now."
2. Build your network list and start using it
Your network will be your biggest ally in your job search. Your friends, their friends and the friends of those people will surprise you when they show a genuine interest in helping you.
Berman suggests thinking broadly about whom you know and being upfront with them about your job search.
"Think back to the people you worked with five, 10, 15 years ago and don't e-mail them. There's no substitute for a phone call," he says.
3. Get dressed!
Now isn't the time to explore your quirky bohemian phase, unless it's the course you've decided to take for the next phase of your life, Finney says.
"Treat your job search project as you would a regular full-time job. Get out of the jammies and put on something you would wear to work at your old job," she says. "When you wear the uniform of your role, you stay in touch with that side of who you are. No one I can think of is in the market to hire Mr. Scratchy Pajama Bottoms."
4. Set regular working hours that match a conventional workday
Finney says that any self-employed person will tell you that choosing your own hours is both a joy and a curse. Sure, you don't have to work while everyone is, but that usually means that you won't be having fun when everyone else is, either.
"If you work nine to five on your job hunting assignment, then absolutely you can take weekends off," Berman says. "The reason why people work on weekends and at night on looking for a new job is because they screwed around all day."
5. Establish a structure against which you'll achieve and measure your goals
Identify specific ways you'll approach your job search by outlining how many tasks you'll do each day and what they are specifically. Make a list of the phone calls you'll make and the names you'll look up, Finney suggests.
"If you set a goal, you're going to be able to work toward that goal," Berman says. "Set very specific goals, make them things you think you can actually do, and then make them non-negotiable."
6. Dismiss the derailers
Undoubtedly, job searching is a pain in the rear. The process is lengthy, at best, and it's easy to get discouraged along the way. The feeling of panic that you have to have a job now! is a derailer, as are mean-spirited friends who undermine your confidence, well-meaning family who are concerned and your own ego, which tells you that if you were truly a good provider, you would have a job by now, Finney says.
"You might not be able to see them coming, but you can spot them for what they are," she says. "Shrug them off. Some people mean well, some people are just, well, mean. Either way, that's not your focus right now."
*According to the most recent data, updated on March 20, 2009. A mass layoff occurs when at least 50 initial claims are filed against an employer during a consecutive five-week period. An initial claim is when someone files for unemployment, according to the BLS Web site.
** Voice of experience paraphrased from page 92 of "Rebound: A Proven Plan for Starting Over After Job Loss."
Rachel Zupek is a writer and blogger for CareerBuilder.com. She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues..
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