Questions abound when dealing with a job loss -- or the threat of one. Following are answers to some frequently asked questions about how to handle different aspects of a layoff or firing:
Q: My company recently announced that some positions will be eliminated in the months ahead. What can I do to ensure my job isn't one of them?
A: Identifying ways to boost the bottom line, promoting your biggest accomplishments and increasing your visibility never hurts. That being said, numerous good ideas or extra hours may not shield your position.
The prospect of a layoff can be anxiety provoking, but the advance notice gives you time to increase your job-hunt readiness. Update your résumé, collect your strongest work samples, and make sure you have an up-to-date presence on LinkedIn and other professional networking sites. You also might begin to review job postings and ask trusted members of your network if they know of any opportunities.
In short, hope for the best and prepare for the worst. Addressing the situation head-on will give you some sense of control over what might seem like an out-of-control situation.
Q: I just found out I'm losing my job. I'm shocked and angry because I was given no warning. I'd like to give someone a piece of my mind. At this point, what do I have to lose?
A: It's completely understandable that you are upset and scared, but you can't let your emotions get the best of you. Saying the wrong thing in the heat of the moment may only compound your problems -- and potentially do irreparable harm to your reputation.
Instead, go into information-gathering mode, listening carefully to what you're being told about the details of the termination. When are you being asked to leave? Is there a severance package? What paperwork is needed to retain health coverage?
Take detailed notes and ask questions about anything you don't fully understand in a calm, cool and collected manner. If you need extra time to process information before signing paperwork, request it.
Q: I was fired from my job. What do I tell prospective employers?
A: There's no need to volunteer that you were fired in your application materials. However, be prepared to talk about the situation tactfully and truthfully in an interview.
Displaying bitterness or criticizing your former employer will only work against you. Likewise, misrepresenting the circumstances of your departure can quickly come back to haunt you.
You might say something like: "I realized early on that I wasn't the right fit for this particular position and corporate culture. Instead of speaking up and trying to improve the situation, I stayed silent and hoped things would get better. It's not a mistake I'll repeat. I'm looking toward the future and, based on my research of your organization, I'm confident I possess the skills, attributes and values you seek."
Q: I've been out of work for an extended period. I feel so frustrated and restless. What can I do to lift my spirits?
A: Few things rattle a person's self-confidence like a job loss followed by a protracted job search. In addition to losing a paycheck, your routine and the camaraderie of colleagues, you're also missing the sense of purpose and achievement a job provides.
Stay motivated and on track by creating a job-search to-do list with firm deadlines. Bullet points might include, "Send a targeted résumé to XYZ Corp. by noon today," or "Set up coffee meetings with at least three networking contacts by Thursday." Being disciplined and continually reaching small goals helps guard against job-hunt fatigue.
Also, remember that prospective employers will want to know how you've spent your time beyond "looking for a job." Attend industry conferences, enroll in relevant professional-development courses, teach yourself a new software program or sign up to perform pro-bono work at a nonprofit organization.
Pursuing project work through a staffing firm is another smart way to show hiring managers that you've remained productive and professionally engaged. Temporary assignments allow you to earn money, enhance your marketability and establish connections -- all while having the flexibility to continue seeking full-time employment.
Finally, fend off feelings of isolation by staying in close contact with friends and making sure to get out and interact with people every day. The job hunt can be dispiriting; staying busy and setting achievable goals will help you get through this tough time.
Robert Half International is the world's first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 350 offices worldwide. For more information about our professional services, please visit http://www.roberthalf.com/. For additional career advice, follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/roberthalf.
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