This common mistake consistently kills a jobsearch even before it has begun. I believe that many jobsearches never truly recover from the damage caused by this devastating error. At best the damage extends the jobsearch by four to six months.
John (not his real name) gets the news that his position has been eliminated. His last day is scheduled four weeks away. On the way home, he wonders how he will tell his family and decides to wait. He has four weeks—maybe something will turn up.
As he thought through the last three months at work, he realized that he should have seen it coming. Members of his top project team had been reassigned. One project was postponed. His boss seemed distant. How could he have missed it!
The next day, John arrived early and selected colleagues in his contact list. He printed the information of people who might be able to help. By 8 o’clock he had spoken to several people.
“Hi, Geoff. Yeah, it’s John. I got notice yesterday. My last day is in four weeks. I can’t believe it. After all I’ve given to this company…for over 14 years. This is the way you get the boot.”
Geoff: “I’m sorry to hear that. How can I help? What are you looking for?”
John: “Well, you know, at this point, anything.”
Jill (not her real name) entered the building as usual. She had her badge handy and thought it odd that there was a line of people waiting to swipe their badge at the turnstiles. Several people gathered at the guard desk. Her turn came. She swiped her badge and the buzzer went off. She sighed and tried again. Same result.
The guard looked at her badge and checked her name off a list. Then Jill was escorted to a room and instructed to sit down at a table. Ten minutes later she was handed an envelope. She was given a box and another guard escorted her to her office where she packed her personal items. Then she was escorted from the building. Less than one hour had passed. Jill had been laid off.
She got in her car and drove home. She didn’t have a copy of her contact list. She wondered if there were personal files on her computer. No goodbyes, no final email to her colleagues or friends…the more she thought about it the angrier she became. Now what?
For the next three days, Jill called everyone she could think of. She made lists of people she had worked with and connected with everyone through LinkedIn. Why hadn’t she kept up with it? She was angry at the company and angry at herself. She should have seen it coming.
The Number One Jobsearch Blunder:
Both John and Jill, in less than one day of losing their job, had made the top jobsearch blunder. It would take them months to recover and their jobsearch would likely be extended by an additional four to six months.
When they realized they had lost their jobs, their first reaction was to call everyone they could think of and tell them the dreadful news. These people are their first line of help, their top network—their “A Team”. They are the very people who, likely, have recent and first-hand knowledge of their work and will want to help them the most.
John and Jill gave up the opportunity to thoughtfully educate their network on how they could help. Neither jobseeker was ready to talk to their highly valuable and most significant social assets.
The likely result is that their network, eager to help, asks for their résumé, which is then hastily put together. This goes out to their network’s network without any clear direction or guidelines. Then John and Jill find themselves talking with people who really don’t know how to help them. Valuable time is lost.
Managing rejection is critical:
Losing a job is a traumatic, life changing experience to say the least. It is a horrendous loss and it involves the grief process. I personally believe that people who ignore the grief process generally prolong their job search. The steps to the grief process are intense and carry a multitude of emotional highs and lows. Awareness of the stages of grief can help a jobseeker mitigate the effects as they conduct their jobsearch.
Rejection is never pleasant. I remember a time in my early career when I received the rejection letter for a position where I had been a finalist. Deep down, I knew that the job wasn’t a good fit. Nonetheless, the rejection still hurt. Jobseekers tell me that even though they disliked their job and knew they were better off without it, the rejection was still very difficult.
Should you expect a layoff?
In today’s global economy, with disruptive innovations, and Mergers and Acquisition on the rise, anyone can lose their job on a given day, even the CEO.
Even when a layoff is expected, it is a challenge to manage emotions during the meeting as well as the hours and days that follow. Trying to be appropriate in the moment is a very difficult task. Having a plan can help.
Guidelines to manage a lay off event:
Being prepared and having a plan in the event of a layoff can prevent the huge blunder that both John and Jill made.
- Become “a good will factory”.
- Speak to as many colleagues as possible:
To HR and managers: “Thank you for the opportunity here at ________. Is there anything I can do at this time to contribute to a smooth transition? …If future opportunities come up, I hope you will think of me.”
To colleagues: “Sam/Samantha, I’ve enjoyed working with you and at this time, I’ve been laid off. If there is anything I can do to help you in the future, please don’t hesitate to call on me.”
To disagreeable colleagues: “Sam, Samantha, I know we have had our differences, but you have helped me grow and I value your contribution. If there is anything I can do to help you in the future, I hope you will call on me.”
- As soon as you can, go to LinkedIn and write genuine recommendations for the people you worked with. This includes the challenging personalities.
Here is an example of a LinkedIn recommendation for someone with a difficult personality:
“Sam/Samantha has the ability to challenge the thinking of a team and push them to consider outside possibilities.
When difficult decisions need to be made, s/he makes excellent assessments and will present additional considerations that will strengthen long-term outcomes. Sam/Samantha’s work is always in the best interest of the company and I believe s/he is an asset to any strategic process.”
- Create a stellar résumé. This takes time and it will inevitably need multiple iterations.
- If you talk to your network, consider, “Hi Julie, yes, I have been laid off. I’m currently looking at the job market and putting together a plan to move forward. When I’m ready, may I send you my résumé?”
- Put together your toolbox. This includes:
- Your professionally polished résumé
- Your updated LinkedIn profile
- A practiced statement that includes your target employment and the unique value that you bring to a hiring entity. This is sometimes called your Unique Value Statement (UVS), your branding statement, or your elevator statement.
- Executives should have a one-page BIO.
- Then, make three lists of your network:
- The A-List: people who know your work and have the position and influence to connect you with key players.
- The B-List: people who do not know you, but have the position and influence to connect you with key players.
- The C-List: people who do not have the position or influence to connect you with key players. (These may be friends, neighbors, people you know from social activities.)
- Reach out to the C-List first. Get their feedback on your personal statement and the résumé. Evaluate the feedback and make the appropriate changes. Then move to the B-List and again, make changes. Finally, talk to your A-List. Follow up with each individual and gather additional contacts.
What to do if you mis-educate your network:
It’s not too late. Simply connect with your network and thank them for “being there” for you when you were laid off. Indicate that you are putting a strategy together and would like to reconnect with them when you are ready to launch your job search.
If you have already been searching, and realize that your network hasn’t had any clear direction from you, then connect again and indicate that you are revamping your search and would be grateful for a few minutes of their time.