January 14, 2009

If the layoff happens to you....

National unemployment rates hit 7.2% in December according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and in some states it is even higher, approaching double digits. These are scary numbers but still a bit abstract; when the layoff happens to you, or a family member, then the abstraction becomes reality real quick.

Before going into a panic (or after the panic has subsided) recognize that you are not alone, the economy will recover, and so will you.

Here are some tips for keeping your focus and moving forward in your career....

1. Leave your job graciously. And by that I don't mean in the style of Miss Manners but simply don't burn your bridges. People are sometimes called back to work after layoffs and if you create a major disruption, explode in anger or use it as an opportunity to get back at those folks who always bugged you, you will likely not be called back.

2. Exchange contact info with those you really want to keep in touch with. They may be helpful during your job search.

3. If your company provides Outplacement Services, by all means, take advantage of it. Many professionals, especially executives, assume these services are too low level and not likely to be of help. However, this is when you need all the help you can get. Even if you consider yourself great at interviewing, you may not have done it for awhile and the rules may have changed. Interviewing today might include: interviewing by phone, even by video conferencing, group interviews, stress interviews, behavioral interviewing, work simulations, psychological interviews....the list goes on and on. Any practice, advice or assistance you can get in this area will be helpful. And besides, these services are provided for free, so what is there to lose?

4. Network, network, network. Still the best way to find a position, especially for higher level jobs. Refine your networking skills. Hopefully you will have kept up with it while working, but if not it is time to re-connect with people who might be helpful. Former colleagues, professional associations, networking meetings, friends, family, strangers on the street...OK maybe not strangers on the street, but you will be surprised at the information you can get when you start talking with people. The Dad or Mom at the hockey game standing on the sidelines could be a valuable contact. Social networking via the web can also be very valuable, especially sites like Linked In: www.linkedin.com It is basically facebook or myspace for professionals. I have found it particularly helpful for getting back in touch with people. Set up a profile, join a group, start a discussion and get your name out there.

5. Prioritize your job hunting time. The internet is invaluable but it can consume all your time if you're not careful. Find some reliable search engines and check them regularly but beware of the tendency to waste hours upon hours checking over job boards and bumping into the same jobs at different sites.

6. Keep your perspective. Unfortunately, finding a new job can take a while---sometimes you are lucky and find something immediately. Often it takes many months. If finances are really an issue it may be worth taking a "bridge" job. Expect that there will be ups and downs and the process can be stressful.

7. Get support. This is the time to be open to support from colleagues, friends, and family. If things get real tough even professional counseling to help with the transition may be in order. Career coaching may help if you are stuck or in need of greater focus in your job search. Networking groups can be a great source of support because you will be with people who are experiencing some of the same ups and downs as you and it is a reminder that the process is tough.

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