Five of the most feared words in today’s culture are “your position is being eliminated” and more and more qualified professionals are hearing them. Certainly, news reports of massive layoffs at once-viable corporations aren’t doing much to buoy the national morale, so what should you do when you hear these words?
- Get your finances in order. Make sure that you have all of the details of your severance package, as well as COBRA information and 401K paperwork. Obviously, once you’ve been laid off, this is not the time to book that trip to Aruba you’ve been meaning to take, and you will probably have to make other sacrifices until you’ve landed your next position, such as canceling cable TV, changing cell phone plans, or cutting back on shopping and eating out.
- Take some time to grieve the loss of your last position. Being laid off is a major blow to the ego and, along with the loss of your previous salary and co-workers, there is also a loss of professional identity. Now is the time to focus on moving forward, not looking back – be sad, angry, or resentful for a day or so, but then, move on. You have a new job: finding work.
- Take advantage of your period of umployment. Rather than lying on the couch, watching reruns of “Man Versus Wild” and eating junk food, use this time to make valuable contacts, reach out to recruiters, answer ads, and meet people. Approach job hunting as you would any other 9-5 job: get out of bed at your usual time, get dressed, and get to work. This is a perfect time to start a blog, take a class, or even explore other fields that might reignite your passions.
- Dust off your resume. Make sure it’s updated and that it correctly represents the professional image you want to portray. Highlight your experience, tangible results of your work, and the points that make you stand out above others.
- Update your portfolio and make sure that it, too, is consistent with your personal brand and the kind of work you would like to do. If you find your portfolio lacking or inconsistent with the positions you’re pursuing, this is the time to create some spec pieces to refresh your body of work.
- Contact everyone you know and let them know you’re looking for work. Hopefully, you’re networking all the time, and not just when you’re out of a job. Let your personal and professional network know what you’re looking for and offer to be equally helpful to them, where you can.
- Clean up your online image. Update all of your social networking profiles and ensure that all of the material accurately reflects your professional image. Post updated photos and make sure to remove any posts or photos that you would not want potential employers to find.
- Practice your “elevator pitch” until you can recite it in your sleep. How you present yourself in person is just as important as how well you present yourself on paper. You need to be able to clearly, concisely, and confidently express who you are as a professional and what you’re looking for.
- Show up. You need to meet people if you hope to get hired, so identify what networking events will help you connect with the right people. Dress in a manner that is consistent with the personal brand you hope to present and meet as many people as you can.
- Don’t drop the ball. Send thank-you notes or emails to people who have taken the time to interview you, as well as those who connected you to the interviewer. Check in with your contacts periodically, and not just to hound them for job leads or references.
True, the economy is not great right now, but job opportunities are there for those who actively seek employment and don’t hide under the covers until the economy recovers. Rather than moping, look at being laid off as an incredible opportunity to finally live the professional life you’ve always dreamed of. Although my period of unemployment has been difficult and frustrating at times, I am still optimistic that “the” job is out there!