Monthly Archives: December 2010

If You Just Got Laid Off: Do These Things First

I’m so sorry.  This is not fun; it is especially not fun if you were among the first, if you weren’t expecting it, and if you don’t have a plan for what to do if it happens to you.  However, there it is, and there is nothing you can do about it now.

First, do not linger in the present or the past.  This is a good time to refrain from affiliation with the folks who are a.) former office buds who are still employed where you are not, and b.) the rest of the crowd who got their bad news when you did.  Once upon a time, this happened to me, and the first thing I asked for was a different outplacement place.  I struck out on my own, cut myself off from the commiserating crowd, the well-wishers, and all the consuming gossip about who’s going next.  It is all completely irrelevant to you from now on.  This is like ripping off the bandage, I know, but you have to do it.

Second, write three sentences about your present circumstances.  The first one speaks to who you are professionally, i.e., “I’m a skilled food stylist. . . . ”  The second one says what brought you to where you are now, i.e., “I was hired by NBC to bring Matt Lauer’s segments up to Food Styling Nirvana standards. . .” And the third one explains today’s problem, “There were six of us, and with fewer Holiday Parties Segments being produced, they let four of us go yesterday, including me.”

Just the facts.  This all answers the questions, especially your own, and keeps you focused on the facts.   There is a tendency to start veering off the emotional tracks and getting in your own way, like this:  “I’m older, I’m depressed, it’s the holidays, I’m in the wrong state, I’m an idiot, I should have seen this, I made a wrong move ten years ago. . . blah, blah.”  Whatever.  None of that is real, none of that is important, and none of that will help you, so just write down the things that we all can agree are true.

Third, decide what you really want, and take no more than three days to do it.  I mean it: three days.  It would have been three years, but you screwed up and didn’t do it three years ago, and now you don’t have that kind of luxurious time.   You can do whatever you want in the three days–call everyone you know and ask them, call no one and listen to Motown classics for 72 hours, or ponder your options by writing them all down.  It’s up to you, but you have to decide what profession, job, geographic location, career objective, whatever “what I want” translates to for you.   Within three days.  Not “after the holidays.”

You can change your mind, of course, but you have to start down a path, and make even a temporary decision.  Once you have decided, you can begin to research your objective.  You go from “I was a Food Stylist” to “I want to Style Food for XYZ.” Or “I am looking for work as a Catering Manager,” adding “at Marriott,” or whatever.  It is the path that matters.  You must begin.  Now.

Beginning with these simple steps gets you over the hump.  There is a real hump, by the way, like a speed bump to keep you from doing really stupid things, like posting your nine-page resume on Facebook, and stuff like that.  The hump is when you feel the worst or the best, depending on whether this is temporarily liberating or temporarily depressing to the point of madness.  It is temporary, though, for sure.

Use the hump time wisely and monitor your behavior.  The best thing for you to do is to stabilize yourself, because you are your most important resource.  If you are engaging in self-destruction at will, by drinking, writing stupid things on Facebook, saying dumb things to people who still work where you don’t (which by the way, they are repeating to others), staying up all night playing Angry Birds, or wallowing in whatever way you wallow, you aren’t there for yourself.  And that’s a big mistake that you just don’t need to make.

Instead, during the hump time,  make lists of all the things you will do differently in the future, the things you’ll leave behind, and your ambitions for the next chapter.   Three days after you begin all this, I can promise you that you will feel a whole lot stronger, and much more intentional.  Ready to move on.

Next blog: Take Inventory

The Desperate Vibe? Really?

Laura Bassett, writing about something called “the Desperate Vibe” in the Huffington Post, quotes Isang Inokon, a recruiter for Amherst Healthcare as having “trouble placing jobless pharmacists.”  Inokon, according to Bassett, asserts that “the reality of today’s job market is that employers ‘want someone who’s wanted.'”

Maybe.  But as I have said before, the Inokons of the marketplace don’t get paid easily for producing candidates who have already applied for the job, who have their own effective plan for getting the prospective employer’s attention, and who (it must be said) don’t need the help of Amherst Healthcare in order to get a good job.

I believe the headhunters of the world are an enormous asset to the job market, workforce, employers, and the business community in general.  But, the headhunter quoted here has some skin in this game; describing a “desperation vibe” as a good reason for his seeking (in his own ad, in his own interest) only employed pharmacists to offer to his unnamed clients is at best disingenuous.  His alleged value to his target client is that he can locate and represent the so-called “passive job-seeker,” also probably alleged to be (via a significant leap of logic) the cream of the crop.  By advertising for (and attempting to induce fear of someday appearing desperate in) that candidate on Craigslist?   Unfortunately, “passive job seekers,” who may also be known as “those who haven’t been laid off just yet,”  are hanging on to their jobs and not sending resumes and cover letters to the Inokons with much frequency.

Any movement in the labor market is really good for recruiting and headhunting, and no one can blame Mr. Inokon for his position or his efforts.  If he dislodges and places a clinical pharmacist, he has another opportunity, to fill the job he opened.  This is his business model:  he gets paid when he adds value, places people in jobs, and earns his fee.  If you get to the job you want before he does, though,  he doesn’t get paid at all.

But “a desperation vibe. . . ?”  “Interview from a position of weakness. . . ?”  That isn’t real.  In fact, I imagine that there are plenty of employers who, if they are able to, will break a tie between the best candidates by awarding the job to the one who needs it.  And, decision-makers have trouble understanding what you want from them if you have a perfectly good, and very similar job.  Bidding wars for great candidates are sort of not happening right now.

It is never good to act from desperation, always better to exhibit confidence, and superior candidates consistently package themselves as winners, no matter the condition of the economy.  The economy as a participant in your own job search is pretty hard to quantify and harder still to manage.  So don’t bother enlisting it in any way at all.  It will not help you to buy into a belief that unemployed means undesirable;  in all my years in Human Resources, we never asked a headhunter to limit his or her search to the employed.  Why would we?  It is fully self defeating, expensive,  and ridiculously bad business.  And, it might just perpetuate illegal discrimination, a risk few HR professionals would deliberately consider.

Consider the other side of the coin:  Unemployed candidates are more willing to relocate, accept the range minimum for a particular job, are less demanding of perqs, and can usually begin work sooner.

If there is a legitimate concern on the part of an employer, it is simply that active job seekers do tend to leave the process before a big company finishes its selection.  They consume headhunter time as they juggle multiple opportunities–the advantage of being unemployed in the job market is that you can spend all your time on your search.

I’ve commented on the issue in the past.  And I believe that some employers aren’t sure what to do when confronted with choices; we are conditioned to want the less attainable and we convert it in our heads to the more desirable, somehow.  But I would not be confident, if I were a well-employed clinical pharmacist seeing Mr. Inokon’s ad on Craiglist, that the best thing for my career is to hand my resume over to a headhunter who says I’m at risk of interviewing poorly if I don’t interview right now.