At the company that I recently left, we had experienced six excruciating rounds of personnel reductions over the past five years. The sort of layoffs where the managers call you into a meeting with HR and hand you the dreaded thick manila envelope. In fact, some of the layoffs were so bad, that the managers were walking up and down the cubicle isles carrying 6-7 envelops under their arms asking were certain people were. Brutal. Shortly after I left, I heard they had a seventh round.
The constant threat of layoffs is a reality that many people across all industries must live with. In fact, every company that I’ve worked for has had rounds of layoffs. Just open up the Yahoo Finance news feed, and you’ll see a variety of companies announcing that they are planning x-thousands of layoffs over the next 18 months. Because of this endless threat, we all have to be prepared for the worst. Even if you’re a strong performer, I’ve seen whole divisions decimated. After speaking with a large number of displaced workers, many of whom are good friends, I’ve witnessed what works and what doesn’t. So, this article is really about what to do if you’ve been laid off or think that you might be.
Before You Leave
While many people don’t think to do this in the heat of the moment, whatever severance package your employer is offering you is always negotiable. Try to get the pot sweetened by appealing to their human side. Tell them you have children at home that will starve. Tell them anything you can think of, but try to get the severance package increased. Even if the money isn’t increased, they may agree to lengthen how long your benefits will stay active. Once you’re gone, it’s probably too late.
Get Your Financial House in Order
Obviously, you are now in an emergency budgeting situation. Hopefully, you have a decent budget already laid out that describes your typical monthly spending. If not, read this. Closely study your list of monthly expenses and recognize that you’re going to need to cut most things out. The idea is to give yourself as long of a runway as possible until you run out of money, since you don’t really know how long it will take to find a job. So, look for every nonessential expense and immediately cancel it or eliminate it.
Many people will struggle with what is really essential, so here is a quick list of nonessential items that should be cut: cable TV, dry cleaning, kid’s sports and hobbies, new clothes, restaurants, coffee shops, spontaneous spending at big box stores (you know who you are), daycare, vacations (duh), drinks with friends (sorry about that one), and the gym.
Additionally, here is a partial list of things that can be greatly reduced: cell phone plans, car insurance, gasoline consumption/driving, heating/air conditioning usage (time to toughen up, cupcake), and groceries. Switch all insurance plans to the highest deductible possible.
I know this eliminates most of your fun, but you have to enter survival mode. The good news is, there are plenty of free activities in most areas that you might actually like. I’ve been going to the library for books and movies for a while now, and I’m generally impressed with their selection. Also, you can stay active by walking, running, and hiking outdoors, as well as body weight exercises. Once you get rid of your cable addiction, you’ll be amazed at how much time you’ll have to focus on your new favorite activity: finding a solid job. It’s painful but necessary.
Writing Your New Resume
A professional resume is one of the most important documents that you can maintain. If you’ve been at the same job for a while, yours is probably pretty outdated. A resume should be concise, so try to keep it down to one page in length or so. At the top, the header should have your name and contact information in a larger font than the rest of the document. Be sure to use a basic font, nothing obnoxious. If you include an objective statement next, then it must be tailored to each company and job that you apply for. Next, you should include sections about your skills, education, and job experience. Use tailored terminology that matches the keywords that HR personnel will be searching against. There are a number of online resources for resume formatting ideas, but remember a basic format with superior content usually wins.
Cover letters can offer additional information for potential employers, where you describe your experiences and why you would be a good fit with their organization. A cover letter should also be tailored for each company that you apply to.
Update Your Social Media Pages
LinkedIn has become a very powerful tool to showcase your talent and experiences to potential employers. It’s essentially an online resume that connects to other people and companies. You should immediately update your LinkedIn profile and begin adding new connections with others. There are other career websites that you may want to use as well, including BeKnown, BranchOut, Monster WW, and many others.
Hustle, Hustle, Hustle
Now that your documents are in order, it’s time to get busy. To find a new job, you’re going to have to exhaust every possible avenue. It’s a very competitive marketplace out there, so you’re also going to have to get creative. The first approach I usually take when looking for a new job is to go directly to the website of a company that I’m interested in. You can see what jobs are posted on their career page, and get a general sense of how things are going by how many opens are listed recently. I’ve had a great deal of luck in the past with simply applying directly through the company’s website.
However, there is generally a better way to hustle: Develop your network. Most people I know now find jobs through people they know or will meet through networking events. The first thing to do here is reach out to people you know that work at similar types of companies. Meet them for lunch and get a feel for what might be available at their company. Start expanding your network by asking your friends who they know at other companies. Get recommendations. Call former coworkers and ask them if they know of anyone that is hiring. Start attending Meet-ups and professional networking events…this can be fun too. Basically, do everything you can to get your name out there on a personal level.
Next, you’ll want to utilize the full suite of online resources. I’ve seen people find jobs on the standard career sites, like Monster and CareerBuilder. I’ve also seen people find success by using Craigslist, Glassdoor, and the job postings part of LinkedIn. There are a huge number of job posting websites out there, but remember to make sure the company/description looks reputable if you’re searching on sites like Craigslist. Leave no online stone unturned.
The final approach to send unsolicited emails to various companies with suggestions for how to solve their problems. Research a particular company and the industry that they are in and find discussions of ongoing issues within that industry. Then, send emails to the company’s business dev people or program managers with well thought out suggestions to help them. Most may ignore you, but a few will call you back and want to talk about your ideas further. You may land a job or consulting gig from this kind of hustling.
Don’t forget to brush up on your interview skills. Search online for example questions and think about how you would answer. Don’t memorize answers, as that can sound fake, but be aware of the types of questions that you will be asked. Be prepared to talk about details within your resume, describe specific ways that you solved problems, etc. Research the new company before going into the interview, so you understand their product line or services. Think of a few questions for them that demonstrate your familiarity with what their company does.
Undergoing a job change can be an extremely traumatic event in your life. You’re going to be angry. Very angry. You’re going to think you were targeted unfairly. But, that line of thinking isn’t going to change your situation. Remember, these companies are all just trying to survive in a very competitive world. They have to make difficult decisions that damage lives and destabilize employee morale. Don’t bother holding a grudge against anyone where you worked. In fact, you may need to use former coworkers and bosses as references or find job leads from them. This won’t be easy, but it’s essential to moving on.