When The Axe Falls, Part 2
Posted: October 2, 2009 | 13:28 ET
Re-taking Control After Getting Downsized
In my previous column on this topic, I covered the basics of what to do immediately after your employer lets you go. It can be really disorienting to lose your job even if youíve been expecting it. Take it from me, I used to get fired so often I began to feel like pottery. So in this second installment Iíll be talking about how to regain your equilibrium and start moving steadily forward.
Departing With DignityBut first, one thing I didnít mention in the other article was how to leave the building just after youíve been downsized. Most people are in a state of shock, to some degree, when the axe falls and theyíre suddenly unemployed. Problem is youíve likely been given the news somewhere in your workplace itself. Right where all your former co-workers are busily going about their jobs (which they still have, unlike you). How on earth do you leave without feeling humiliated, and can you get out with bridges intact despite the heat of the moment?
Well, it all begins with taking a deep breath and gathering yourself. Donít just rush out from the room youíve been terminated in, only to face the uninformed hordes head on. Youíre probably quite emotional at this point (though youíll pretend you arenít, itís a typical reaction). Best thing to do is to head straight to your office/cubicle, gather your immediate belongings, make a beeline for the stairs or elevator, then leave the building immediately.
You can call your colleagues at work later to talk about what happened, once your mind clears a bit. And you can make arrangements to come back at a discreet time to pick up any personal belongings you might have left behind. What you want to avoid, I mean you really really want to steer clear of, is lingering in the office and erupting into anger, overwhelming sadness, or some other volcanic reaction that doesnít come with a rewind button. Remember: you still need references and probably want to depart on the best terms possible.
Baby Steps ForwardAfter a couple of days of getting settled--doing all the post-termination stuff I talked about in Part 1 of this series--you may start feeling antsy; gotta get a job again now! Resist the urge to send out worldwide e-mails announcing your availability... the initial steps in finding new employment should consist of preparing yourself to become a lean, mean job hunting machine.
Scrape the dust off your old resume and list all the great things you did for your most recent employer, ingrates that they were. What were your key achievements? Did you learn any new skills? Take any courses or earn another credential? This is the grist for your resume updating mill.
In future job interviews youíre gonna get asked the killer question: "Please tell me why you left your most recent job." Is your answer ready? Itís not good enough to say "Those doofus bastards turfed me, but thatís o.k., Iíve Google-Mapped where every senior manager lives and their kidsí schools too, he he he." Youíll need to come up with an acceptable Exit Statement, preferable one thatís verifiable should a potential employer choose to check your references.
About those job interviews, you may want to do some mock ones with someone you trust, just to brush up your technique. Also you need to get interim business cards made up so youíll have something to hand out when meeting people. Not to mention developing your Elevator Speech, a 30-second reply to the odious inquiry "So tell me a little about yourself."
Riding the Roller CoasterSearching for work after losing your job can be grueling and, in some cases, dehumanizing. Itíll help to have some coping mechanisms in place. Here are some tips from actual job hunters Iíve spoken with over the years:
- Consider doing some exercise on a daily basis (on the advice of a physician if necessary).
- Eat healthy, itíll help restore your energy.
- Donít cancel a pre-planned vacation if at all possible, otherwise it only gives everyone more time to sit around moping about the predicament youíre in.
- Reward yourself in small but meaningful ways when you score a victory such as getting a call-back after an important interview (me, a juicy sirloin does the trick, but it kind of negates the ďeat healthyĒ tip).
- Donít keep things bottled up inside, lest you explode.
Light At The End Of The TunnelDecades ago, losing your job was a stigma. Today itís simply business as usual. Dealing with your downsizing is ultimately about drafting a project plan for your transition, so that you take the reins and create your own momentum. Itís about not overreacting, instead doing simple things every day. Process your job loss emotionally. Learn from it. Take care of the minutiae in settling with your former employer. Then look toward the bright blue horizon ahead of you. After all, they can take away your job, but youíre always in charge of your destiny.
Mark Swartz, MBA, M.Ed., is one of Canada's leading authorities on careers and work, and author of the best-seller "Get Wired, You're Hired" (now in its fourth edition since 1997).
Visit careeractivist.com for his many free insights and articles.
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