When I was workforce reduced—yes, it felt very much like a verb—from a company I’d been with for several years, I found myself experiencing a whole lot of shock. How could this be happening to me? What do I do now?
Workforce reduction. Budget cuts. Economy blah blah. “This job just isn’t a good fit for you.”
Is there ever a good way to be laid off or fired?
Sure, you could be one of the lucky ones with your next 10 steps all planned out, or perhaps you’ve been secretly waiting for just such a chance.
For others of us, job loss shock can dredge up visions of unpaid medical bills, car payments, mortgages, school loans, and bulk ramen noodles*, even if this is the second or third time around and you’d think you’d be used to it by now.
So what can you do about it? Think of it this way: You’re going to feel what you’re going to feel. But what you’re feeling doesn’t have to take over.
Here are five things I did that helped me act, not just react, when the axe came my way:
1. Get the word out.
Don’t let being shy or embarrassed hijack you: You need to let people know what happened as soon as you can. Emailing is one of the easiest ways to reach more people at once while giving everyone time to absorb the news.
You just need to take a little care in crafting your message (and of course, adhere to your now ex-company policy in case legal issues abound).
For co-workers, vendors, and clients, stick to these three things:
- Keep the tone unemotional and simply state what happened. “Due to workforce reduction, my position has been eliminated.”
- Thank everyone. Acknowledge their time, support or just how glad you were to get to know them.
- Put your personal contact information in your signature, including links to professional sites like LinkedIn.
For friends, mentors, and relatives, you can make it a little more personal. Feel free to say you’re now on a full-time job hunt, what you’re looking to do in your career, and ask them to keep you in mind if they hear of opportunities.
Just don’t: Ask outright if someone can get you a job. This puts people in an awkward position, and what do people tend to do when they’re in an awkward position? Get themselves out of it.
2. Write down what you did all day.
When workforce reduction caught up to me the first time**, I was given two weeks to train four colleagues on everything I did. Guess what I found out while racking my brain for “everything I did”? I did a whole lot more than I thought!
When you take a good look at what you did all day, you’ll see where you:
- Took the initiative on projects
- Acted in a leadership role
- Implemented a process improvement
- Reached an important goal under time and under budget
- Saved the company money
- Increased revenue
This step is also where you turn all your fabulous ingenuity into facts, figures and percentages on your resume, so quantify where you can.
Don’t stop with just this current job, either; dig deep through your entire job history. These are the skills and experiences you’ll take with you to your next job.
3. Get LinkedIn.
Go ahead, tell me you don’t use LinkedIn, don’t get the point of it, don’t want to get the point of it, and never heard of anyone who got a job through it.
Got that out of your system? Now get on it.
Employers and recruiters actively search for candidates on LinkedIn, so why not make it easy for them to find you the way you want to be found?
Filling out your profile and using LinkedIn’s built-in tools helps you look at your experience and skills in different ways than just the typical, static resume. This also helps show YOU off more than just a clinical listing of your employment history. Companies want to hire a person, not a bulleted list.
LinkedIn is free, widely respected, and as a job seeker, you can easily find people in the industry and company of your choice. Can we say no-brainer?
4. Network, network, and did I mention “network?”
There is a little bit of “work” in “network,” but it also uses a free, highly portable skill: Communicating.
Don’t just gather contacts and stop there. These are people, not numbers. As Ed Han says, build in time to maintain your presence in your network, and give back: Respect your connections’ time and value as you reach out.
What would you want to hear or read? Be genuinely interested in their career, livelihood, and interests. Take a moment to pass on an article in their field or just wish them a good day.
5. Throw a wake.
Yes, you read that right: Give yourself a party.
When I sent out my “Come to my wake” email, people told me they were so glad I was doing this, because they wanted to do something for me, they just hadn’t known what!
If you’re not the organizer, make sure you have input into who is invited–and by “who” I mean “everyone you possibly can.” Even if you get walked out the same day, get someone on the inside to arrange a farewell get-together for another day.
You may think that the last thing you want to do is go to a party, but look at it this way: This is another chance to cement your bonds with the people you’ve been working with all this time. You want people to see you as a viable, trustworthy human being worthy of continued employment.
So use the time to:
- Exchange contact information
- Tell people what you are looking for
- Make concrete plans to keep in touch, meet for lunch next Tuesday, get together for dinner in a couple weeks.
You want people to see you as a viable, trustworthy human being worthy of continued employment. Now is not the time to burst into tears, dance on the bar or match the CEO drink for drink. Unless he’s in the habit of writing job-getting references with a bottle of Scotch as his companion.
If nothing else, remember this: You may have lost a job, but you did not lose one iota of your skills, knowledge, and experience.
There will always be time to wallow with friends and comforts of your choice. There will not always be time to gather the resources you need when they’re available.
Staying focused on your career not only keeps your mind occupied, but also keeps you moving in the right direction.
And, hopefully, by the time you do get around to wallowing, you won’t want to anymore.
If you’ve been let go from a job, what did you do to keep moving forward?
Just a Few LinkedIn Best Practices by Ed Han
Just a Few More LinkedIn Best Practices by Ed Han
Networking strategies by Donna Svei/AvidCareerist
You’re Fired: How to Handle a Termination
Quantify Accomplishments: Numbers Have Meaning
*I actually like ramen noodles, despite existing on them to a sad extreme in college.
**I’d later learn this wasn’t the last time this would happen to me, and that repetition wouldn’t make me feel any less reduced.