It’s a hard fact, but a fact all the same: Being fired or made redundant is a fact of life in this economy. Indeed, most of us have either experienced a termination or know someone who has. Even if you’ve exceeded your KPIs, even if you’ve dedicated years to a particular company, that dreaded conversation may find its way to you at some point.
It’s never an easy conversation to have. Barring a redundancy package good enough for an early but active retirement, you’re left with some big questions. What brought this about? Where do I go next? Was I actually not as good as I thought I was? How can I turn this setback into positive, forward movement? Will I have to do this alone or will I receive professional outplacement support?
The good news: With the right approach and the assistance of a first rate, experienced outplacement consultant, you might look back on that conversation as a necessary and very positive moment in your career development. You might even send your former manager a thank you note! Probably not a good idea—but feeling that way is something to shoot for. As suggested here in HC magazine, many outplaced professionals end up happier in their new roles.
Obviously not everyone is fortunate enough to get the outplacement/career transition support they need. Regardless, however,In my dealings with professionals across many fields over three decades, I encourage giving some thought to likely scenarios around making a career transition, supported or not.. As this article in Strategic HR Review suggests, most companies begin planning for outplacement long before cuts are announced. Most professionals, on the other hand, only begin planning after the fact.
The following points are certainly relevant to individuals going through the career transition process—but they also hold value to those who see no end in sight with their current employer.
1. Don’t Panic
When people are forced to make a career transition, there’s a strong instinct to grab the first available opportunity. This keeps the income flowing and alleviates the sense of drift. It also allows you to think of your redundancy package as a bonus.
In career development, a bonus is never as fruitful as an investment. Take a deep breath and think about what you want in your next role. What type of industry, company and position appeals to you? This is a rare moment in working life when we actually have the chance to change our professional trajectory.
2. Prepare, prepare, prepare
Now that you’ve had a Zen moment, prepare for the job search. Pull your past resumes together, look for ways to expand your network of contacts, and cleanse your online presence—especially your LinkedIn profile.
I also encourage people to go beyond these obvious measures. Begin a new exercise regimen. Think about your achievements. Consider your strengths and weaknesses. Get your “interview uniforms” cleaned and ready to go. Find a quiet, dedicated space from which to run your operations. These are important ways to create that broad sense of readiness and forward motion.
3. Be methodical and goal-oriented
You’ve been through a lot, but long lunches (or worse, TV dramas with multiple seasons) won’t help your case. This job market is teeming with competition, so make the days count!
• Incorporate exercise and family time
• Set up a call program to make contact with your network
• Aim to personally visit 5-8 contacts per week
• Set up meetings with people in your industry
• Work through SEEK and other websites
• Meet with career consultants
• Incorporate time for reading papers and websites to learn which industries are hiring and which are not
• When it comes to delivering your resume and covering letter, don’t delay
A word about placement consultants: They can be of great help, but they only handle about 30% of all available jobs. The other 60-70% of the iceberg is hidden. Tap into it by increasing your networking efforts and approaching companies directly.
4. Tailor your resume and covering letter
Recruiters can only make a decision based on the data you provide—so make that data count! If you’re applying to an advertised role, read the ad carefully. Highlight the selection criteria and address each point in your documentation.
The covering letter is key, since most recruiters will read that first. It should fit on one page. It should be well-designed with loads of white space. This is your chance to show the reader how their requirements and your experience form a match. Make the reader enthusiastic about going on to read your resume. Likewise, the resume itself should be tailored to reflect the match between what the company needs and what you offer. The positive impression created by your covering letter should be clearly reinforced.
5. Follow up
The interview, and everything leading up, was a chance to set yourself apart from the crowd—but if you stand back after that, you’re leaving quite a lot to chance.
Drop a quick line after the interview. It’s a good way to thank the company for their time and reinforce your interest in the role. If the job doesn’t come your way, make another call. This time, seek feedback on how to improve your interview performance. Always thank the individual for their thoughts, and take them on board.
6. Take control and maintain your activity levels
This is one of the most competitive job markets in recent memory, and navigating through it can take time. It’s easy to lose heart and feel your morale drop—but if you do the right things in the right ways, the right number of times, the right job will surely fall for you.
So—like a marathon runner, stay in control and keep the rhythm strong. If you need to adjust over time, build that adjustment into your plan. Stretch yourself. Test the limits of your comfort zone. Be bold and hang in there. It will happen!
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