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Laid Off - Now What? The advice I give to anyone embarking on a job search

Last month I was a guest on the Price of Business radio show discussing what to do if you lose your job. It is a timely issue. Since December 2014, the start of the energy downturn, energy job losses nationwide have totaled over 118,000, many of them in Houston. Although many believe the worst is over, that is not much help to those who unexpectedly find themselves in the job market. So what to do?

The first thing most people say is, “I’ve got to get my resume done asap, I’ve got to get going.” What I counsel people to do is to put in the clutch for the day, maybe for a weekend. Anytime you’ve been laid off, whether it’s expected or not, it’s a death of a part of your life, a part of your career. It’s really important to pause and grieve for the loss—the financial loss, the career hiatus, the loss of self-esteem and confidence, whatever the loss you may be feeling. Pause and reflect, feel the sadness, and go through your grieving process. If you’re angry, reflect on that too, because anger and sadness will not help you get another job.

Take Inventory
What do you want to do? Do you want a different type of job? Would you like to work at a different type of company? Are you considering a different location? Look at the loss of your job as a clean slate to explore different types of opportunities. Who do you know who works in the field to which you aspire? Talk to them, reach out to former mentors and managers. If you know people who have been laid off and are now working, get their insight on what worked and what didn’t work. If you want to change fields, have at least two resumes---one for the field you have come from and one more tailored to the field in which you are interested. For thirty years I have recommend the book “What Color is Your Parachute.” It is updated every year and always offers good advice for those searching for the ideal job.

Get Going On a Resume
Take inventory. Most people already have an up-to-date resume; hopefully, you do too. My philosophy is no matter how happy you are in your current role; you should have an up-to-date resume just to record what you’ve accomplished in each role you have held. If you need to prepare your resume, understand that you may need help. Ask friends to proofread. Just as it’s hard to be your own doctor or lawyer, it’s hard to do your own resume. There are many professional resume writers. It can be a good investment. However, make sure that the person you hire can give you references, a fixed price and examples of resumes that he or she has prepared for people holding similar positions.

Start with LinkedIn--- A No Brainer
LinkedIn is a valuable tool that you can use in several different ways. Look at examples of other LinkedIn members who hold similar positions to yours. It’s really important to understand how LinkedIn works. The more people you are connected to, the more easily you can be found by recruiters and corporations who use LinkedIn. LinkedIn is so finely tuned now, if someone wants to hire a Texas A&M grad who went to graduate school at the University of Colorado and works in finance, it is that easy. You can only connect with people who are one, two or three degrees away from you. The more people you connect to, the more likely you are to be found. We have written several blogs in the past about using LinkedIn. You may find them useful.

A Couple of Quick LinkedIn Tips

1) You should have a fairly detailed background with a picture. One study says you are 16 percent more likely to be called or contacted if you have a picture.

2) Spend time updating connecting with people via LinkedIn. Connect with your previous colleagues, managers, mentors. If you’ve dealt with outside consultants, lawyers and accountants, connect with them as well. LinkedIn with as many people as possible, this is what I would call part of your “day job” now that you’ve been laid off.

Research Your City’s Book of Lists
Your city’s “Book of Lists” is going to be one of your best friends in finding a job, along with LinkedIn. For example, The Houston Book of Lists is published every year by the Houston Business Journal and lists the fastest growing companies in Houston, the best companies to work for in Houston, and the largest employers in Houston. Look through your city’s Book of Lists; see if there are any companies where you can say, “I’ve always heard this was a great company to work at.” Then go back to LinkedIn and ask, "Do I know anyone at that company?” It is so much more effective to use LinkedIn to see who you know and then ask them to make an introduction, rather than submitting a resume through a company website. The personal connection will always work well. Use the Book of Lists.

Submit Your Resume to the Leading Executive Search Firms
If you are a manager, officer or C-suite executive, upload your resume to the websites of the largest search firms: Korn/Ferry, Spencer Stuart, Russell Reynolds and Heidrick & Struggles. Remember they are a retained search firm, which means that they only represent employers, and if they have not been retained to work on a search that requires someone with your qualifications, they will not call you. Their business is not helping the job seeker, but usually the searches for which they are retained are interesting and high-level positions. If you are in the energy business, don’t overlook energy boutique firms such as The Energists, Preng & Associates, and Maxwell Drummond.

Reach Out—Ask for Help
Start networking every day; look at it as a job to tell people you’re laid off and seeking a new opportunity. Set a goal of ten contacts a day. Ask for help—people are so willing to help. “Here’s my resume. Are you aware of any company or opportunity that would be a good fit for me?” If they say yes or no, thank them and ask them how you can return the favor. By doing that, you get people thinking, “This is a two-way relationship, and how I can I help this person?"

The Emotional Highs & Lows
I have said that you have to go through the grieving process for the loss of your job. And this is true. During my 35 years in the search business I have observed that a positive attitude does make a difference. No one wants to hire someone who is angry at their last employer, or feeling sorry for themselves. It is normal to go through every emotion—panic, sadness, hopelessness, despair, anger—you name it. There is also joy and hope about finding a new job that is even a better fit. Truth be told, many people who are laid off weren’t that happy in their jobs anyway. The quicker you see this as an opportunity not to settle but to go for a better fit, the better your results will be. Spend time visualizing and dreaming about the type of job you want. Do things that will keep your spirits up. Spend time with friends who are uplifting and want to help. Volunteer. Give something back, while you are searching.

Final Thoughts
The hardest part about looking for a job, especially for those who have been employed by a company for a long time, is that you will have to deal with some rejection. It’s not personal. It may feel personal; it may feel like you’re being rejected—“nobody wants me”—but it really isn’t personal. You have to look at it as there are “X” number of calls, emails, resumes I need to submit to get a job. I don’t know what that magic number is, think about it as kissing a lot of frogs before you find the right person. You really have to go through that exercise. Maybe it’s 100, maybe it’s 500. Whatever it is, just commit every day, looking for a job is your new job. It’s a tough economy in parts of the country. We’ve seen this before, and sadly we will see it again. It’s part of the business cycle. It will change and it will improve. That, I can promise.

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Jane Howze

Jane S. Howze, J.D.

Managing Director