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Laid Off - Now What? The Advice I Give to Anyone Embarking on a Job Search

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Several years ago, I was a guest on the Price of Business radio show discussing what to do if you lose your job. Back then the economy was doing well nationally, but Houston was starting to struggle. Since December 2014, the start of the energy downturn, energy job losses nationwide have totaled over 155,500, and the current downturn in the energy market looks mild compared to what has happened globally as a result of COVID-19. The numbers are staggering. As of July 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate is at 10.2%, while the current number of unemployed persons is reported at 16.3 million. Although no one is predicting that the worst is over, the country is starting to adapt to an uncertain future, and there is hope for those out of work. 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.” I counsel people to put in the clutch for the day, maybe a weekend. Anytime you’ve been laid off, whether it’s expected or not, it’s the 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 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? Would you like a different type of job? Do you want to work in a new industry or culture? Are you considering a different location? Look at the loss of your job as a clean slate to explore new and different opportunities. Who do you know working 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 did and didn’t work. If you want to change fields, have at least two resumes—one for the field you come from and one tailored to that which you are interested. For 30 years I have recommended 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

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, have an up-to-date resume to record your accomplishments in each role you have held. If you need to prepare your resume, understand that you may need help. Just as it’s hard to be your own doctor or lawyer, it’s hard to compose your own resume. Ask friends to proofread or use one of the many professional resume writers, which 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 to other LinkedIn members who hold similar positions to yours or the one you aspire to for profile examples. It’s also very 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 that if an employer wants to hire a Texas A&M grad who went to graduate school at the University of Colorado and works in finance, they can tailor their search for those results. It is that easy. Additionally, you can only connect with people who are one, two, or three degrees away from you, so 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 Few Quick LinkedIn Tips

1) Have a fairly detailed background with a profile picture. One study found that you are 16 percent more likely to be called or contacted if you have a picture.

2) Spend time updating your connections via LinkedIn. Connect with your previous colleagues, managers, and mentors. If you’ve dealt with outside consultants, lawyers, and accountants, connect with them as well. “Linking in” with as many people as possible should be considered part of your “day job” now that you’ve been laid off.

". . .anger and sadness will not help you get another job."

3) Are you a member of a college, graduate school, military service, or industry specialization group on Linkedin? Connect with people in those groups who might be able to help. I went to Rhodes College, a small liberal arts school in Memphis, Tennessee, and I never turn down a request to help alumni. There is a kinship formed with people who have shared the same experience. Leverage that kinship.

Research Your City’s Book of Lists

Along with LinkedIn, your city’s “Book of Lists” is going to be one of your best friends in finding a job. For example, The Houston Book of Lists is published every year by the Houston Business Journal and lists the fastest-growing, largest employers, and best companies to work for in Houston. Other major cities such as San Francisco, Chicago, Atlanta, etc. also have a Book of Lists. 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 for.” Then go back to LinkedIn and ask, "Do I know anyone at that company?” It is much more effective to utilize your LinkedIn network and ask for an introduction, rather than submitting a resume through a company website. The personal connection will always work better. 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. If you are in the energy business, don’t overlook energy boutique firms such as The Energists, Preng & Associates, and Ducatus Partners. Keep in mind, they are retained search firms, 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.

Reach Out—Ask for Help

Start networking every day; look at it as a job to tell people you have been laid off and are seeking a new opportunity. Set a goal of making ten contacts a day. Ask for help—people are so willing to help. “Thank you for letting me share my resume with you. Are you aware of any organizations or opportunities that would be a good fit?” Whether they say yes or no, thank them and ask them how you can return the favor. By doing that, you get your contacts thinking, “This is a two-way relationship, and how can I help?”

The Emotional Highs & Lows

While it is normal to go through every emotion—panic, sadness, hopelessness, despair, anger, you name it—during the grieving process, remember that no one wants to hire someone angry with their last employer or who is feeling sorry for themselves. During my 35 years in the search business, I have observed that a positive attitude makes a great difference. There can be hope and anticipation in looking for a job that is an even better fit . Truth be told, some people who are laid off weren’t that happy in their jobs anyway. The sooner you see this as an opportunity to not settle but instead go for a better fit, the better your results will be. Also, 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, or volunteer to give something back while you are searching.

Final Thoughts

The hardest part about looking for a job, especially for those who have not changed jobs frequently, is the rejection. It may feel personal, even though it is not, and rejection—“nobody wants me”—is certainly difficult. View it as there is “X” number of calls, emails, and resumes that I will need to submit to get a job. I don’t have a magic number for how many; maybe it’s 100, maybe it’s 500. Consider it as kissing a lot of frogs to find the right person, which is an important exercise, and commit to it every day; after all, looking for a job is your new job. We are in a tough economy, and many people are in the same boat. Although we have never seen a downturn or pandemic like this before, we have seen business downturns before, and sadly we will see them again. There are not two winters in a row, and one of life’s givens is that nothing stays the same. Today, for many people, it feels that the global pandemic and its resulting unemployment will never end. It will. Things will improve and one day jobs will be plentiful and the world will look brighter. That, I can promise.

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Jane Howze

Jane S. Howze, J.D.

Managing Director