Whether you're a veteran with 30 years of service under your belt, or a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed new hire, layoffs will indiscriminately affect you. This is also true of "survivors" who will be left behind to pick up the pieces (and workloads) of those who have gone. It is natural to feel a sense of overwhelm, loss, and anger in times like these - and in the case of survivors, guilt. My advice: Don't take it personally. Don't internalize a layoff as a failure on your behalf or lack of appreciation by your employer. Remember that this is business, dictated by bottom line profits, stocks, and shareholder interests. No matter how mean-spirited your employer may seem, nobody likes to fire or lay off people. Accept this as a fact of life in corporate America and move on to bigger and better things, without harboring any hard feelings. With the right attitude and preparation, you will land on your feet and be better off in your next job.
Granted, having to start looking for a new job and go through myriad drawn-out interview processes is not everyone's idea of fun, especially if you've been entrenched in an organization for multiple decades and have not had the need to hone your job search skills and techniques. Look at this as an exciting opportunity to start fresh. Consider all the options newly available to you:
- Seek another corporate opportunity
- Start your own business
- Become a free agent/consultant
- Join a contracting firm
Believe it or not, you have probably amassed a huge network of supporters and proponents during your corporate experience. Draw upon it to find your next job or insight into what you should do in your next chapter:
- Vendors and suppliers: Use your contacts in the companies with which you conduct business to seek out potential opportunities. They are most likely relevant to your industry and experience and they already know you from your established work relationship and good rapport.
- Customers: Make satisfied customers aware of your situation (without whining/complaining about it) and they will probably volunteer information about opportunities in their companies/departments as well as recommend you for hire (while pocketing a referral bonus in the process!).
- Professional associations: Network with members of local and national professional groups in your field of expertise. For HR, think of SHRM, SIOP, ODN and so on. Their web sites will provide you with a wealth of information, membership rosters and other invaluable leads.
- Agencies/Search Firms: Remember all those harassing calls you keep getting from headhunters and agencies looking to place their candidates in your company? Now it's time for you to call them back and have them work for you. If you have somehow surreptitiously managed to avoid getting on headhunters' radar screens and desire to remain in the same industry in which you currently work, find out what search firms and contracting companies your present company uses (through your HR or Supplier Management departments), and approach them about opportunities with some of their other clients (a.k.a. your company's competitors).
- Internal network of influence: Check with current and former bosses within your company to see if opportunities exist in growing areas of the business or if they are aware of opportunities outside the company for which they could put in a good word for you. Continue checking internal job postings for new jobs until your very last day on payroll; you'd be surprised how many people get "saved" at the last possible moment (but don't count on it).
- External network: Contact old bosses, friends, ex-coworkers, family members or church/Little League/PTA peers who work for other companies that may be hiring.
- The Web: Post your resume on the abundance of local and national Internet job posting boards (including vault.com, hotjobs.com, monster.com. and so on) and apply for jobs online. If you're feeling nostalgic, check out the jobs in the Sunday paper, too.
I can't stress enough the importance of leaving your current situation on good terms. Keep in mind Disney's incessant tune reminding us what a small world it is out there. Chances are, you will run into your coworkers, bosses, and subordinates again some day and the reporting roles, structures, and relationships are not guaranteed to be in your favor.
The cyclical nature of business and economic vitality portend that employees will face certain periods in their careers where they will be wooed by companies and other times that they will be spurned. Recent media stories have focused on an economic slowdown and its resultant layoffs (also masked with all-too familiar euphemisms such as "downsizing" and "rightsizing"). This means that a lot of people will be faced with the daunting task of starting anew.