40% of Americans have been laid off at least once in their career.
46% of employees reported that they were unprepared for their layoff or separation.
On average, it takes three to six months or more to find a new job.
Those are some staggering statistics. So, if there’s a likelihood you will experience a job loss at some point in your career, here are some best practices you can put in place to thrive during and after a job transition.
- Relax, Reflect, Plan: While losing your job can be traumatic, don’t take it personally. Many times, it’s just a result of a need to restructure, reduce costs, or other reasons out of your control. Your best strategy is to stay positive, move forward and leverage those things that are in your control to find your next best opportunity. It’s also a chance to reflect and discover what you really want to do, short and long-term. Look at this as a time to reset your compass so you can ensure you’re following your passion and what you’re good at. For help in this area, please visit my website homepage at blaisplus.com and download “The Leader’s Dashboard.” This tool can help you gain clarity to discover your next opportunity by clearly defining your career mission, vision, values, goals, competitive edge, priorities, areas for development, and building your network.
- Get Your Finances in Order: Since it may take several months to find your next opportunity, review your personal finances and calculate how much savings you have versus your monthly living expenses. This will provide how much time you have, so you can plan and adjust accordingly. If you’re not financially independent, which most of us aren’t, don’t wait to cut the non-essential expenses to give you more cushion and runway. Having enough money to support yourself and your family during your transition is one of the biggest stresses you will encounter, and it can cloud your judgment when evaluating new opportunities. For example, you could decide to take an opportunity that isn’t the right fit for you just to have a job, but that usually doesn’t end well. That said, sometimes you need to do whatever it takes to put food on the table, but we would like to avoid that position if possible.
- Identify Your Target Companies: Now that you have your plan in place, get specific about what companies you might want to work for. This is important for a couple of reasons. First, you can start identifying open roles with your target companies and apply for them if they’re the right fit. And second, as you begin your networking effort discussed below, it’s important that it’s clear how someone can help you. By sharing your target companies, individuals can identify if they know anyone at that company to introduce you to. This is extremely helpful because depending on the size of the company and their sophistication, many positions aren’t posted, as well as you can now move from a cold call to a warm referral. This can be huge in moving you to the top of the resume pile from the bottom, or not in the pile at all.
- Update Your Communication Tools: Your communication tools are critical to your search and include a resume, LinkedIn profile, elevator pitch and a networking brief.
- Resume: I think most people are familiar with a resume, so I won’t belabor that here. There are many tools available on the internet to help you, or you can contact a resume specialist for assistance.
- Linked In Profile: If you’re in the business world, hopefully you’re familiar with LinkedIn because it’s probably the most used networking tool. If you don’t have a profile, create one. If you have one already, make sure it’s current. There are many resources available to help with this effort if you need it.
- Elevator Pitch: When you’re networking one-on-one or even in a group you usually need to introduce yourself. This is the time to offer your 30 second “elevator pitch” which includes your name, what you do, what you are looking for | role(s) you are seeking, what previous experience and skills makes you uniquely qualified and how they can help you. There are many resources to help with developing your pitch.
- Networking Brief: When you’re meeting one-on-one, I find it very helpful to provide what I call the “networking brief” which is a one-to-two-page overview highlighting your objective, the value you bring to an organization, your preferred functions/ what you want to do, your strengths and areas of expertise, your ideal target company profile (i.e. geography, size, industries, culture, values), what role(s) you are seeking, and your target companies. This brief is different than your resume because it’s about your future, not your past, and is extremely helpful in a variety of ways. First, it enables you to organize your thoughts and get clarity about what you’re looking for. Second, you can share this brief in advance of your meeting providing time to put their thoughts together on how they can help you. Third, you can use it as you’re talking points during your meeting. And finally, you can use it as a follow-up after your meeting.
- Start Your Search Quickly: The best advice I ever received was to start your search early. While you want to take time to reflect, plan, and maybe even take some time off, I would recommend you act decisively regardless of your financial situation. Time during your search will go quickly and no one is focused on your career search as much as you are, so it will likely take more time than you want or expect.
- Search and Apply for Opportunities: It’s now time to start applying for posted roles through the many job boards and company websites. It can be painful with the automated Applicant Tracking Systems, but you must power through because you never know where your next opportunity is going to come from. Limit your frustration when you don’t hear anything back because that will happen more times than not. While automated systems have done wonders in making the hiring process more efficient for companies, in many cases it has removed human touch and empathy from the process.
- Tap into Transition Resources: When I moved to Cincinnati and began my transition, I was amazed how many transition resources were available. These groups usually meet weekly or monthly to connect, share content relative to a job search, and to help in a variety of other ways including assisting with building your elevator pitch, updating your resume, creating your LinkedIn Profile, career coaching, networking event lists, and many others. It’s also a great support system because everyone is in transition just like you, so they are eager to help one another. This is a great place to start your networking journey.
- Recruiters: There are essentially two types of recruiters when you think about a job search. The first is hired by a company to fill a position and the second focuses on representing individual clients like you to find a job. I would contact the various recruiters that focus on your specific discipline and industry to get on their radar so if they have an opportunity you can be considered. Keep in mind that many recruiters do national searchers so don’t just connect with your recruiters in your area. Plus, with the trend toward remote work your geographic options have expanded exponentially.
- Networking, Networking, Networking: Statistics suggest that 85% of jobs are found through networking. Some pundits feel that number is too high, and I would agree when considering ALL job searches; however, regardless of what the real number is, I think it’s still a large number and therefore networking needs to be a big part of your job search, if not the largest. As a result, get out there and meet people. There are many networking opportunities in every city, so find the avenues that work best for you. This could include one-on-one meetings (aka, meeting for coffee), job search groups, recruiting firms, volunteering, chamber of commerce, and many others. I would recommend you cast a wide net at first and then as you learn more from your discovery “coffee” meetings you can start to be more targeted to use your time wisely. Also, remember to treat these networking/ coffee meetings as discovery meetings to learn about the other person and how you can help them first. You shouldn’t expect them to have a job for you or know where you can find one. Networking is about building a relationship and if they can help in some way it’s a bonus. So be curious about their needs and how you can help them! This goes right to the heart of servant leadership.
- Ask for Referrals: Whenever you are speaking with someone, especially during a one-on-one networking meeting, make sure to ask for referrals but do so toward the end of the conversation. By asking for referrals, you’ll be amazed how fast your network grows. If you’ve been authentic and built some trust, they are more than likely to offer you additional people that you could speak with. If they identify someone, ask if they would be willing to make a warm introduction which is the best way to receive a favorable response. If that’s not possible, ask if you can reach out to the contact directly and use their name which is also very effective. Your networking guest doesn’t need any additional work to do so make it as easy as possible for them. And remember, if they are going to make an introduction for you it could take a couple days or more for that to happen, so be patient. While your job search is the most important thing for you, it’s probably not the most important thing for them.
- Follow-Up and Thank You Notes: When setting up meetings make sure you follow-up promptly. First impressions make all the difference, so make it a good one. Also, shortly after your meetings, make sure you send a quick follow-up note thanking them for their time, insights, and referrals (if they offered any). Sending a follow-up via email is adequate in most cases. However, if you really want to stand out from the crowd, send a handwritten thank you note!
- Treat Your Search Like a Full Time Job, Because It Is: There’s a lot to do during a job search that requires a significant amount of time. It truly is a full-time job, and you should work at it almost every day. Now, that doesn’t mean you need to work 8 – 10 hours every day, but you should work hard at it. The harder you work, the more momentum you build, and the quicker something positive is likely to happen. That said, a job search can be emotionally draining so make sure you take some time to relax and have some fun and lean on your support group as much as possible. There are a lot of ups and downs so share those with others to maintain your mental health and stay positive.
- Send a Job Search Update: As you continue your job search and depending how long it takes, one helpful technique to remain top of mind with your network is to periodically send an update about your job search. People are truly interested in your success even if you’ve only met once, so letting them know what you’re up to is very helpful. It’s also a non-intrusive way to push you to the top of their mental inbox so they can revisit how to offer additional assistance. And finally, when you land your next opportunity, and you will land, send an update letting your network know you landed and where, and thank them once again for their help and offer your assistance to help them where possible.
- Interviewing, Preparation is Key: As the baseball saying goes, you only get so many trips to the plate, so make sure you’ve done everything possible to get a hit. Ok, I think I just made that up, but it’s true. Do what you must to ensure you’re prepared to interview and shine when the opportunity comes. Here are a few best practices to consider; conduct mock interviews, video record yourself during practice to see how you can improve, research the company and your interviewers, practice your answers to key questions, dress for success, prepare your references in advance, prepare smart questions for the interviewer, take a notepad and pen to take notes, bring copies of your resume, arrive early, treat everyone you encounter with respect, and send a thank you note afterwards.
Thriving after a job transition or marking sure you’re prepared if one comes your way.
Those are my top insights to help you thrive during a job transition, but what happens next? One of the many challenges with a job transition is it takes a ton of physical and emotional energy. So, when you land it’s a big sigh of relief and we focus solely on our new opportunity. Having that focus is critical to ensure you start off on the right foot in your new role and knock it out of the park, so be sure to take that time. However, don’t lose sight of the staggering statistics on the odds of losing your job. While not totally in your control whether that will happen to you again, there are several mitigating factors you can consider to prepare for the future.
- Intentionally Work Your Career Plan: Hopefully you’ve taken the opportunity to create your long-term career plan. If you did, remain focused on working that plan with intentionality including:
- Investing in yourself by developing new skills and behaviors to remain relevant
- Networking – see #2 below
- Keep your communication tools current
- Networking, Networking, Networking: As we discussed above, being a strong networker is very powerful, both when in transition and in everyday life to help you solve problems by tapping into the knowledge of others. Now that you’ve landed your next job, don’t stop networking. Better yet, turn it up a notch. Get to know as many people as you can and become a super-connector. And make sure to expand your network across industries and functions to create the largest reach possible. Finally, meeting new people is great, but you also need to nurture and build existing relationships. Creating a balance would be prudent. One method to do that is to drop individuals you know a quick email from time to time to check in or grab a coffee. Another more passive method is to keep them informed by sending a group email once or twice a year just to update everyone on what you’re working on and offer your assistance to anyone who may need it.
- Build a Reserve/Emergency Fund: Now that you’re working again take time to build atleast a six-month reserve/ emergency fund and don’t touch it except for emergencies, that’s why it’s called an emergency fund. You want to keep this fund as liquid as possible so you can access it quickly if necessary. Then, if a layoff comes you now have a nest egg to help you weather the storm while reducing your stress.
- Pay It Forward: Now that you’ve landed, or even if you weren’t in transition, pay it forward by meeting with others in transition to help however possible. This is a great way to network and help others at the same time. Also, consider volunteering for things you believe in. Volunteering is also a great way to network and to help others at the same time.
A Side Note: When you’re creating your career plan many individuals say I really want to work for myself, do my own thing, start my own company. To that I say, awesome, and I would encourage you to do so for a variety of reasons!! But many of us are naïve about the hard work and time required to make that happen, especially depending on what level of income and benefits you’re trying to replace from your “job”. So, be very thoughtful about your course of action. If you don’t know what you’re doing be careful about jumping off the ledge and potentially digging a big financial hole for yourself that’s tough to climb out of. Take time while you have a “job” and do the upfront work of educating yourself on nights and weekends, so you are prepared when the time comes. Also, start small with a side hustle so you’re building your business while you have a job. This will provide the confidence that your business idea is profitable and sustainable and will give you a foundation to build upon when you’re ready to pull the rip cord and do your own thing full time.
Conclusion: As I said at the beginning, there’s a pretty good chance you will lose your job at least once in your lifetime. Remember, in most cases it’s out of your control and it’s not personal so stay positive and move forward. If you’re reading this and you’re currently in transition, I hope I’ve provided a good roadmap to help you find your next best opportunity. And, if you’re fully employed when you’re reading this, I hope I’ve provided some insights to help you take control of your future, and if a job loss comes, you are prepared to thrive through your transition. And finally, because I am passionate about the benefits of networking, please feel free to reach out and connect if I can be of assistance to you. I’m here to help however I can. Take care and be a leader today! Jerry Blais, email@example.com, 412-302-4298, www.blaisplus.com.