Finding out your job is coming to an end is a shock. Here are strategies to minimize the impact.
The first quarter of the year is always a busy time for job transitions. Some professionals are proactively pursuing something new, but many others are forced into the job market as a reaction to an unplanned change with their employer. Reduction in workforce, layoff, position elimination, change in direction, forced retirement or just plain termination are all reasons given by employers as to why an employee’s job is coming to an end. While it is natural to be in shock that you are suddenly out of a job, future hiring outcomes are better for those who react swiftly and strategically. Here are some tips on how to get the best outcome when you are faced with an unexpected job termination.
Be Professional, Always. I heard an entrepreneur talk recently about the first major layoff he had to oversee. He had a growing tech company, but after some rapid expansion, could not generate enough revenue to maintain his larger team. His choice – fold the company or cut his staff to “must-have” personnel. He chose the latter. He and the management team opted to tell the employees as a group that they were being let go. Immediately following, they met with each employee individually to express their disappointment and explain the transition. Most employees were frustrated and angry. A few, although angry, told him they could appreciate how tough of a decision this was and expressed their interest in working with him again if the opportunity came up. He explained that he went out of his way to help the second group of employees and even hired many of them back later.
Unless you are truly doing a terrible job at work, chances are the person firing you feels bad about letting you go. You have every right to be upset, but acting unprofessionally will do absolutely nothing to help your situation. Maintain your composure, and you stand a much better chance of securing the best thing you can out of a layoff – an advocate for your next hire. Guilt is a powerful force. Use it to your advantage and you are likely to get a manager who will go out of their way to help you with job leads or be a reference for you when you are interviewing elsewhere.
Secure a Reference. Confirm that you were not terminated for cause. Cause means your actions have given the employer justification to end your employment – like absenteeism, poor work quality, bad attitude, tardiness, etc. Once you have ruled out that management isn’t using the word “layoff,” which implies “job elimination due to circumstances beyond your control” to mask that you are actually being fired, it is totally appropriate to ask if you can use your supervisor as a reference. It is also helpful to clarify how she would like to be contacted in the future when you require a reference. Work email, work phone or personal email or cell number are the most common options – but make sure you clarify the preference. Some companies have corporate policies that prohibit managers from providing formal employment checks. If this is the case, your manager might be willing to be contacted outside of business hours. Additionally, you can ask if she is willing to provide a reference on LinkedIn, as well. A recommendation on LinkedIn stays attached to your profile and can benefit you for your immediate and future search.
Explore Compensation Options. First, confirm if there is any severance and how paid time off will be handled. You can also ask if there can be expedited payout of commissions, bonuses, 401(k) or profit-sharing contributions that were going to be earned during the calendar year. Understand how health benefits will be handled. For example, if your last day of employment is scheduled for the last day of the month, ask if it could be changed to the first day of the next month, so that your health insurance would be covered for an extra month. That one day change could potentially save you hundreds to thousands of dollars in health insurance payments.
Inquire if the firm will need additional assistance with tasks while going through the transition. Often, when layoffs happen in one area of a company, unintended turnover happens in other areas. The most competitive employees seek out roles elsewhere because morale changes or they are concerned they are on a sinking ship. Businesses don’t always anticipate the “fallout,” and find themselves shorthanded. If you are in good standing, you might be a great interim resource to help cover unexpected gaps – especially if you can do it on a part-time basis. You make extra money, maintain your relationship with your employer and have time to look for a new role.
Get Flawless Job Tools. It is never too early to have your job search tools (resume, LinkedIn profile) ready to go. Every networking call, job posting and referral will ask for your resume before they move to the next step – don’t make them wait or send them one that is subpar. Mistakes are the killers of a professional brand, so ensure that your image is without flaws. Common errors made by job seekers in a hurry to send a resume include typos, outdated information, misspellings, poor spacing, poor grammar and mixed fonts and point sizes. Plus, a great resume requires great writing – a concise, well-written summary and compelling descriptions of the impact you made in your roles. Your employer may be willing to pay for a career coach or resume writing professional to help you get “search ready” quickly. After all, it is a nice thing to do, but it also makes great business sense. Job seekers with strong resumes and online presence get interviewed more quickly. The sooner you are hired, the less time you may require severance or other financial tools offered to bridge your transition.
An experienced career coach or resume writer will also help with how to tell your story, present your background more effectively and leverage your network. Make sure you select someone who can add maximum value, which is usually not the cheapest option. Sadly, the longer you are unemployed, the harder it is to get hired. Your swift response and the investment you make early is rewarded with a shorter search cycle and a faster transition.