Posted by: kenwbudd | March 11, 2009

Take Control – Shorten the Layoff

It’s easy to view a layoff as an end-of-the-world situation. Few experiences are scarier than losing your job and the risk to your financial security that it brings.

The emotions; fear, loss and desperation, that grip you after you’ve been laid off are unhelpful and potentially destructive emotions. They drain your energy, distract you from picking yourself up and effectively prevent you doing the work you need to do to find a new job. You know you cannot allow these emotions to consume you and must work at battling through them.

Dismiss and fight the thoughts that unemployment is the end of the world, it is only the end of a small chapter in your biography. It is a good opportunity to improve yourself and to open another fresh chapter. Find out what you enjoy doing and what you do well, it is possibly different from what you were doing. You have an opportunity to be better off and stronger, than you were before, both emotionally and economically.

The key to success is maintaining a positive attitude. This is especially so in an interview situation. Potential employers can detect a candidate’s fear and desperation, as easily as a shark can smell blood. Keep a stiff upper lip and play the most positive role of your life, being you.

Here are seven tips you can consider for getting through the initial layoff feelings, even in a bad economy;

1. Negotiate for the best package, for you.
Don’t think that you have to accept whatever severance package your manager or HR puts in front of you. Your severance package (everything) is negotiable, don’t feel pressured to immediately sign on the dotted line. Take the time to read the severance package, even if it’s 20 pages long.

Your employer gives you a hard time but hold your ground and tell the manager that it’s unreasonable and unacceptable for the employer to ask you to sign something, without first reading it in detail.

Beware of the covert threat, ‘If you sign this right now, you’ll get your best deal. If you don’t sign it, you’ll get a worse deal.’ You do not have to agree with their flawed logic. Tell them you have to sleep on it and take the document away from the office. This should not surprise them and they would be foolish to try and stop you. It is important that you study this document in detail and in a relaxed atmosphere. Seek objective and knowledgeable advice.

To help you prepare for severance negotiations, consult your contract and HR manual for information about what kind of severance package you should expect from your employer. That way, you can plan ahead of time what other elements of a severance package (e.g., career counseling, health insurance) you might need or can request.

If you require more information than what’s included in the HR manual, then seek out and politely ask other employees who’ve been let go, what they received for severance. It would be a good idea to form an ex-employee support group.

When it comes to actual negotiations, negotiate one perk at a time, whether it be the money, healthcare or career coaching, rather than going after the whole package. You will always get more if you look at one thing at a time. Your mantra should be, ‘I just want to be treated fairly and receive the support and benefits that I am due.’

Initially conduct negotiations on your own, without a lawyer, not just because of the expense but also once you get lawyers involved, it’s taken out of your hands and it becomes lawyers talking to lawyers. Its always better to try to work things out with your company in a congenial and rational manner.

2. Don’t defeat yourself
Remember that after you’ve been laid off, you will feel vulnerable. When you feel vulnerable, it’s easy to look to far ahead into a gloomy scenario and to sink into depression. It is difficult to resist those negative thoughts but for your own well-being and the success of your job search, you have to fight against it.

Do not dwell on all the reasons why your employer might have selected you for a pink slip, remember that the fundamental reason you lost your job economic not personal. Your employer was having trouble competing during this economic downturn, not because you’re a bad worker. Remember that high numbers of talented, hard-working professionals are getting laid off and that you are not alone in this. You still have great potential and will be a valuable employee at another more stable company.

There are still a large number of companies that are in desperate need of highly experienced, quality employees. There is something else out there for you, a great opportunity that will improve your future. You may have to work for it. You may have to study for it. You may have to manage the change.

3. Examine your finances, closely
If you have Excel or similar, build a spreadsheet model of your personal finances. Closely examine your outgoings, expenses and your savings, to determine, exactly how much money you’ll need to cover your expenses during the time you’re unemployed. You can hope for the best but plan for an extended period of time e.g., more than three months.

If you know your budget i.e. how much money you have on hand, it may put some of your anxiety to rest. It will be a bit of a reality check but if the exercise of planning your finances sends your anxiety levels and blood pressure through the roof, then try and turn it around to give you strong motivation to find a new job.

4. Make job-hunting your new job
Do not consider yourself a vitim and you are certainly not a prisoner in your own life. Stay active and take regular light exercise, it will help dissipate the negative feelings and increase your circulation. Now, its important to devote the time you previously spent at your old job to looking for a new job.

Your new job is 40 hours a week looking for employment. Stay busy and focussed on your task. Your mood and motivation may be a bit cyclic at the beginning. Be aware of this, recognise it but don’t lie down to it. Make a plan, build job seeking activities and keep a routine going.

By continuously working toward getting a new job, you bring structure and discipline to your life and you’ll feel better about yourself because you have stopped seeing yourself as a ‘vistim’ and you are taking control of your situation.

If you do this, you’ll find that you have less time to dwell on your recent layoff and less time to sink into the negative thought patterns that are associated with it. If these thoughts continue and become a problem do not hesitate to seek help and advice from your doctor. Short term, event driven depression is a well documented condition and can be readily treated but, like all illnesses, it needs to be diagnosed and treated early in its onset.

5. Expand your search
Do some research. You may have been out of the job market for some time. Find out what’s going on in your field or expertise, geographocal location and beyond. Find the success stories, the well-funded organisations, the new, new thing, etc. Its out there and it needs to be developed, manufactured, sold and supported. Where would you fit into this cycle?

Make a long list of industries and organisations in your chosen location(s), preferably those industries where you could put your skills and experience to good use. Don’t worry too much about who are advertising vacancies and might be hiring, just develop a long list.

You cannot de-select companies because you don’t want to work for them. You are just shrinking your pool and greatly reducing your opportunities. Be realistic, put yourself in a stronger negotiating position in the event one of those firms suddenly has a position for you. Simply consider them as a shorter term opportunity. Somewhere you can gather knowledge, experience, and extend your network. I guarantee you will meet some very good and interesting contacts, wherever you work.

6. Online applications and search firms
Although the Web is an invaluable resource for researching companies, it’s not always the best medium for submitting job applications and résumés. Some say that its not an original or unique way to find work, ‘If you can do it, about a million other people can do it, too.” Companies can get hundreds, even thousands, of résumés for one posting. That is not the best way to get a job but don’t dismiss it.

Explore your network to make contact with senior people and hiring managers inside the companies where you’re interested in working. You are looking for friends of friends or colleagues of colleagues. People who can introduce you directly to key managers.

Recruitment and search consultants may yield some help in connecting you with a new job but they are generally geared up for buoyant economic conditions, when there’s lots of competition for labour.

Rememeber to attend as many conferences or networking event as possible, somewhere you have the opportunity to make personal connections.

7. Stop reading bad news
Don’t pay too much attention to the news about the economy because the news is, by definition, always going to be attention grabbing; shock, horror and downright bad. It does make people very discouraged at a time when they need to stay optimistic. Your attitude, in the form of discouragement, negative thoughts and lack of stamina, is the biggest obstacle to finding a new job.

Employers want people who are flexible, resilient and open to and understand the need for change. Variety is the new constant!
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