If you have ever been in the unfortunate position of being laid off, you are likely familiar with that pit-in-the-stomach, “OMG” moment when you realize that your life has drastically changed in an instant. I believe that many people in this situation, whether the layoff was expected or not, go through the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I know I did, and it takes every ounce of energy to get to that final place of acceptance. It is my hope that, by sharing my experiences and strategies, you will be well-equipped to prepare for and handle a job loss.
First and foremost, it is essential to recognize that nobody is immune from being laid off. Although it is a difficult scenario to even think about, being proactive is a wise approach and can prove invaluable in the long run. I always keep my resume up to date, adding experiences, publications, certifications and expertise along the way. This may save you from having to remember such important accomplishments when you may be under tight time constraints and/or increased levels of stress and anxiety.
Secondly, recognize that the processes of applying to and interviewing for employment opportunities have changed drastically over the years. Customize your resume and cover letters for the positions that you are applying for and include keywords that emphasize your specific skills and competencies to help boost your chances of being considered for the job. Some companies utilize automated processes to screen resumes and applications using programs that involve artificial intelligence (AI) or robotic process automation (RPA). Keep in mind that recruiters and hiring managers often receive a massive number of resumes for each position, so they may have to rely on these screening tools to narrow down the pool of qualified candidates. When customizing my resume, I often pretend that I know nothing about myself and have to describe my professional background and experience in as few words as possible. Then I review that list with a colleague to gain another perspective and to elicit ideas. It is also helpful to highlight the key words in the job description so that you may include them in your resumes and cover letters. Remember to be honest regarding your capabilities and areas of expertise.
Over the past few years, many of us have had to become more comfortable with remote work as well as remote telephonic and video interviews. Preparation and practice can be instrumental in becoming self-confident while utilizing video conferencing tools. Ask a colleague or friend to join an audiovisual call with you and, afterward, solicit feedback and advice as to how to present yourself in the best way. Keep in mind that eye contact, appropriate clothing and poise are essential. Act as if you are in the room with the person you are meeting. Oftentimes, it helps to practice in front of a mirror and, prior to the interview, place a small picture near the camera lens on your computer to remind yourself to look up in an effort to optimize eye contact and virtual engagement.
Are you familiar with the phenomenon typically known as “ghosting”? While ghosting can be associated with Halloween fun or a scary visit from the beyond, ghosting during a job hunt is a very disappointing experience that can result in significant damage to your self-esteem. Being “ghosted” resembles the following scenario. You have completed several interviews with a company that required many hours of research and preparation and have received very positive feedback and encouragement along the way. You have done all of the appropriate follow up and feel like you are just about to get an offer. However, you unexpectedly hear nothing more. Despite several attempts to close the loop and obtain helpful feedback, you may never hear from the company again. The hope is that we obtain constructive feedback and information regarding why we were not chosen for the position. Some companies will send you a formatted email indicating that you will not be moved forward in the interviewing process. While this may not be the ideal, recognize that at least they have gotten back to you. There are two key words to repeat to yourself if you are ghosted: Move on! It is very important to maintain your professionalism and just keep going. I understand that this is easier said than done, and I have been in your shoes. However, leaving those companies in your rear-view mirror should help you maintain your self-esteem and the confidence it takes to continue to seek the job that is meant for you.
Now comes the fun part! Network, network, network! While being unemployed can be a lonely road, networking brings us back to like-minded people and can make you feel whole again. Your colleagues and friends may be in the same situation, in which case you can work together to lend support, encouragement and references. I have found LinkedIn to be highly valuable in my networking efforts. It’s an easy way to reach out and connect, even if it has been a few years since you’ve been in touch with that person. Of course, there are many other options to connect on other professional and social platforms, so I would advise you to utilize what is most comfortable for you. Texting, emailing and talking on the phone with or without video can provide camaraderie and encouragement to both parties. Even better, try to meet for coffee and/or lunch, take an in-person or virtual class together, or even just chat while taking a walk outside. You will most likely be pleasantly surprised at how these strategies will enhance your self-confidence, motivation and hopefully your job prospects.
In next month’s issue, I will provide additional self-care advice along with a list of actionable items that will re-energize you and help you think about other exciting opportunities along your career path. I also invite you to support your colleagues by adding some of your own sage advice. Meanwhile, take special care of YOU!