Career Counselor Edythe Richards’ recent job layoff gave her a chance to put her own job advice strategies into action on herself.
3 months ago, I was informed that my job was to be eliminated due to budget cuts. For 15 ½ years, I had been with the same employer. I was a career counselor, specializing in mid-senior level adults in career transition. The irony was not lost on me. I was in the very same position as the folks I’ve helped over the years, feeling the same emotions and fears, and going through the same hardships.
My story has a happy ending. I will start my new job a week from today. It is a better work environment, better benefits, and more money than I could have anticipated. I was also able to secure a generous severance package from my former employer, so I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome.
Recently, someone told me, “Edythe, you’re extraordinary. That’s why you were able to rebound so quickly.” While I appreciate the comment, I disagree. I’m no different from you. There is nothing extraordinary about me or about what I did to land a new job.
The only advantage I have is that I’ve watched hundreds of job seekers over the years bounce back – or not – from layoffs. There is always a reason why a job seeker is or is not successful in their efforts. These successes (in my opinion) boil down to 3 things:
- Lack of opportunities. There are industries and positions that may not be available in a particular area/region. This is something that is difficult to control or change without moving to an area with greater/better opportunities, or doing what it takes to get on the radar of employers who hire for the targeted position(s).
- Lack of knowledge/skills. In addition to keeping your own industry skills up-to-date, it’s important to know that resumes aren’t written or screened as they were even 5 years ago. Many job seekers’ job search skills are outdated, and as a result, they aren’t getting interviews. This is easily fixed by taking a seminar or workshop on today’s Best Practices in job search and resume writing and implementing that knowledge in practical ways.
- Lack of Emotional Intelligence. This is the big one. Please trust me when I say that whatever you’re feeling on the inside – whether it’s desperation, anger, confusion, or depression – is going to come across in your job search, whether you’re conscious of it or not.
After my layoff notice, I only applied to 3 jobs, and I received a 100% response rate because I tailored my resume to each one. I was very specific about what I wanted to do and how my skills, background, and passions factored in. I interviewed for 2 of these 3 positions and received 2 great job offers. This was not an accident, nor was it mere luck. It required a lot of soul-searching, working through barriers, self-care, and yes, Emotional Intelligence. These are things you can do too, but it will require confronting things that are not always comfortable or easy.
My layoff became my success, and these are the 10 most important things that I did to make that happen. I hope these inspire you in your own search or transition.
- Have the right emotional frame-of-mind. This is, by far, the single most important thing you can do. Research has shown that your attitude is what matters most in recovering from a job loss. Blaming yourself or your employer ultimately isn’t going to help, but resiliency requires taking time to grieve. If you refuse to deal with your emotions directly, you may find inappropriate ways to vent your frustrations (like lashing out or withdrawing from others), and this will impact how others (including interviewers and potential networking contacts) perceive you. We all move through the grief process at different paces, and it is important to take the time you need to “be good with yourself.”
- Know your rights. If you’ve lost your job, there is no doubt you’re concerned with finances and benefits like health insurance. There is no law that requires employers to pay you a severance, except in situations like the WARN Act, or for union employees. DO NOT sign any agreement without carefully reading the parameters, your employer’s and jurisdiction’s specific policies, and/or consulting an attorney.
- Be strategic. A successful job search requires knowing what you want – the more specific, the better. If you’re just looking for a job – any job – you’re going to come across as desperate. If you’re targeting multiple types positions or industries, or you aren’t sure what you want to do, my suggestion is to talk to a career counselor or coach who specializes in these areas before embarking on a job search.
- Let others help. Many studies show that a primary factor in recovering from a job loss is having caring and supportive relationships within and outside the family. The people you surround yourself with will impact how you see yourself and what you do to improve your situation. I was pleasantly surprised to find how many friends and acquaintances wanted to help me, and this is a testament to the good relationships I’ve built and maintained over time.
- Get out there. Even for the most Introverted job seeker, connecting in-person is vital. You’re going to have to convince employers to hire you, so developing and maintaining interpersonal skills is crucial. I attended several job fairs and events where I knew there would be no available positions or people to connect with, but the very act of attending these instilled confidence. This confidence was what propelled me to apply for the job I later accepted.
- Take care of yourself. It’s very easy to sit in front of the TV with a bag of chips when things aren’t going well. Know that mental and emotional resilience are tied to physical resilience. Getting enough sleep, eating right, and exercise all form a baseline for your recovery. Being outdoors and being physical provided me clarity and an outlet for negativity that would have otherwise prevented me from moving forward.
- Be mindful of your digital presence. The (one and only) interview for the position I accepted started with my interviewers stating, “Edythe, we’ve checked you out. We listened to your podcasts and they are excellent.” I am convinced my strong digital presence got me not only the interview, but the job offer. Now this doesn’t happen overnight. I spent years cultivating my LinkedIn presence and building my website. But face it folks: employers are going to google you. SEO is a science, and your digital footprint is more important than ever.
- Understand today’s modern job-search realities. JobScan has been a tremendously useful tool for me and for many job seekers I’ve worked with. Today’s resumes need to be accomplishment-driven, tailored every time they’re sent out, and optimized for Applicant Tracking Systems. Additionally, though many job seekers continue to rely on indeed.com and other job aggregators, most people do not receive jobs this way. Even with all of today’s technology, it’s still about who you know and your relationships and reputation with those people.
- Practice and prepare. Preparing for an interview isn’t just reading the job description. It’s about knowing the culture of the organization and what they’re seeking in a candidate and framing your responses to common interview questions accordingly. If you’re invited for an interview, you’ve already outshined your competition in terms of technical skills/experience. From here on, it’s about successfully relating to and connecting with your interviewers. If you’re going on interviews without getting job offers, get some honest feedback about your communication skills and interview style. And do something to fix it.
- Be grateful. If this experience has taught me anything, it’s how to be thankful for what I have. This wasn’t easy. But when I practiced genuine acts of gratitude, I felt a transformation in myself that impacted my overall well-being. I had the confidence to apply for that job that I wasn’t sure I had a chance with. I interviewed with conviction, and I got that job. So practice small acts of gratitude and see how it feels. Write a thank-you letter after an interview or networking meeting. Maintain your network. Help others when you can. And express appreciation for your family and friends. You’ll see tangible benefits in the perseverance, confidence, and hope this instills in you.
I’ve documented my journey on an upcoming podcast series, and if you liked this article, I hope you’ll tune in. Above all – please do whatever works for you and gets you the results you want. Happy hunting!