Ask Sheri

Laid Off - What Next?

Feb 20th, 2016

I've recently been laid off from my telecommunications job of 7 years, in Hoffman Estates, IL. Although I'm aware of the tough economy, it came as a complete shock to me, as there were many others with less seniority (younger) with worse results, that weren't touched. When I asked the HR representative before leaving, he/she would not discuss the others on the list or not on the list, only that they "wished me well" and then handed me a packet outlining my severance. I haven't interviewed for a job in several years and want to ensure I don't spin my wheels using an outdated approach. What might be some advice in landing my next position? I'm in my mid 40's and still have many years until retirement. I also hold a Bachelors of Arts degree from Loyola University.

Sheri's Response

Unfortunately your story is all too common these days. Strong performers with good experience and educational backgrounds are released from organizations that were once stable and in solid financial positions. The first thing I would say is to ensure your downsizing isn't "personalized". You need to step back and review the situation carefully and not let what has occurred affect your ability to market yourself. As tough as this sounds, this is the time where you need to remain positive and forward looking, exerting the upbeat energy that will help you obtain the next role. Recruiters and hiring managers quickly sense someone bitter or negative when even just phone interviewing. When your prospective employer asks you about why you left your former company, a simple answer could be "I was part of a large reduction in force, through no fault of my own." Don't elaborate unless asked for additional information.

Relative to an employment strategy, I would first recommend conducting some initial soul searching. You mentioned you have many years until retirement, so plot out a few key objectives. How many organizations do you anticipate working for before actually retiring, one, two or more? If it's one or two, begin evaluating benefit packages (i.e. pension/401(k)) that could match your personal goals the best. If you operate more comfortably in a small to mid-size firm, begin targeting this size company (initially). What type of industry suits you best? Although others might say this is not the time to be choosy, I would still give it a shot. There are employers hiring now and it's about showing them initiative and what you can offer. Relative to your resume, these days employers are looking for not only what you were responsible for (i.e. duties), they are specifically analyzing bottom-line results stemming directly from your performance. If you were a revenue producer, highlight the numbers/results. If you worked in an overhead department, highlight the cost savings. Quantify your value. You should also be posting your resume out on various databases, in addition to e-mailing your information per a specific job posting. Resume Rabbit is a good source, which is essentially a broker for several other databases. These databases are widely used by all size employers, who would rather datamine resumes which match their profile versus paying for a posting. Some even use softwares that electronically pull candidates matching particular target words.

Finally, I would take advantage of today's social networking arena. Ensure you have a profile completed on either LinkedIn, FaceBook or Plaxo Pulse. Twitter is also becoming a popular tool for blogging purposes. After completing a profile, obtain as many recommendations as you can through the system. Recruiters review these sites for candidates and have found the ease and cost-effectiveness advantagous. Old-fashioned networking is also still a wise investment, where you may try reconnecting with several colleagues from past employers. This strategy can even include asking certain employers for informational interviews. The actual informational interview at hand may not come to fruition, however that individual may know of someone else who could use your services.

All in all, your track record of seven years at your former company bodes well, as does your education. Although this search will require stamina, I wouldn't get discouraged if the first few doors remain closed. When it does happen for you, you might even obtain a position with a better benefit package or pay increase. You will land, its only a matter of time.