Anyone who has ever lost a job knows the all-too-familiar walk of shame that you must do when the boss says it’s time for you to go. You gather your personal belongings in a box and shuffle out the back door to your car where you’ll either break down crying wondering what will happen to you and your family, or you breathe a sigh of relief that the burden of the specter of a layoff has been lifted from your shoulders.
Either way, there’s no easy way to face a layoff. There are those who will treat you like a leper, not making eye contact for fear that whatever misfortune that has caused you to lose your job will somehow leap forth from your body and infect them the next time layoffs come around.
The one thing that I’ve learned after being laid off twice during the most recent economic downturn is that nobody is immune to the bug. Hard worker, bad worker, boss’s friend, high-powered exec – if you work for a paycheck you can get laid off.
Over the years, I saw many of my friends get laid off from various media operations. I hate to admit it, but I know I fell into the camp of those who treated my co-workers who had contracted some incurable disease. So when I recently read that more of my friends and colleagues in the media were being laid off, I hoped that my response would be more supportive than in the past.
Having been down this road a few times, there are a few things I would offer to my fellow castoffs:
- Don’t take your layoff personally. Unlike a generation ago when losing your job meant you were underperforming, this economy is still fragile and layoffs continue to happen. But unlike when your high school girlfriend said it’s not you, it’s me, this time it really is about the health of the company.
- Be a professional and move on. It’s OK to be angry and hurt by a layoff, but going on social media to trash out a former employer does you no good. If you want a new job, show you can rebound and get things going again. People are attracted to positive people.
- Clean up your social media presence. By all means be sure your Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts do not have embarrassing pictures or posts. That drunken boat trip last summer at the lake where you mooned the neighbors will not help you land a new job.
- Get a LinkedIn account. Regardless of the type of work you are looking for, LinkedIn is the playing chip you need to ante into the employment game. Build your online profile with LinkedIn, but don’t stop with just a resume. You need to use this form of social media to build your contact business contact network and then work the system to your advantage. The key contact to your next job might just be one strategically placed keystroke away. Use your contacts to get introduced to the key hiring people at the companies you’re targeting. Find a person who can walk your resume into the hiring manager’s office so your online application doesn’t get filtered out by some algorithm-based hiring software.
- Build a traditional resume, and then build it again. It has to be error free. Often times, it has been years since you took a serious look at your resume. If you have a job, chances are you haven’t updated your resume since college. Once you have a resume, share it with a friend who you trust will look at it with a serious editor’s eye and not just tell you how great you are. Errors and typos can kill your chances. A lot of folks will tell you traditional resumes are dead, but usually these are folks who are trying to sell you their new resume service. Resumes and cover letters still matter.
- Plan your days. Your job is finding a new job, so treat it that way, and that means not spending your day in your jammie pants watching NCIS marathons – trust me, a Navy officer always dies and Gibbs always catches the bad guy in the end. Assign a set amount of time for job searches, learning new skills and getting out and exercising. Be disciplined –it will pay off.
- Don’t be afraid to tell people you’re looking. It’s not uncommon for people to lose their jobs these days. Chances are you’ll find your best job leads from friends, family and neighbors. The worst thing you can do is to hang your head and hide out. This will just lead to a cycle of worry and stress that is highly unproductive.
- MOST IMPORTANT: Never give up. Trust me, I went through more than 20 interviews before landing a part-time gig in my field, which eventually led to a full-time job. Be willing to try new things and learn new skills. Volunteer to do work. This can earn you some social currency and good job-seeking karma. Twice in the past five years I’ve started jobs on a part-time or conditional basis and they have grown into full-time jobs. Even in the down times, the skills I’ve picked up from these opportunities have turned into temporary jobs that helped to hone my skills, filled the gaps in my resume and, more importantly, paid the bills.
So if you’ve got a job, be thankful and count your lucky stars. And the next time a colleague does the layoff walk of shame, offer to carry that box to the car and make sure you stay in touch. They’re not dying, they just got laid off.