"You're Fired!" Now What? Survival Strategies
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Chances, are, you saw it coming. You no longer have a job. Technology, globalization, and fierce competition have created a tough job market. Downsizing. Re-aligning. Right sizing. Regardless of the cold corporate rhetoric, to protect yourself you must have an action plan.
Here are survival strategies to help put you back in charge of your career.
Stay calm: Do not waste time being fearful, angry, or depressed. Try to look at your situation philosophically. Cold comfort though it may be, lots of smart, effective, hard-working people lose their jobs these days through no fault of their own. You have to remain focused and clear-headed. Resiliency is key to your landing on your feet.
Negotiate: If possible, negotiate with your employer. Are you eligible for a severance package? Can you get paid for vacation days you've accumulated? Can you continue to use your office during your job hunt? Will your employer pay for your health insurance? In Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, authors Roger Fisher and William Ury offer this general principle: "Before you even begin to negotiate, it makes sense to envision what a successful agreement might look like." Your goal is for you and your employer to part ways amicably. Never burn bridges. For one thing, you will need strong, positive references for your job search.
Update your resume: If your resume is out-of-date, update it now. And even if you have an updated resume, review it to make sure you have focused on quantifiable results. How have you contributed to the bottom line, in terms of boosting revenue, cutting costs, improving customer satisfaction, and enhancing productivity? Continue to fine-tune your resume. Remember also to customize it to suit the specific job for which you're applying. Sending the same generic resume to all prospective employers will sell you short. Specific, quantifiable results will differentiate you and help you stand out from the competition. Plus, they help prospective bosses understand how you can help them achieve their goals.
Activate your network: This is no time to hide. Accept all social invitations. Join all your alumni networks. When appropriate, cheerfully announce to everyone within earshot that you're looking for a job. Often, job openings are not posted: Many employers need your skills, credentials, and experience. It could be that meeting you in person will help them decide to create an opening for you. Use social media as well. Join LinkedIn and provide a detailed, results-oriented profile—and a photo of you looking smart, professional, and confident.
Volunteer: You most likely have a cause that inspires you. Hunger? Homelessness? Child abuse? AIDS awareness? Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL)? As you look for your next job, now is the time to offer your services to a nonprofit in desperate need of volunteers. In addition to demonstrating how effective you are at getting things done, volunteering keeps you in the flow of commerce. Setting priorities, meeting deadlines, and helping individuals, families, and communities improve their lives will give you the necessary sense of purpose—and self-confidence—to stay strong throughout the job-hunt game.
Think creatively: Consider working part time or as a consultant. Tactics like these often open doors. While you may not be making the salary or enjoy the job security you're accustomed to, part-time or temporary work can be a good interim solution. And if these options help you develop new skills, new contacts, and new insights for today's job market, all the better.
Work out: When you're looking for a job, don't forget to focus on setting physical fitness goals: It's more important than ever to convey energy and good health. Working out will improve your posture, brighten your skin, and enhance your outlook. Train for a bike race. Hike a challenging trail. Sign up for a 5K.
Enhance your skills: Never stop learning. Requirements in today's job market are rapidly changing. Is there a skill that you need to advance professionally? Is there a certification that would make you more desirable to today's employers? Investigate all your options for self-development. Learn a new language. Master a new technology. Read best-selling business books.
P.S. Even if you're 100 percent sure you will never be unemployed, these strategies will help you thrive. And, really, you never know...
–Susan Mach, PhD
Susan Mach, PhD, is a communication coach, trainer, and strategist. She teaches management communication part time at major NYC-area business schools, and investment research report writing at NYSSA.
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