From Fired to Hired
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Losing Your Job Can Be Less Painful—and More Productive
While it’s true that the 21st century job market is loaded with opportunities—think of 60 million Baby Boomers retiring—it’s also fraught with peril. Globalization, technology, and competition are impelling companies to do more with less money and fewer people. Those powerful forces can propel you into unemployment, no matter how smart, hard working, or effective you are.
Getting fired is never fun. But there are tactics that can help make losing your job less painful. What’s important is that you invest your time and energy strategically to getting a new job.
Rest: If you have just been fired—also known as being downsized, right-sized or made redundant—chances are you’re exhausted and stressed out. While I advise people who have lost their job not to wait passively for fate to deliver them from unemployment, I also advise them to get some much-needed Z's. Since it’s useless to spend more than, say, four hours a day actively seeking a job, recharging your batteries during your new-found downtime is important. When you go on interviews or you’re at a networking event, looking tired will subvert your efforts. Employers these days seek energy, focus, and a bright outlook.
Refresh: If you have been cheerfully oblivious to the realities of today’s job market, your resume looks exactly the same as the day you started working on the job you just lost. Lesson learned: You’re already losing precious time. Update your resumé. Now. And even if you’ve been updating your resume continuously, ask everyone you know and like and trust to review it for you and offer advice. My advice is to focus on the top one-third of the first page on your resumé. Instead of writing the old-fashioned, cliché-ridden “objective,” I recommend an offering statement. This statement tells anyone reading your resumé instantly what it is that makes you different. For example: “Combining leadership skills with a track record of bottom-line results, cross-functional experience, and an MBA from a top business school.”
Reconnect: The conventional way of looking for a job is to check out job ads either in newspapers or online. These days, your chances of getting a lead to your dream job are much better if you have a personal connection to someone in the company you’re aiming for or even in the industry. People who don’t strengthen and expand their networks—regardless of how busy/happy they are at work—are at a severe disadvantage when they need help, advice, insights about their job search.
Research: When you’re out of work, you have much more time to find in-depth information about the companies and industries in which you’re interested. If you don’t already have access to business databases, perhaps a local business school library—especially if it’s a public school, such as Rutgers University—will let you access their databases on site to conduct research.
Reset: As an independent business owner, I urge clients and MBA students to consider starting their own business. While the life of the entrepreneur is not for everyone, being between jobs can be an opportunity at least to think about going out on your own. Government resources such as the Small Business Administration and volunteer organizations such as the Service Corps of Retired Executives are standing by with advice that’s free of charge. In addition, to avoid the much-feared “gap” on your resume, consider volunteering at a charity organization that you’ve always wanted to work with. After all, being unemployed is hard on the ego, but working to help people who are homeless and hungry surely will put your situation into perspective. Besides, it will show prospective employers you are action-oriented and committed to work towards goals you believe in.
–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.