I was recently laid off. It was kind of a shock, but the company let about 400 of us go. So, I'm hitting the job hunt knowing there are at least 50 (of the 400) others chasing the same job descriptions as I am. I've always worked in HR and have lots of skills, but my confidence is flagging a little. I've been involved in hiring and am trying to get my head around the fact that I was expendable. I find myself wondering if I picked the wrong career and should go back to school, but that seems impractical. Any suggestions on how I can better move forward from here?
Losing your job is painful, and joining the other resume-polishers searching for work can be daunting. What is going to get you through this period of time best will be your own attitude and perspective. While you can't change what has transpired, you have full control on how you process it and use it to move yourself forward.
1) Be confident of your brand
The first thing you need to do is get a grip on your confidence. That's a make or break item you must keep intact. Fake mustered assurance will show up as a dissonance between the enthusiastic pitch and the message in your eyes. So, firm up your view of self and focus on those positive attributes that set you apart. Having trouble? Consider hiring a life coach or seeking counseling to remain clear on your forward path. Talk to friends, former co-workers, mom and dad, etc. Focus on your unique abilities, and remember your "package" of self, skills and experience is truly one of a kind -- even if it doesn't feel that way at the moment. Consider your "wins" -- the hires who out-performed, the employees you coached to greater success. Did you spotlight talent? Were you a casting director, benefit manager, rule maker or enforcement officer? Craft your narrative in compelling terms.
2) Evaluate your path
Is a return to school or a career change impractical? That depends. If you have cash reserves to float yourself for even a little while, this is a built-in opportunity to reevaluate. Many of us begin careers with the aim of achieving a lifestyle that will allow us to freely enjoy favored activities and hobbies. What if that were reversed? What if you instead creatively pursued a career, business or degree ancillary to one of your primary passions: travel, sports, fashion? Your income can grow over time, and you'll end up in the same place -- but having had the opportunity to live what you love along the way. Risky? Sure. But, it's even riskier to ignore growth opportunities in favor of a familiar rut.
3) Broaden your knowledge
If your best option is to merge back onto the same career path, pause to get a solid 360-degree perspective on it first. What has changed? Where is your industry headed? What are the opportunities, liabilities and unknowns? You will be more of an asset if you offer more than an experience rich resume. Accomplishments are great, but you are not a list. What have you learned and how could that help companies that are struggling to redefine themselves in these economic times?
4) Reestablish your relevance
How up-to-date are your skills? Our current knowledge edges toward obsolescence at a faster pace than it ever has in the past. Use this "free time" to learn and familiarize yourself with new trends. You needn't go back to school to learn. Learning is a lifestyle choice that will set you apart.
5) Above all, be positive
"Yes, this wouldn't have been my logical timing for a career change, but I've been mulling the idea for some time and am excited about hitting 'go' with the right company." This will set you apart from the guy who opens with, "I didn't really expect to be job hunting right now." Same situation, but the first response displays an energized perspective. Who would you hire?
Remember, it's about fit. Try to view any "no"s as answers and not judgments regarding your abilities. Envision yourself as a turning puzzle piece -- essential to the overall picture for some company or business. When you hear "no," add a mental "thank you" and forge on toward "better." The fact that your horizon is temporarily obscured does not change the possibility that your future is very good. You want absolutes? That would make for a pretty boring movie. Instead, be active in creating your story. Ready. Set. Go!
If you have a question for Heather, email her at Heather@heatherdugan.com and maybe she'll answer it in her next column!