Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Are you ready to rebound?

How do you bounce back from losing your job?

With preparation - and with help, says employment consultant Martha Finney.

Earlier this month, Finney offered Squeeze readers five fine tips for that awful meeting when you're told you've been let go. Her suggestions resonated with readers - both unemployed and fearful they might be - as well as people on the other side of the desk.

We asked Finney, a Santa Fe-based employment consultant for more than 20 years, to talk about what comes next. She's is the author of nine books, including the recently released "Rebound: A Proven Plan For Starting Over After Job Loss."

How does that rebound happen?

Says Finney:

Don’t let it take you by surprise

If you’re receiving a paycheck, you’re at risk of losing it. This is the era of no-fault layoffs. And you could be a fantastic employee, completely tied into mission-critical projects with your company and still be called into the HR office for that terrible conversation.

Prepare yourself for the possibility that you might lose your job with only a moment’s notice by making sure your resume is absolutely up-to-date (it’s much easier to update your resume now while you’re relatively calm and feeling secure for the moment). Also, build a database of all your contacts – especially the ones that you can legitimately call your own but whose information resides on your office computer. You may not have the chance to recapture that data once you’ve been laid off.

Prepare financially, as well

Start saving money as aggressively as you can, of course. While you’re still on the company health plan, get all check-ups done now so you’ll have an up-to-date clean bill of health to present to your new health insurer. (This is also the time to lose weight because excess pounds will cost you in higher premiums later.)

If you depend on a company car, get a replacement car while you still have an income that qualifies you for a car loan. It’s been known to happen that an employee who has just been laid off is stranded at work because he had to hand over the car keys right then and there. How humiliating is that? To be standing on the curb, holding a box of your desk stuff, waiting for a cab.

Remember that the door back into the company could still be open

If you really enjoyed working for the organization and you were respected there, there are other working opportunities that you might want to be able to tap, either now or later. Maybe even another job. One person featured in Rebound talks of how she was so glad she kept her feelings to herself while she was being laid off (over the phone no less). Just a few weeks later, the same company called her back and offered her a new job, with a raise in pay.

It’s also important to remember that companies still need to get their work done – that work that you were doing before you got laid off. And who is more experienced than you at doing the job? So this could be a great opportunity for you to keep doing the work as an independent contractor -- giving you more flexibility in hours, as well as a possible increase in take-home pay.

Keep all of this in mind if you get fired. Resolve to keep your cool during the meeting itself. If you get emotional, get emotional. You’re only human. But don’t vent your anger to the people who are laying you off. It will only make the inevitable much more difficult for everyone concerned. And you could be destroying relationships that will come in handy very soon.

Remember that you have just entered a new phase of your life and joined a whole new community.

If you have children, keep in mind that they are learning how to handle future emergencies and uncertainties in their own lives by watching you now. Recognize this time as an opportunity to model for them the behaviors and life outlook that even in this time of uncertainty, you know in your heart that everything will be okay. They’ll draw from your example when they’re grownups, facing their own crises. And will be inspired by the memory of these days and months (hopefully not years).

As for the community you just joined: You have just joined an ever growing group of people who have the chance to rediscover in a fresh way the essential truth that our value as people isn’t dependent on our job titles and paychecks. This is bound to become a global village – if it hasn’t already – and now is our chance to recommit ourselves to helping each other out, without judgment, but with compassion and creative problem-solving. Everyone interviewed for Rebound landed beautifully in their next jobs because of the people they knew.

The old truism, “it’s not what you know but who you know,” used to be considered a bad thing – a cynical reference to the assumption that your prospects are limited if you’re not networked into a high-powered group. Well, in this era of no-fault layoffs, we are all equally empowered by the people we know. But more than that: We’re empowered by the people we care about and who care about us.

We’ll get through this time. But the best way we’ll get through it is with each other.


chupacabra said...

I would recommend taking home some personal stuff. It is amazing how quickly pictures and little toys stack up at work.

I swore after I was laid off a few years ago that I would never have more than a printer box of personal stuff at the office again, especially if I thought I was going to lose my job.

Anonymous said...

Peter, the timing of your column isn't the greatest, considering that 80 Observites got the axe yesterday. It is a good column, but the newspaper is totally classless to run it today. Of all days.

pstonge said...

Anon, 3:53: I can't imagine anyone in the building feeling good about our cuts yesterday - just as employees at so many companies have felt terrible during the layoffs we see and report. This post is intended to help equip those people. I hope it's taken in that spirit.