In recent days I have met several women and an equal number or more men who lost their jobs and are struggling to find new opportunities. They run the spectrum. One woman is a former special needs teacher who was downsized after nearly 25 years. Another was (up until now) a successful lawyer who had made a lateral move to a different and larger NY law firm after several years with her previous firm. Less than a year after making the switch she too was downsized.
The unfortunate part of both of these examples is that neither woman had really spent much time and effort in developing their networks of people who might be able to help in these tough circumstances. I was stunned particularly by how limited the lawyer's network is.
There are 100s of thousands of women and men in this identical position. The question is, what do they do about it? Most advice at a time like this is usually worthless but here are my thoughts nevertheless.
The first thing is to get into a positive frame of mind. Nobody wants to employ somebody who is moping around. You are in a tough spot but “pump” yourself up. Be convinced that you are going to find a better opportunity than the one you just lost. Why can’t you do that? If you don't believe in you who will? And if you do the "woe is me" routine at home what impact will that have on your family already worried about your situation?
The second thing to recognize is that virtually every organization is receptive to bringing in someone new for their team....if the new person will be a real difference maker. I see this situation every day. And I am looking to add these types of people every day in nearly all of the organizations with which I am working in various capacities. Even companies in the toughest of straits will hire new talent if the talent is special and good enough. Hiring you will likely mean someone else has to be let go but that's the way the capitalist world works. To take advantage of this pressing need for all organizations to add great new talent (for whatever position) you have to really assess your strengths and find opportunities where your unique abilities can make a difference. Every organization needs a better receptionist, a better secretary, a better accountant or CFO, a better sale staff member and/or sales VP , a better HR leader, a better in-house council and many need a better CEO. The opportunities are always out there if you can match your experiences and skills with their needs.
I recently held an event at a near-by restaurant and was impressed with the catering manager at the facility. I was so impressed with the way she handled our event and relationship that I recommended her to a good friend who runs a private golf club in the state that is struggling big time because of the economic slow down. Even though my friend has already cut staff and other expenses to the bone he was really "pumped" to get the resume of the woman who so impressed me (despite the fact she was looking for $125,000 in total compensation to start). I am pretty sure my friend is going to hire her. It's a move that will add to his stress for sure. Imagine him getting that decision past his members and board. But it is also a move that he has to make if he expects to turn around the situation. I think my suggested candidate will be a real difference maker vs. the person he has currently in that role. My friend, the golf course club director, I am pretty sure sees it the same way.
In trying to carve out your own position in another organization be really prepared to be flexible with your compensation and benefits package. And the best way to find out about organizations willing to bring in some one "better" is to be constantly talking with everyone you meet. Spread the word.
The third thing is to recognize that you do have a job although a different one for sure. Your new job is to find a new better opportunity as quickly as you can. Treat the challenge as a real job. You have to work at it tirelessly and creatively. Your compensation for this effort with be landing a new opportunity when you really need one.
Get up early in the morning and get in gear, just like you would if you were going to a “real” job. And start reaching out to people first thing ion the morning, every morning.
Use your day time hours to contact as many people as you can every day including weekends. Use evening hours to scan newspapers and web job sites for possible opportunities. But I can almost guarantee that your next career move will come as a result of meeting the right person capable of steering you to the right opportunity.
When you reach out to people - it is always better to meet in person – make it clear that you are reaching out simply to get their advice and possible introductions to other special people they may know. Don’t put the people you reach out to in the position where they feel obligated or responsible for getting you a job! Nobody wants that kind of pressure. You are simply reaching out for guidance and possible new connections.
Even though it is always better to meet in person you can use email and phone calls to leverage your networking efforts. Garden State Woman through its new career coaching initiative can help you write these messages if you lack that confidence and skill.
The Garden State Woman career coaching program includes a multiple step process:
- Assessing your situation. We sit with you to review your background in detail, review your resume, define your career objectives and your strengths and weaknesses and learn about your network.
- Putting an action plan in place. We meet again typically within a week to review and discuss your revised and improved resume resulting from our first discussion. We agree on the network of people you will be reaching out to for new opportunities and we help you develop the communications you will be mailing and emailing people looking for career search help. We will help you sharpen your networking skills and we will help coach and prepare you for the "interview" meetings you will be having.
- Tracking your progress. We generally meet a 3rd time within two weeks of you putting your action plan together to evaluate the progress you are making and to look for opportunities to improve your action plan. We will be talking with you at least weekly by phone as we monitor your progress and may have a fourth meeting two or three weeks following our first progess review meeting. We will be getting your feedback on all the meetings and calls you have had and will be looking for ways to improve your effectiveness during these meetings.
Make certain your resume is spotless. It has to be totally up to date. It needs to have a clear Career Objective. It makes sense to create various versions of your resume. This means change the Career Objective section to match up as closely as possible with the opportunities you are seeing. A one size fits all resume just won’t work.
Always have your resume with you as well as business i.e. connecting cards. Just because you lost your job doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have business cards to hand to people you meet. You have to make it easy for people to get back to you
If you see an opportunity in the papers or on the Internet that appeals to you then try to find a way to stand out from the crowd. Assume 10's if not 100's of others will be responding to the same new career opportunity. The best way to separate yourself from the herd is by identifying someone you know who has a connection to the company you are interested in joining. Ask them to pass along your resume with a recommendation that the organization meets with you. This is where all your years of effort to build a great network of connections will really bear fruit. Remember we all live within a few degrees of separation. We all know somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody who….
A success story
Recently I was at a small networking group that I helped launch about a year ago. At the end of our discussion one of the members (a good friend) pulled out multiple copies of his niece’s resume. He described why the niece was now looking for a new opportunity and outlined the type of position that would appeal to her and fit her skills. My friend asked the rest of us if we had any suggestions or relevant contacts. All of us (10 at the time) responded positively and agreed to pass the niece's information onto some of our contacts. The young woman had multiple offers to choose from within three weeks!
The point is networking works. You just have to work at it.
Change your business model
Sometimes, you just have to re-invent yourself which is easier said than done. After I met the woman who had been downsized from her special education teaching job I thought an option for her might be to become an independent special needs educating consultant. There must be plenty of families with special needs children who need and would invest in new advisory special needs services. Unfortunately she hasn't stayed in touch (and never gave me her card) so I don't have a way of sharing this idea with her.
More and more people who have lost their jobs are looking for ways to re-invent themselves as entrepreneurs. That’s not an easy transition but it is one that everyone out on the bricks needs to be thinking about.