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Overcoming Layoffs and Downsizing

Layoffs and downsizing often strike when we least expect it. Here are 5 ways to deflect the damage and find a job after being laid-off.

man standing on road with briefcase

True Story: I recently conducted a career workshop for job hunters and career changers.

One of the participants made the following comments:

"I've been unemployed for 6 months. This is the 3rd time I've been laid off by solid companies over the past 5 years.

My resume looks like Swiss cheese.

I'm sure most companies label me as a job hopper.

Each time I was laid-off, my boss told me it had nothing to do with my job performance. It was simple economics...a declining demand for our products in an uncertain economy.

How can I repair the damage done to my career? What can I do to avoid layoffs and downsizing in the future?And, most importantly, how can I deflect all these negatives so I can find a"

My Response: I've got good news and bad news for you. Which do you want to hear first? OK...let's get the bad news out of the way first.

There is no such thing as job security anymore.

Companies operate in a very competitive global environment. The sands of industry are constantly shifting. The only thing that's for sure anymore is nothing is for sure.

Companies today don't give a hoot about you despite all the happy smiling faces on the posters in the lobby. It's all about profits, growth, and numbers.

Unless you are self employed, corporations are the Lords and we are the serfs. Welcome to the Medieval Times of the 21st century.

Case in point, in our community of South Bend, A.J. Wright Company came to town in 2004 amid much fanfare and publicity. They built a beautiful 540,000 square foot distribution center in a declining part of town.

Local and state politicians lined up in cheap suits and big grins to shake hands, cut ribbons, and take credit for the promise of 1,000+ new jobs coming to town.

We were all going to live happily ever after. Besides, with such a huge investment and commitment to the people of South Bend, you could rest assured life would be grand from here on out.

Fast forward to December 2010.

With sleigh-bells ringing and chestnuts roasting on an open fire, I walked to the end of my driveway to fetch the newspaper. The headline read:

A. J. Wright to Close Distribution Center in South Bend.

Instead of their 800 workers receiving Christmas hams in their stockings, they all got pink slips. In the old days, companies would have at least waited until after the holidays to drop the guillotine.

But time is money, so no sense in waiting.

These kinds of stories are happening with alarming regularity in other communities across our fruited plains...and unfortunately, will continue to happen in the future. No country is immune, no matter how rosy things may look at any given time.

So, is there anything you can do about it when layoff news strikes?

Well...actually there is. Now let's get to the good news part.

5 things you can do to pull through layoffs and downsizing and find another

  1. Use this Resume Secret - Write in parenthesis behind your dates of employment one of the following short statements that best describes your job loss situation:

    • Company closed and everyone laid-off
    • Company-wide layoffs and downsizing
    • 30% RIF due to merger/acquisition
    • Division closed and relocated

    This is how you keep employers on the hook.

    It's very important that your resume has a good Look and Feel to draw in the reader. One of the best attention-grabbing resumes is described on my page, Outline of a Resume. From this page there are links to sample resumes for you to copy and use.

    Fact: 70% of the reason people get hired is because they have a great resume and perform well in their job interview. You have a lot of control over these 2 things. So, stack the deck in your favor by properly preparing for a job interview.

  2. Create a Short but Powerful Resume Cover letter - On my web page, Cover Letters for Resume Impact, I reveal 10 reasons why most candidates are rejected and how a good cover letter can defuse these problems...including layoffs and downsizing.
  3. Use a Character Reference Letter - If you've been a casualty of layoffs and downsizing, always try to get a character reference letter from your ex-boss.

    Don't email these letters with your resume. Use them as your trump card if a company has shown early interest in you, but is now waffling and you suspect your job history is making them nervous.

    One or two good letters could give you the right leverage to rekindle the hiring process. Also, see if your ex-boss will agree to take a call from a hiring authority to promote your strengths and good character. Ask him/her for the best number to reach them to make it as easy as possible for someone to connect with your ex-boss.

    If you didn't get along with your boss, ask another department head or peer to write the letter and perhaps take a call.

  4. Network Like Crazy - 27% of all new hires...1 in 4...come through referrals. Getting referred into a company by an insider is by far the best way to get a job.

    When you consider that 80% of all job openings are not advertised, networking is critical to your job search.

    My book, Why Don't They Call Me? - Job Search Wisdom to Get You Unstuck, provides a detailed chapter on how to create a long networking list, along with appropriate questions to ask people to generate lots of leads and referrals.

    I've also provided a script that allows you to easily navigate around gate keepers. Click on the above link to read the introductory chapter, table of contents, and watch a short video on what makes this book different.

  5. Develop a Long-Term Career Management Strategy - it's not a question of if you will be laid off again, but when. Once you are working again...regardless of how fulfilled you are in your new job...spend 20-30 minutes of every day building and nurturing your network.

    If you get into the daily habit of doing this, you will have a large, built-in network of friends who you can go to for referrals and leads should you unexpectedly lose your job.

    However, this strategy won't work if all you do is take. Make sure you give back and have time for others who call you.

Even though you have no control over layoffs and downsizing, these 5 steps can minimize the damage and help prevent your resume from being rejected before you even get to first base.

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