Job Search

Stay Calm if You Lose Your Job - by Barbara Babkirk

You thought it would never happen to you.

Yet, an average of 1.5M Americans lose their jobs each year due to a variety of reasons from restructuring to company closings.

If you’ve been laid off or terminated, you’ll likely feel an initial shock. Then you can expect a series of emotions that come and go in no particular sequence. These emotions often reflect the stages of grief including: denial, anger, depression, and acceptance. It’s important to know that these feelings are normal and that they will pass.

One of the most difficult aspects of being laid off is feeling that something has happened TO you. If you had been thinking about resigning for a while, you might even become self-critical that you didn’t act first.

Rather than dwell on the circumstances, begin to create a plan to regain control of your work life.

You may be asked to sign a document outlining the terms of your separation and requesting certain conditions of confidentiality.

Under these circumstances, you might seek legal counsel before signing to make sure the terms are clear and to determine the fairness of what is offered in light of years of service, position and particular circumstances.

While there is no Maine law that mandates a severance package when a person is laid off or terminated, in my experience, it is common for employers to offer one.

This may include compensation for a period of weeks (often it’s one week of pay for each year of service), continuing health benefits, and outplacement/career counseling services to help you transition to new work. It’s always a surprise to me that not everyone who is offered this service takes advantage of it.

Even if you feel confident about your ability to find work, outplacement/career counseling services are offered by experts, and chances are you’ll learn something that will help you transition more effectively and quickly.

Consider the following tips if you lose your job:

  • Let yourself experience a range of feelings and know that you’ll get back on an even keel later in your job search process.

  • Carefully read the severance agreement from your former employer and whether you want to seek legal counsel before signing.

  • Request outplacement/career transition services and ask to work with a local company. If your employer offers services with a national firm, they are not likely to have information on the local marketplace. (A typical range of outplacement services is from one to three months, often depending on your length of time with the company and the position you held.)

  • Ask your former employer if they will support your pursuing unemployment benefits and whether or not they will provide a reference for you and/or recommendation on LinkedIn.

  • Avoid unproductive conversations with former colleagues who want to “fill you in” on current chatter in the organization. These conversations will impede your efforts to move on and keep you mired in a sea of difficult emotions.

  • Update your resume and LinkedIn profile and line up professional references.

  • Contact your local Career Center and find out how to file for unemployment compensation as well as the amount you’ll receive and when you can expect your first check.

  • Establish a plan of action that focuses on strategic conversations with people in your field or in a new arena you’d like to pursue.

  • Seek assistance from a qualified career counselor/outplacement consultant for help with your plan.

  • Stay positive and think about the outcome you want instead of what you fear might happen.

Do you negotiate a job offer?

Are you among the 49% of Americans who never ask for more than what is offered, despite the fact that 45% of employers fully expect to negotiate a job offer? (By the way, more women than men accept what’s initially offered without any negotiation.)

Compensation has been a lively topic of conversation with clients recently—some of whom have received multiple job offers. That’s a good sign for the Maine economy, as well as a statement about how well prepared our clients are for the marketplace.

We often encourage our clients to negotiate an offer and request additional compensation and/or benefits. This is always based on two factors: the value they bring to the organization and what the marketplace is paying for similar positions.

When done well, the negotiation results in a win-win for the candidate and the employer.

Take Janice for example–a Pharmacist with a recent Doctoral degree and considerable experience. Her colleague encouraged her to apply for a position at a progressive pharmacy that stressed consultative services to customers—right in line with her preference and skill set. But, the new salary offer came in lower than what she had been earning, and she was told that the base salary was the maximum for this position.

After communicating the value she would bring to this new position and her disappointment with the compensation, Janice was offered a generous sign-on bonus and an increase in her bonus structure over time. Janice accepted and the company was thrilled to have her join the team.

Research shows that if you feel in control of your life and believe you can make things happen, (as opposed to believing that others control your circumstances) you are more likely to ask for what you want, and, therefore, influence the outcome.

However, if you believe your fate is in someone else’s hands, you may not even imagine there are options other than those presented to you.

Follow these tips and negotiate the compensation you deserve:

1: Think about what you really want and the value you’ll deliver, not just what you assume is possible.

2: Articulate your professional value as a rationale for your request.

3:   Know what the marketplace pays for your position by doing research online and locally (salary.comindeed.comrileyguide.com) as further justification for any increase.

4:   Request a meeting to review your job offer. Express appreciation for and interest in the offer before you present your counter-offer. Keep in mind that vacation time, a flexible work schedule, additional time without pay, and other benefits, can all be part of your final negotiation.


What to do about your job search during the Holidays

The Holiday season is here and you’re exploring job opportunities. Do you put your efforts on hold, or carry on? While conventional wisdom may say: “Chill out, no one is hiring in December because budgets are spent.” We have a different perspective at Heart At Work.

Just think about all the people you see only once a year at Holiday events, plus all the new people you might meet who may be great connectors to your next employment opportunity.

However, if you are not clear about your career direction or job target, you might cringe at the thought of people asking what you’re are up to, or worse still, what you want to do.

Once you’re prepared for the inevitable question, you’ll be set to welcome informal conversations and offers of help for your transition. If someone suggests a contact and says, “use my name”, know that this approach rarely works.

You’ll need to then say “Thanks! Would you please make an email introduction for me and I’ll take it from there?” Then you can be certain that the email will not end up in spam or the trash since it came someone known to them.

The weeks between Thanksgiving and New Years can be a particularly effective time to expand your network. With many executives curtailing work travel schedules to make themselves available for end-of-the-year planning and office events, you may have easier access to decision makers at this time.

With an attitude of “anything is possible”, and a challenge to your assumptions about this time of year, you may find yourself in a prime position of opportunity and even a new job to celebrate in the New Year.

A Triple Win Strategy to Attract & Retain Your Best Candidates

Job opportunities for the spouse or partner of prospective new hires have increasingly become key to their successful recruitment and retention.

I see this in my business as I’m regularly asked by employers to propose options for effective transition services for “trailing spouses/partners” as a way to win over a prospective candidate.

That should not be surprising given the findings of two major U.S. research institutions that concluded that “partner employment” ranked in the top two considerations of candidates evaluating job offers (among 15 other factors, including salary).

With such high numbers of two income households in our country, it’s more than likely that a relocation candidate has to consider not only his or her own career, but also a spouse’s or partner’s work opportunities in the new location.

Sustaining a certain level of income is often a primary concern of dual-career couples as they consider relocating. When income replacement is a deciding factor, it may not only affect whether or not the candidate accepts an offer, but how long they may stay. No employer likes to loose a newly hired employee because their spouse or partner couldn’t find work.

It stands to reason that employers who consistently offer trailing spouse/partner assistance would attract and retain their top candidates.

So what can make a trailing spouse/partner program a win/win for the employer, prospective candidate and their spouse or partner?

  • A well-defined and easy-to-navigate program that reflects best practice strategies for securing employment.

  • Partnering with a local firm with established Maine contacts and relationships to introduce to the spouse/partner.

  • Engaging career counseling experts to help spouses/partners explore how their skills & experience align with new career opportunities–because, depending on the career field, building careers in Maine sometimes requires creativity and insight.

A final step should be to track the success of the trailing spouse/partner career transition program over time.

Job Search and Interview Tips: What HR Professionals and Recruiters Notice

You’re about to conduct a job search or maybe you’re in the midst of your job search and you’ve finally landed a promising interview.

What do you do and…what do you make sure you DON’T do?

Since I’m the primary interview coach at Heart At Work Associates, I wanted to consider these questions from the perspective of the job searcher’s “customer”: the HR professionals who will decide whether they get the interview and if they get the job.

This blog post is the first of a series of interviews. The HR professional I interviewed for this article is a highly respected seasoned Chief Human Resources Officer at a financial services organization.

What follows are her answers to some of the important questions you need to ask when conducting a job search and preparing for an interview.

Stay engaged in your job search after an interview

I know it’s tempting…you’ve had a great interview and so you decide to wait on pursuing other job prospects until you receive word (of an expected job offer).

Even though that may seem to be a reasonable thing to do, it’s a bad idea and here are three reasons why:

  1. Waiting is deflating. If you put your search on hold, you’re likely to lose positive momentum, which is key to a successful outcome.

  2. You could lose a sense of control over your process if you count on someone else’s response to trigger next steps in your job search strategy.

  3. You may not be the top candidate. Even with an outstanding interview, you may lose out to another applicant and then you’ll feel like you’re back at square one.

So, move ahead with your job search strategy, in spite of great feedback and what seemed like a winning interview.

If you don’t hear back from your interviewer in the timeframe that was mentioned, check back in ten days or so.

Any hiring process can be delayed for dozens of reasons you can’t even imagine. So, don’t jump to conclusions about what’s actually going on as to why the search is delayed. It’s common to make up stories, but they are often negative ones and not in your best interest. Stick with the facts and keep your fears at bay.

Return to your contact list and make a few phone calls to arrange “strategic conversations” to stay in job search mode.

There’s a reason why the adage “don’t put all of your eggs in one basket” has withstood the test of time. It particularly holds true when you’re in the job market.

The key element in a successful job search

Stop winging it with random networking emails or calls and posting and praying (your resume that is).

Start creating your strategy– and the practice of communicating your professional value – verbally, virtually and in writing.

I’ve found that many job seekers can pull off one of the above, but it’s rare that someone has their act together in all three ways of being strategic in their job search.

Here are tips for creating a winning strategy:

Verbally – Use talking points to practice conveying the following:

  • Your current status (keep it short and sweet—no lengthy explanation of why you’re leaving your job or much less about why you lost your job because you did not see eye to eye with the new leadership).

  • The skills and competencies you want to put to use in your next opportunity

  • An interest in the challenges your contact faces that require those skills and competencies

  • Advice about others with whom you should be meeting and a request for an introduction to someone

Virtually – You must be present in an effective way on Linkedin (90+% of people sourcing talent look there first)

  • Populate the key areas of your profile that pull on searches: your headline (which most people underuse with a job title rather than who you are in the marketplace and the impact you have) and a summary that tells a short story about who you are, what you do and why you do it.

  • Bring your profile to “expert” or “all star” status by making sure your profile is complete with recommendations, a photo, summary, a few groups and an appropriate headline next to your photo.

In Writing – People fret over cover letters, but it’s not necessary!

Use the job description as your guide and select the most pertinent (according to your skills and prospective employer needs) requirements. Then clearly state when you’ve demonstrated those requirements. Keep in mind that most employers have a check list that they use to screen applicants. Save them time by addressing the criteria clearly with good examples.

Take Charge of Your Career in Six Steps

There’s a trend I’ve noticed over the years as a career development professional. Somewhere in the 40s decade, people are often inclined to take action on their careers. It’s as though they feel an internal prompt, rather than an external motivator.

“I just fell into my career and I want to be more planful going forward. If it’s going to happen, it needs to be now.” That’s a common statement that the 40-something clients make.

If this describes you, then perhaps the following six steps will help you shift from a passive to a pro-active approach to your work life and career path.

  • Take stock of what you want from work in this stage of your life. Ask yourself if your competencies, interests and values are adequately met in your work and workplace. If not, then consider negotiating another arrangement or consider a job search to work that is more aligned.

  • Be mindful of your assumptions about what’s possible. Keep in mind what you want as outcomes, not what you fear.

  • Understand the professional value you bring to the marketplace and seek out opportunities to communicate it verbally (meetings, performance reviews), virtually (with a great LinkedIn profile) and in writing (effective emails, outstanding resume, crisp cover letters).

  • Create opportunities to increase your visibility with your clients, prospective clients or employer.

  • Stay current with best practices in your field and be innovative in presenting new ideas and practices. Be prepared to communicate your knowledge of trends in interviews or in professional conversations.

  • Consistently attend to your needs. Take time to replenish your energy so you’ll be in good shape to seize the next best opportunity.

How to keep your skills sharp when you’re unemployed

The national average for landing a new job is about eight months. How do you keep your momentum going and your skills fresh during this time of transition?

The first step is to identify the skills that are currently in demand for your target job(s) and determine the best way to build on or refine the competencies you already have. Don’t rely on your assumptions about what is required—find out the facts from those who are hiring.

Beyond the options of enrolling in classes at a local adult education program or university, there are other ways to stay on top of your game. Here are some examples:

  • Enroll in a certificate-yielding program in a university or college’s continuing education program

  • Explore seminars and workshops offered by your professional association, (they may offer a reduced rate or waive the registration fee altogether for unemployed individuals).

  • Hire a tutor to help you refine your second language skills or learn the in-demand software to update your computer skills.

  • Check out the local Career Center to determine what relevant workshops they offer.

  • Determine if you are eligible for “Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act” (WIOA) funding for skills training through the Career Center for laid off workers

  • Regularly review events calendars for the Chambers of Commerce and local community organizations to see what they might be featuring for training.

Stay in touch with professionals in the fields you have targeted. They are the best source of current and accurate information about the skills and competencies needed to get the job done and, therefore, which ones to focus on in networking and during a job interview.

How to shift your fears in any transition

The fear of the unknown that’s inherent in any transition can take its toll on even the most courageous.

There’s just something about a blank slate of possibilities that prompts creative minds to conjure up lists of “what if” scenarios—most of which reflect our fears and impact our hearts and minds.

Not a week goes by that I don’t hear clients expressing trepidation about their career change that’s based entirely on what they fear will happen, as opposed to what they hope will occur.

Any transition involves facing the unknown and that typically triggers anxiety.

While you may believe that your negative projection into the future is necessary to feel prepared for anything that might occur, it actually works against you.

This often spontaneous and habitual thought process is a waste of time, energy and attention because it is likely to interrupt your momentum or stop you in your tracks.

Successfully maneuvering through a transition requires nimbleness and openness to possibilities. Fear elicits the opposite, and has you “pull in the wagons of your life” in anticipation of some threatening outcome.

When you consciously think about what you desire, you create an effective alternative to the scenarios that typically make you want to hide under your bed covers.

I’m not suggesting that you just “think happy thoughts”, but rather, that you focus your attention, breathe, and get clear about the intention and desired outcome(s) for your transition.

While you cannot control all aspects of any change, you can control your thinking and your response to your transition.

In doing so, you will shift your attention from what you don’t want to occur to more appealing prospects. With this shift to a more trusting mindset, you should feel calmer and more able to move forward and complete the tasks that will make you successful.