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Home > Audio, Podcast, Show > Put yourself at the crossroads

Put yourself at the crossroads

March 14th, 2009

What to do when you’re laid off

Career Opportunities podcast logoPut yourself at the crossroads
By Douglas E. Welch

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[audio:http://welchwrite.com/career/audio/2009/career-op-20090313.mp3]

When you are laid off from a long-term position, the most natural thing in the world is to want to withdraw. You want to hide away, nurse your wounds and sometimes, curse those you blame for your situation. While this may be a natural response, it is also a dangerous one. At this time, most of all, you can’t crawl into a cave and disappear. In fact, just the opposite is required. You need to go out, see and be seen, and re-engage with a world you might have been avoiding lately. If you want to find a new or better job you need to put yourself at the crossroads and make sure you talk to everyone who passes by.

When you are in any job for a long period of time, it is easy to disengage with the outside world. You spend your time working and often playing with your co-workers. You might stop going to local meetups, user group meetings, seminars. After all, you are getting all the interaction you need. Why go anywhere else?

As you can see, though, when you are laid off, you are going to be wishing you had kept up with all those activities. Instead, you find yourself without any support structure. You have no one to call on for advice or commiseration. When left adrift like this, no wonder you just want to be alone. Of course, being alone does nothing to find you a new job.

What should you do when you are laid off? Do what people did in the 1920’s and 30’s when they needed a ride somewhere – they found the busiest crossroads around and stuck out their thumb. You wouldn’t look for a ride on some back country road and you don’t look for a new job sitting alone in your room. While you should be spending a certain amount of time developing your resume, searching the help wanted pages (both offline and online) and looking for all the traditional opportunities, you also need to be engaging with your community. You need to get out to meetups, user group meetings, lectures, conferences and anywhere else you might meet someone who needs your skills in their business – which could even be a kid’s birthday party. You have more time to attend these events during a layoff then when you were working and you certainly have more of a need. Don’t see these events as frivolous. They are necessary and I believe you are more likely to gain a new job using these connections than by any other method.

Let’s address another issue of a layoff – embarrassment. All of us feel some level of embarrassment at being out of work, even when it was through no fault of our own. Being out in public means having to admit you are out of work. Don’t mumble. Don’t shuffle your feet. If someone asks what you do, say “I’m looking for a new position doing x, y and z for such and such a company.” There are lots of people out of work these days and your sense of embarrassment is misplaced. Being out of work is a natural part of any career.

When someone asks you what you do, it is your opportunity to step up and make sure they know who you are and what you are seeking. Prepare this. Practice this. Use it at each interaction. Yes, you are at an event to hang out, to learn, to talk, but also meet people who might be able to provide you the next stepping stone in your career. Remember, just like looking for a job on web sites and in the newspaper, there is a purpose to being here.

If you are unemployed, or even more likely these days underemployed, get yourself to the nearest crossroads and stick out your thumb. Get involved in your community, both the community where you live and the community made up of your peers, friends and family. Your next job is out there, but if you hide away from the world, it won’t come looking for you. You have to go out and find it.



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