On Giving Thanks …

On Thanksgiving afternoon, after too much turkey, potatoes, veggies and pie, it seems a perfect time to write a post about thankfulness.  But rather than thanks for all the blessings I’ve been given, I’d like to reflect on those blessings I’ve received from repeated job searches.

I’m thankful for Michael Shirley and Leigh Branham. They were my first job coaches when I went through outplacement after my second reduction in force.  Together they taught me, really for the first time, how to write a resume, how to use a target list, and probably most importantly, how to network.  My time with these guys plays heavily into I’m Fired?!? and Leigh graciously wrote the Forward.

I’m thankful for all the people I’ve met along the way.  Some have become close friends while others I’d rather not speak to again, but all of them helped to shape who I am.  I’ve learned to ask for help when I needed and graciously accept it when it’s offered.  I’ve learned to be more objective about business decisions and not take personally those that affect me adversely.

I’m thankful for the different bosses that I’ve had. Some have been great coaches, mentors and teachers who have taught me about business and helped me refine my craft.  Some have been complete jerks who in their own way taught me valuable lessons of patience and discretion.

I’m thankful for the twists and turns in my career path (at least most of them).  I’ve experienced more industries and types of businesses than anyone I know.  I think this gives me a great appreciation for diversity and flexibility and limits my ability to say “we’ve always done it this way.”

Most importantly, I’ m thankful for my wife, children and parents.  They have supported me and encouraged me time and again as I’ve gone through the job search process.  They have never blamed me; never been angry with me, and never doubted that I would find another job.  Their constant love and support gave me the encouragement to continue to work the process, even when it seemed like there were no jobs to find.

I encourage you to sit back and reflect on your blessings.  Your career may not be heading in the direction you’d planned, but don’t be surprised if there is good news just around the corner.  Have a very Happy Thanksgiving.

Sticks and Stones …

Shakespeare said “A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet.”   Does the same thing apply to losing your job?  Here are a few words and phrases that I’ve heard over the years that all basically mean the same thing:  terminated, fired, sacked, canned, separated, axed, RIFed, laid off, whacked, made available to industry, given the opportunity to be successful elsewhere, exploring other business interests, discharged, dismissed, and let go.  Did I miss any?
They all mean the same thing – you don’t work here any more.  Does it really matter which one they use?  Is it better to be separated than discharged?  Discharged generally refers to being asked to leave (add that to the list) but when you’re discharged from the hospital you typically are not unhappy about that.  Some say “terminated” sounds like a Schwarzenegger movie or something from the Sopranos, but what HR department tracks your “available to industry” date?  No, we all call it the Term Date.
There are subtle differences between some.  For instance, Laid Off traditionally had a union connection and it implied a right to be recalled when business picked up again.  RIFed (Reduction In Force) is a job elimination – there is nothing for you to be recalled to.
Other than that, they are all variations on a theme with different levels of sensitivity or compassion mixed in.  As you might have been able to tell, I’m not an overly sensitive guy.
The bottom line is for whatever reason, you don’t work here any more.  Its time to move on, start networking and find out where your are going to work next.  That may be easier said than done, but what’s your alternative, sleep on your mother’s couch?  Let’s get to work.

On Being Fired …

In 1969 Elisabeth Kubler-Ross published a book called On Death and Dying that changed the entire way that we looked at the grieving process.  In the book Kubler-Ross identified five stages in the process:  Denial – this isn’t happening to me, Anger – it’s not fair, Bargaining – please God, I’ll do better, Depression – what does it matter anyway, and finally, Acceptance – we had a great run now let’s look forward to the next phase.

With some perspective one can apply these same five stages to many of life’s challenges and they definitely apply to being fired.

Denial – no, there must be some mistake – they can’t fire me I’m a good person and a hard worker.

Anger – it’s not fair!  I do way more work than Joe, fire him!  This is discrimination!

Bargaining – there has to be another way. How about if I take a cut in pay?  Could I work part-time for awhile?  Maybe if I get some more training?

Depression – whatever – I’ve seen this coming – there is nothing I could have done – I probably deserved it – I should have left when Bob quit.

Acceptance – Okay, what’s done is done – time to move on and find that next job.

We all grieve at different speeds.  I’ve worked with hundreds of terminated people and I almost always see these same 5 steps. Some people take months, others can fly through the range of emotions in minutes.

The deal is though, that you will not be effective in looking for a new job until you get to stage 5.  While this may sound harsh, you just need to get over it and move on.  You might have been discriminated against; there might have been a chance for you to take a cut in pay; maybe there was a mistake; but at the end of it all, you’re sitting at home on the couch watching Judge Judy when you should be out looking for a new job.  No pitty-party, no woe is me.  Get up, brush off your resume, start networking, and get to it.

Looking for a new job is a full time job. If you let your anger at your former employer come out in your interviews, no one is going to hire you.  If you pout and whine during a networking meeting, no one is going to refer you to their friends.  If you can’t get off the couch and make some phone calls, your network isn’t going to grow.

It’s hard, but it’s life. I’ve been there. I’ve seen many other people do it.  You can too. Now get up and get to work and find that next job.

Who Are You Targeting?

I often am asked to network with job seekers.  Having been in their shoes six times I usually agree and freely give out advice and contacts as appropriate.  Most job seekers are much more adept at the search process than I was when I first went through this it my first time.  They have good looking resumes; they know how to network; and they are getting better at being prepared and doing their research.  But most still have not prepared one of the most important job search documents.

If you are job seeker you need a target list.  This is a list of 20-25 organizations where you think you might want to work.  These organizations may not have job openings, but they’re place who might be a fit  for you due to their size, industry, location, reputation, what-have-you.

Inevitably, during a networking meeting you ask, “So, do you know anyone that I should talk to?”  All too often your host says “No, I can’t think of anyone.”  The prepared job seeker then pulls out the Target List and says “Here is a list of organizations that I’d like to know more about.  Do you know anyone who works at any of these?”  Now the conversation can begin anew.

That list of companies will spark some potential contacts, “Oh, my next door neighbor works for XYZ Company.”  You may also hear, “You don’t want to work for that company; they’re a sweat shop.”  Whatever the feedback, you’ll have more information that you did at the beginning of the conversation and that’s what networking is all about.

Target Lists should be updated continually, adding new companies and removing those that aren’t the fit you’d hoped they were.  Format the list to look like your resume – same headers, fonts, paper, etc.  You want this to be a professional looking document that has the same feel as your other search related papers.

So, if your networking is not yielding the success you need, add a Target List into the mix.  It is guaranteed to make your networking sessions more productive and speed you on to that next career adventure.