The Layoff

Part 1 - October 28, 2017

I feel numb, he said right after telling me, saying the words that are always so hard to say: I’ve been laid off.

In fact, they cut the whole team.

I remember saying Oh no, then reaching out to hug him. He’d never been laid off before.

I also thought: But they’d just hired him 5 months ago. How could they cut this team they created specifically to cut costs and find and fix inefficiencies?

Now I was numb.

They’re going to pay us through the end of the year, he quickly added, full benefits through the end of the year, and some severance after that. That will help.

But then what?

Part 2 - November 1, 2017

My husband and I believe in abundance, not lack. So we normally “go to” the good side of things, the optimist side some might say. But it was still amazing to see Dave put the surprise behind him so quickly, and get to work – on starting work as a consultant. No more W-2 life, which he found too restrictive. 

He’d been thinking about this for some time and felt set free by the layoff. "I get strong technical results and want to do way more." With Dave’s network, he set to work.

In just days, he contacted a dozen people in his network, all former coworkers and team members, alerting them to his new status. 

"I have to thank [my old company]," Dave has said several times, "for letting us go. It was a kick in the pants to finally do this."

Pursuing a dream is great. But what about very now things like health care benefits? 401-K? Life insurance?

Meanwhile, he learned that several hundred more at his former company have been laid off. 

Part 3 - November 18, 2017

Benefits: COBRA for 18 months, then at that time we’ll figure out what covers us. Maybe a miracle will occur and Congress will actually create something that will help entrepreneurs be entrepreneurs and NOT be stuck having to worry about health care coverage, instead of destroying such programs?

Dave’s contacts have gotten back to him, generating some activity around him signing non-disclosure agreements and discussion of his rates. Thanks to a friend, he’s learned the latest on what to charge per hour and per project, for each of the tech tools he knows. A call from a recruiter who found him on LinkedIn generated some excitement about a 6-12 month contract with a huge health care company, with a good phone interview. But the subsequent interview with the hiring manager led to a dead end when both Dave and the hiring manager didn’t find enough common ground to continue the conversation. "That’s fine", Dave said. "It would have meant an awful commute." He almost seemed relieved.

He’s been finishing several technology courses and starting new ones, learning tools that will help him solve technical issues. Being a toolsmith, he’s thoroughly enjoying this part of the process. He’s an ace problem solver and is sought out for his tenacity and creativity resolving issues. It’s a sport to him.

In checking the search campaign dashboard: Resume - done. LinkedIn - In process. Networking - in process. Interview prep - in process. Business cards: done. Web site: in process. 

In short, Dave is being very productive and getting a lot done that’s preparing him for contract work. Work will come from his network which he’s talking with almost every day.  He’s energized and upbeat. And seeing him so happy and driven, so am I.

Part 4 - December 3, 2017

The resume is done, the activity yielding a clarification of goals, a seldom-mentioned reason to do a great resume. Contacting the network and doing projects with various tools, continuing. LinkedIn next, new business cards done, web site advancing. 

to be continued...

Beware of the Word "Experience"

Here’s a classic that never gets old. As we shorten what we write, each word carries more weight. Don’t let this word get in your way.

The word "experience" can hurt you during job search. This is true for candidates of all ages.

How so?

  1. The word "experience" can get in the way of other, clearer words that are more specific to your successes. It can mask the very value you would bring a new employer.
  2. People just don't "see" it any more. It's lost its punch, its meaning.

Saying "I have all this experience" means nothing to the listener, especially if that listener is a networking contact or an interviewer. You'll get polite nods, but little more. They'll be thinking, "So... what does she mean?" or “But what can he DO?” But they probably won't ask. You must be more specific from the start -- including on your resume.

So use other words that are more precise, and "sparkier”. For example:

Before - "I have 14 years of experience in surface mount technology."

After - "Over several years, I've enjoyed managing surface mount technology project teams that are very successful."

Before - "I have experience using social media."

After - "At my company, I established the wide use of Twitter which has led to a 140% increase in our webinar enrollment."

Before - "I have several years' experience in cost accounting."

After - "I've become known as someone who streamlines cost accounting processes and mentoring others in doing the same."

 

Replacing the word "experience", even if it takes a few more words, is especially good for the older worker, who is apt to complain to others, "With all my experience, it's taking me a long time to land a new job".

But what do you really mean by "experience"? Is it vital stuff or did you do the same thing over and over for many or all those years? It's painful to see people put the word "experience" out there like it's gold when it's not -- until you say HOW that impacted your organization. Changing "that word" to the REAL things you've done will help you break through that barrier. Give it a try. 

The word "experience" by itself is just not enough today. Be more specific, and tie the successes you've had to the potential employer's job. That way, you'll be able to apply your actual experience to their problems -- in a new job there.

Dumb Reasons Candidates Are Turned Down

Years ago, there was a great article in BusinessWeek (US) about "stupid reasons hiring managers don't hire certain people". Someone had done an anonymous survey, asking for "the truth" from hiring managers on the real reasons candidates were rejected. Some were:

  • Candidate looked just like my ex
  • Candidate reminded me of my daughter-in-law
  • Candidate went to an Ivy League college and I went to State U, too smart for me
  • Candidate went to State U and I went to an Ivy League school, she's not smart enough
  • Candidate has full head of hair and I'm bald
  • Candidate had too many good ideas and would make me look bad
  • Candidate was too slim and I'm fat
  • Candidate was too fat and I'm slim

-- and so on.

 

Dumb. And very unfortunate, for all concerned.

 

Conclusions may be reached even before talking with the candidate, based on their name and/or address. Sadly, there have been studies showing that people of ethnic groups with unusual names, like Tanika instead of Lisa, do better when they “Anglify” their names.[1]

 

Here’s one way I helped a client handle this issue. She was of Finnish ancestry, whose family had been in the US for generations. She was not getting much response to her resume. Looking at her name, both her first and last names were what most of us would at least initially call "unpronounceable" -- multiple vowels in a row, and an unusual placement of consonants. You could have interpreted her name as African or Japanese. The lack of response got us thinking that employers might have been making that same mistake -- an assumption that she was not a US citizen and thus could not work legally in the US.

 

We made several changes to strengthen her resume, but we also added to the end of her Summary, at the top of page 1, “US Citizen”. This was ridiculous but being a realist, I thought, “Let's give it a try”. Employers don't have a lot of time to pore over resumes so saying “I'm legal” right up front, might help her.

 

She saw an immediate uptick in responses and interviews and landed a contract position, which led to a staff job. Perhaps we were right; we will never know.

 

Bias occurs, sad to say. We humans persist in believing things before we have the facts, and in stereotyping. But you the candidate CAN control your search more than you’d think. How? By making sure you show in your search that you are savvy about your field, that you will solve their problems, you make or save revenue, and you are very willing to work hard for results, AND would be great to work with.

 

And, frankly, to know that unfortunately, there will be bad decisions made about you so be sure to network and have a high volume of job search activity -- to overcome the occasional bad, biased decision.

 

[1] New Study Confirms Depressing Truth About Names And Racial Bias, Jacqueline Howard, Huffington Post, 10.8.15, http://bit.ly/BiasAgainstEthnicNames

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Ready to start your search? Contact Joanne to help you map out your strategy.

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