Monday, 14 July 2008

Some advice to the newly laid off...

A couple of years ago, a friend of mine was laid off from a job where he was the technical superstar. The company was in dire straits, but had tried to hang onto him as long as possible, giving him other people's tasks as they departed. He asked me for advice as to how to cope with the situation once the layoff came (I had been laid off once or twice before... a fact of life when you are on the high-tech startup treadmill as I was in the early part of the decade. Startup funding runs out and angel funding isn't always readily forthcoming.). The following is a summary of what I sent to him, as a reminder to self in my current situation.

1) There is life after __ insert company name here___. Most people don't realize how much their current employer is holding them back until their current employer is no longer the current employer.

2) Don't panic. Spend some time analyzing your finances and realize that unless you've been really reckless with your credit, you are going to be just fine.

3) Don't allow yourself to feel self pity, or fall into self-destructive behaviour (one guy I know decided to empty his liquor cabinet by himself in one week! Think Leaving Las Vegas, but in Kanata. Not pretty.).

4) Set up a networking group of your former colleagues... a yahoo group works well for this. Keep in contact and give each other moral support.

5) Spend some time in the kayak/gym/driving range, contemplating what you want to do with the rest of your life... this change is an opportunity to do something you've always wanted to. Start your own woodworking business? Kayak school? Are you truly tied to your current city? Wouldn't this be a great time to go travelling and live off the severance? Paint the living room? Read that stack of books/magazines. Clean up the basement. Make some sawdust.

6) Your company will have to issue you with a record of employment over the next couple of weeks. This entitles you to a bit of Employment Insurance money... it's not a lot, (and if you are a professional with a reasonable income, it is likely that you will have to pay some of it back at tax time next year!) but it pays for groceries for a while. You've paid into EI for years, don't feel guilty about receiving a bit of it back. There is a waiting period that is influenced by your severance. It's always good to file the paperwork early, even if you don't get a chance to claim on it right away.

7) It's summertime... you probably haven't had a summer completely off in years, so update your resume at your leisure and send it out if the mood suits and the job opportunity seems a fit, but mostly, treat the next couple of months as a sabbatical! After all, how often do we get opportunities as an adult for a summer off to play! Travel, garden, learn a new skill that you've always wanted to learn, read the books that have been piling up on your bedside table, watch that season of the Sopranos that someone gave you for Christmas, rest. When you do decide to go back to work, you'll be refreshed and ready, and the right job will come along.

8) When you are ready to look for work again (and even before), spread the news to everyone you know that you are no longer at your newly-former company. One of my best job leads came from my hair stylist, who cuts the hair of a lot of wives of high tech managers.

9) Make use of any career counselling programs your company may have arranged for you... they help with writing/updating a resume, interviewing skills, business networking possibilities, wardrobe consulting etc. You may not agree with everything they have to tell you, but they can get you thinking about the right things.

10) The job market in Ottawa is pretty hot in many sectors, including high tech, and there are a number of good websites with job leads.

11) Make contact with a decent head-hunting agency, one that specializes in your area of expertise

Thus my sabbatical begins....

1 comment:

Big Cajun Man said...

Excellent commentary, hadn't read this one before, and I really like it. Words to live by, especially, the Don't Panic side of things.

Keep up the great postings!