The Value of Time Between One Job Ending and Your New Search Beginning

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Blog spot by Ed Weirauch, Resume Writer

When we find out our employer is cutting back, restructuring, downsizing or just at the end of a project, experiencing a range of emotions is quite common.  For some, a job ending might be a good thing, maybe another position awaits or we actually feel relief that our current gig is up.  But for many of us, that ending can bring a host of negative emotions including fear of the future, resentment, negative surprise and bitterness.

Then our next thought is often “I gotta find a new job.”

But outplacement and career experts unanimously agree: Not so fast. The last thing you want to do is carry any of these negative emotions into your new job search. These emotions can surface in your words, body language and attitude and often you may not even be aware of it.

Losing your job often carries the same emotional and physical impact as a death in the family.  And therefore, processing that loss and dealing with grief takes time. On a daily basis, your routine is changing. You’re no longer spending the majority of your day at that job. Maybe your social network is gone. Everything you took for granted may be falling into question. In this sense, the stages of grief we experience in response to a death can happen with a job loss as well.

At first we might deny it… maybe we think “I’ll find another opportunity within my company.” Or “the economy is picking up, I’ll find something quickly.”

Then we get mad… “After all my work/energy/dedication, etc., how could they let me go?”  “Once I’m gone, they’ll realize how integral I’ve been.” Sound familiar?

For many people, this leads to depression. “If only I had done this, not said that, worked for a different manager, but now I’m up a creek.”

And finally acceptance. “OK, this is life, time to move on.” They’re all very real emotions and quite common for those of us experiencing job loss.

But that word time is key here. We need to make that time to process what we’re experiencing, to deal with the anger, frustration, bitterness or relief that comes with change. If we don’t allow ourselves that time, and our efforts to deal with or manage those emotions, they’ll continue to haunt us.

Think about the emotional weight of a job loss, the pressure of the weeks that may have led up to it. Picture it wearing you down because one way or the other, such a change weighs heavily. Now envision yourself carrying this weight into your networking meetings and job interviews. Inevitably you won’t present yourself as well as you’d should.  Your body language and facial expressions can show low energy and your words may not be as positive as they could be. You’re carrying the past with you.

But these meetings represent your future. They are opportunities for you to easily cite accomplishments, contributions and ways that you’ll positively impact a new company. You need to be light and engaging rather than hung over from the weight of job-change stress.  You need to be at your best.

So how much time should you take? More importantly, are you investing whatever time it takes to work through these issues. For some it may be a few weeks, maybe a month, others longer. No matter the time period, make time to:

  1. Work through this transition process.
  2. Think about the positives of your last job and your entire career, remind yourself of your wins, the ways you contribute and the rewards you have experienced.
  3. Sharpen your resume, your personal inventory, maybe your wardrobe.
  4. Concentrate on the future

Then take these thoughts into your next job search. Clean slate; out with the old and in with the new; fresh start… cliches all of them but when it comes to your career, these can be words to live by.

A Resumé Is a Terrible Thing to Waste

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Not all resumés are created equal and I see quite a few each and every day.  As a matter of fact I have personally reviewed no less than ten-thousand resumés in the last two years. Want to know what 98% of them have in common?  They are not very good.  They don’t get noticed. They open no doors. I am serious! Most professionals give the resumé little weight in their overall career management or search strategies, preferring instead to “slap-up” any old document. You can always tell when the construction is shoddy. It’s not unusual to find severe grammatical errors or poor formatting. The vast majority of documents confuse job responsibilities from actual accomplishments. Finally, this essential tool often does not adequately describe what is unique about the person behind it. It’s a marketing brochure for goodness sake!

Remember those anti-drug commercials from the late 70’s and early 80’s? They show an egg and then a hot frying pan? “This is your brain.” The egg gets cracked into a hot, oily pan. “This is your brain on drugs.” Got the visual? Okay, apply the same concept to your resumé. “This is your resumé. This is what happens when you put a poor resume on the internet.” Do I have your attention now? What I am saying is that you do some damage to your professional persona by not thinking through how you advertise yourself. The reality is that a recruiter or hiring manager will make a decision about you (without a phone call or email) within seconds of reviewing your document.  The new way to think about resumé preparation is to conceive the following: What do I need to do to impress someone with this document, in seconds?

Here are a few pieces of advice on the professional resumé:

  • Take the time to proofread your marketing brochure. Spelling errors and poor grammar are not received well by professionals looking to hire the “solution” to their current challenges.
  • Get some help with the editing if you can. Another set of eyes can be an asset.
  • Separate job responsibility details from accomplishments. Use two to three sentences to describe what you are actually paid to do, your job duties. Then use succinct bullets to present your quantifiable accomplishments.
  • Spend some time each month documenting your wins. Creating an accomplishments “inventory” will be a big help when it comes time to put together your ad campaign.

Finally, it is important to personalize your resumé so that it speaks to your unique qualities as a candidate. This can be done with a solid, descriptive leadership profile. The prime real estate on page one becomes minimized with an “objective” statement!  If you state a narrowly defined purpose for your candidacy you can reasonably believe that the reader will hold you to it. A resumé is a terrible thing to waste. Don’t let yours end up on the TD (turndown) pile.

What Do Your Employees Deserve When It’s Time to Say Goodbye?

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For the past three decades, a handful of firms have dominated the outplacement industry. However, it seems that the landscape of the industry is changing. Many industry leaders have openly acknowledged that the expectations of buyers and end-users are changing.  Our team at Barton Career Advisors thinks this shift is related to the fact that relationships have been set aside to manage margins in an increasingly competitive environment. To be clear, the relationships that we speak of are those of the end-user of career transition services, the employee who has been separated from his or her job. These are the relationships that are suffering.

Outplacement, for many corporate buyers, has evolved into a “check the box” kind of offering that is not given a great deal of thought. Many Chief HR Officers, CFOs and Talent Directors relegate their decision process to a singular thought: “We’ve had a relationship with (insert outplacement firm name here) for the last 5 years. That’s who we’ve always used.” We’d like to pose a new question and insert some new criteria in the decision making process. What do your employees deserve when it’s time to say goodbye? It might even be more powerful to ask the following question. Does my outplacement firm have good relationships with my former employees? In our experience, the answer to that last question is likely, and unfortunately, probably not.

We’ve done a significant amount of primary and secondary research with our partners, HR leaders, and academia to develop a model we call the Outplacement Relational Gap™ (see figure 1). This model outlines the evolution of the outplacement industry from the early 80’s until today. Traditional outplacement has been geography specific in its focus with product features like office space, workbooks, adjunct unaffiliated consultants, and classroom delivery. In other words, it is a high fixed cost model of doing business. As the industry has evolved, these cost pressures have led traditional outplacement firms to cut costs where it hurts the end user most. Specifically, they have managed margins by increasing their client to coach ratio. In many cases, these big box firms assign 60 clients per career consultant. They have all but eliminated the importance of a customized, high service relationship with the people that need it most: those that have lost their jobs.

The same commodity-style environment that has placed demands on traditional firms has also spawned a new wave of technology-intensive firms that offer cutthroat pricing and web-based resources. We are the first at Barton Career Advisors to recognize that technology has an important part in a career search. However, we strongly believe this should not come at the expense of critical relationships with clients. When you put together a call center to answer questions from your thousands of clients, it sure does not have the feel of a relationship that is built to last!

In outplacement, one size does not fit all. Barton Career Advisors is on the cutting edge of practices that drive user satisfaction and effectiveness. While we leverage technology to deliver portions of our program all across the country, it does not come at the expense of our clients. We operate on a 20:1 client to coach ratio which ensures that every displaced employee receives highly tailored, personalized attention and tools for their career search. We truly build the outplacement engagement around each individual client. Despite attempts to offer “unlimited” coaching sessions and “personal” service, our competitors simply lack the physical ability to deliver on these expectations.

Today’s work modalities require an innovative career transition program that is not tied to the traditional outplacement paradigm. BCA has structured its business model to focus on premier, hands-on, tailored coaching relationships rather than physical office space. Our low fixed-cost model allows for an investment in expert career coaching services which are customized to the dynamic and changing needs of each client. As a matter of fact, our 2011 research in conjunction with Bush Associates LLC that was presented at the 54th Annual Midwestern Academy of Management Conference reflects:

When candidates were asked to rank 15 “Outplacement Services Features” based on their importance to their overall career transition program “Availability of Outplacement Office Services” ranked 2nd to last in importance in 14th place. The top three factors were-

1. Resume & CV Development
2. Coaching on how to approach the recruitment market
3. Interview skills coaching

Source: Two Perspectives on Outplacement: The End User vs. The Purchasing Executive, (Zongrone, Barton, Bush, Dickinson), October 2011, Presented at The 54th Annual Midwestern Academy of Management Conference, Omaha, NE.

The 2010 Outplacement Industry Benchmark Report published by McFarlan Lane further amplifies the importance of outplacement programs like Barton Career Advisors that focus on three key factors:

1. Ability of the consultant to actively engage with individuals

2. An ability to develop shared understanding of capabilities and strengths in the individual
3. Commercial experience of the consultant
It may be time to ask your outplacement provider, “How strong is your relationship with our former employees?”  It also may be time to reflect on what your hardworking employees deserve when it is time to say “Goodbye”.