canned

Canned: A 10-Step Program

cannedAs of last month, there are 11.6 million Americans out of work. And things aren’t showing any signs of slowing down; layoffs have even hit members of the Parlour Fam, including yours truly. (I’m lovely, really!) So it’s no surprise that I get calls nearly every week from poor souls asking for advice on how I’m coping with being laid-off. As with most things in my life, it’s easier to just write it down. Here’s my program for dealing, and here’s hoping you never have to use it!
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1. Be upset.
For, like, a day. Then…
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2. Be happy.
Yes, I know there are bills to pay and bellies to fill, but take a moment to count your blessings: You’ve just been forced to reevaluate the trajectory of not just your professional life, but the whole darn thing. Take advantage of it! Were you really happy with where your career was headed? Do you want to find another gig in the same field, or go after the dream job that you were too chicken-shit to chase before? Maybe now is the time to go back to school (it’s a great time, incidentally—you can build up your skills and be prepared to step back into the fray when the market rebounds). Don’t just figure out what you don’t want to do, work on figuring out what you do want to do.

Bottom line: It may take a while, but use this forced downtime to ask yourself some serious questions. Write down the answers, and refer back to it whenever you lose your way.

3. File for unemployment. Your job should have given you the pertinent info. The process varies by state; just Google “unemployment” and your state. File as soon as you can (you might have to wait a week depending on how much you made in the week you were let go) and know that you’ll have a one-week waiting period before you’ll start to collect. When it comes to receiving your money, I’m fond of the direct deposit option, though you can opt to have your money put on a dedicated debit card. Fingers crossed that you max out ($405 here you come!), but be sure to let Uncle Sam take his 10% up front—until the unemployment insurance tax is repealed, you have to pony up. Better now than later.

4. Update your résumé. Yeah, you probably tweaked it the last time your boss pissed you off in the weekly staff meeting, but you need to revisit it now. Add an end date to your latest gig, then change everything to past tense. Now look at it for content: are you selling yourself with specific results-driven descriptions? Do your entries work for the new path that you picked in step #2? If it needs a major overhaul, call your alma mater and ask if they have an alumni career services program; most do, and they’re free. Your state also likely offers a résumé revamp service once you are approved for unemployment insurance; just be sure to take both electronic and hard copies to speed along the process.

5. Reach out. Now that you know what you want to do next—and have the updated résumé to support it—reach out to your network. Keep the tone light and upbeat; nobody wants to be around Debbie Downer. Send an email telling everyone in your network that you’ve been laid-off, and that you feel good about it (see #2). Paste in your résumé, too (if you make folks open an attachment, they won’t). Then tell them what specific help you need. Are you looking for consulting work? Say so. Need connections in the HR departments of all the financial firms in your town? Speak up. If you’re planning to start your own business designing websites, use this as an opportunity to announce it; folks are always happy to throw work in the direction of the broke. Strike while the sympathy is fresh.

6. Make moves. But you can’t just put out the call and chill on your couch in your jammies (much), you’ve got to make opportunities for yourself. Create profiles on LinkedIn and every industry-specific job search-site you can think of. Set up daily alerts for jobs that fit your next step, and ask former colleagues and clients to write endorsements for you on LinkedIn. While you’re at it, change your status on all your social networking profiles to something that suggests you need a new gig. Closed mouths don’t get fed.

7. Get personal. Now you need to reach out to folks individually. The general email you sent out should have brought some leads to you, but if you know that your best friend’s cousin works at the company where you’d like to land, email her and ask for a lunch date. Getting out there and letting people see your face (and asking them for what you want) is critical. It’s not good enough to ask someone to let you know if a job opens up, because there aren’t any jobs opening up right now—we’re in a recession, people. Ask for an introduction to the person who could hire you, then set up a lunch with them. It’s all about expanding your network, so that yours is the face that pops up when they can add to the headcount. Also, look into consulting for your old company. They can’t afford to keep your fabulous self on staff, but the work still needs to be done.

8. Reevaluate your expenses. You’ll already be saving by eating lunch at home, but there’s probably more fat to be trimmed. Can you cut back on your cell phone plan now that you’re at home all day? Do you really need HBO and Showtime? Get a clear picture of your finances by creating an account on wesabe.com; it tracks all your spending, and it works retroactively, so you can upload past banking activity, watch your personal spending patterns emerge, then do something about them.

9. Get insured. Yes, it’s expensive, but if you can’t grab health insurance from your spouse or industry union, spring for the COBRA, or see if you qualify for a state-funded program. Every year, more people are bankrupted by medical expenses than any other debt. Don’t be that chick.

10. Help others. You’re on the job sites anyway, keep an eye open for gigs that are perfect for your friends. The more job emails they get from you, the more you’ll be on their minds when they’re looking.

Bonus step: Stock up on Spam. I hear it’s cheap…

What are your coping strategies for getting laid off? Lay ’em on me!

—Kenrya

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Last 5 posts by kenrya

  • D

    I just got laid off last Thursday and this info is right on time. I’m also thankful that per your steps I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. It’s crazy because I’m not sad, I just see it as an opportunity to do what I want to do. The thing that is depressing is getting calls from people who use what I call the “condolence tone.” You know, the one you use when someone is near death or just has died. Nobody died, I just lost my job — not the first and def won’t be the last — and I’m perfectly okay with that (now) so please be the same and don’t be a Debbie Downer.

  • Diane

    So having had this happen twice to me (voluntary though they were), one after 9/11 – I agree it’s a great time to re-evaluate.

    I don’t advocate sitting in front of the computer for 8 hours. I did that and it did not make anything happen faster. In fact, in the last round, Kenrya told me to go take walks…

    I do advocate setting up one email account for all things job-hunting related. The worst thing is to use a personal account. You might end up getting involved in personal emails and miss something. Just get a different account.

    Go to school only if you have enough money to do so. Otherwise, scope out the classes you want and put it on the wish list for when you’re employed again – and maybe they’ll pick up the tab. Surprisingly, one boss asked what courses I was taking (had nothing to do with art, the dept. I was in) and he found two classes the company paid for. Thanks H!

    Beans. Beans are good foods. And on sale, a bargain to boot. Hot, cold, in salads, con arroz – they stretch meals.

    It’s also a good time to scout out less expensive grocery stores. No one has to go to Harris Teeter, Food Emporium, Balducci’s…

    Do go to those pink slip parties that are sprouting up (I know of many in Manhattan and Westchester Co.)

    Most of all – as K says – enjoy. It may be the last time in the next quarter century where you’ll have down time during the week. It is a gift.

  • Erica

    Great Advice. Especially #8. We should all do it, job or not.

  • Leilani

    It worked to help me get a job, volunteer to gain experience in what you want to do. You get great recommendations.

  • Tahad

    Instead of the corporate world breaking us, let’s break them and reverse the psychology. How about 10 steps to become dependent. How about a universal job strike?