Almost daily for the past couple of weeks, I’ve fielded calls from friends, family and business associates telling me that they had just been laid off. For most, it’s the first time that they’ve involuntarily been out of work, and they’re in shock. Their world was just turned upside down, and they don’t know where to turn.
Unfortunately for these people and their employers, COVID-19 is having an unprecedented impact on employment. There is no textbook answer for unemployment questions in a time of social distancing. That makes it even more important to be strategic and thoughtful in your response.
In my 15-plus years as a professional recruiter, I’ve counseled many through the layoff experience, and this is what I tell them.
Take the first day off. Losing your job stings, and in that first day, you will likely have many negative emotions, like anger, frustration, bitterness, fear and even embarrassment. When your mind is cluttered like that, you aren’t ready to make big decisions or have important conversations. Instead, find peace in recreation and relaxing. Then, take an inventory of your blessings, including your professional skills and accomplishments. Finally, before you go to bed that night, affirm your value to yourself.
Approach day two and every day after with energy and enthusiasm. Now is not the time to cower in the corner and hide from the world. Yesterday was your day off. It’s time to get to work, and you need to be loud about it. Your network needs to know that your talents are available. Call your friends, colleagues and family. Update your LinkedIn status. If you know recruiters in your industry, call them now. They can give you insight on the conditions in your industry.
Be positive. Now, more than usual, many of us are surrounded by negativity. Because of this, a positive, enthusiastic voice stands out more than ever. Smile when you speak, even when you’re communicating by telephone. I spend a large part of my day on the phone, and can often tell the mood of the person on the other end of the line by his or her voice. In times like these, I grow weary of dark moods. Be that person who leaves people excited about the next time they get to speak with you.
Have a value statement. When organizations face uncertainty, their focus is on improving their immediate situation. Tell them how you can contribute to that solution. If you have special skills and certifications, don’t bury them in your resume or LinkedIn profile. Feature them in the way that a car salesman lists the most popular features first.
Be bold and specific in your communication with prospective employers. You are trying to get attention, not earn a high score for etiquette. Employers probably aren’t desperate for talent. Their inboxes are flooded with resumes. Make them desperate for YOUR talent. Tell them how you can help them and in what capacity you are willing to work, e.g. temp-to-hire. Memorize and internalize your value statement.
Don’t get discouraged. Businesses now are trepidatious and very careful with commitments that require resources. Plus, they have little time to focus on the future, as they struggle remain solvent. Be persistent, but don’t be alarmed if the process goes more slowly than you wanted. Also, don’t stop looking when you are going through the interview process. Looking out for yourself means that you consider all opportunities.
Like all previous downturns in the employment market, this one will end, and we’ll be stronger for the experience. If you apply these hints during the process, you can be ahead of the game when the rebound happens.
Note: If you are an engineer or have experience in technical sales, I want to hear from you. Please call me at 402-884-7466 or e-mail me.