By Brenda L. Peterson, The Layoff Lady
My Year In Review
For me, the past year has been very full. For the first six months, I was in career transition, a volunteer facilitator for The White Box Club, and writing my book Seven Lessons From Seven Layoffs: A Guide.
Then, I started a new job, and everything changed. I spent the next six months learning my new role, adjusting my finances back to my working person budget, and focused on finalizing and publishing my book.
Priorities, Plans, and Goals
I have a love/hate relationship with setting personal goals. Instead, I feel like I have a general direction in life and continue to modify and hone that direction as needed. I may change where I focus when I stumble upon a new interest, when an opportunity unexpectedly presents itself, when a once murky path becomes clear, or when life hands me a beginning or end. Sometimes, it’s as easy as the start of a new week, year, or season to motivate me to reflect.
Creating The New Normal
This time, I’m taking a step back to revisit goals a little differently. Just a few short months ago, I was acclimating to my new job, working on paying off a few bigger ticket items, adjusting to my new adult ADHD diagnosis, and making the bijilion little required decisions to get my book over the publishing finish line. Now, with many of those items crossed off of my life to-do list and coming off of an amazing visit from my daughter, it feels like the right time to reassess and consciously decide what to focus on next.
My Reflection Plan
Here is my plan for doing a bit of structured soul-searching as I contemplate my way forward:
What Do You Think?
What prompts you to revisit your priorities? What is your process for refection and goal setting? Share your thoughts in the comments.
By Brenda L. Peterson, The Layoff Lady
Where Do I Even Start?
If you work in an industry where potential employers want to see examples of your previous work, putting together a portfolio is a good idea. As someone who works in the field of learning and development, I know that it's valuable for me to have additional evidence to prove that I actually have all of those skills I brag so much about on my resume. Whether you're job searching or building your overall career resilience and opportunity readiness, having an online portfolio is a good step to take.
Like any new endeavor, figuring out where to start can be challenging. There are countless options, and even more opinions, on what the ideal portfolio looks like. Here is my five-step process for helping you to create a portfolio that works for you.
Step 1: Identify Your Goals
This is the step you might be tempted to skip. However, if you don't take a little time to figure out what you're trying to accomplish with your portfolio, you most certainly won't reach your goals.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself to help you clarify what you want:
Depending on your answers to these questions, your goals may include one or more of the following:
The answers to these questions will influence your portfolio creation choices.
Step 2: Decide What To Include
The specific content you include in your portfolio will depend on your overall goals. In my chosen field of learning and development, here are a few of the kinds of work samples I might want to include:
Remember, your portfolio is not just about the documents you include. It's also about the story you tell about how you solved a problem and how the artifact you include supports that narrative.
Step 3: Gather Work Samples
Once you have identified your goals and thought about the skillset you want to showcase, it's time to choose the specific documents you will include. Here are a few possibilities for locating or creating your actual work samples:
Whether you have existing documents you used in previous roles, re-create samples similar to past work projects, or re-purpose project documents created as part of another interview process, determine what you will include.
Step 4: Choose and Implement Technology
Since you are creating an online portfolio, choosing the underlying technology is an important step. While there are countless options available, here are three viable choices to consider:
Step 5: Share Your Portfolio.
Depending on your goals, you may have your portfolio as a website that someone could discover on their own or a link that can only be accessed after you share it with someone. Regardless of your portfolio format, there are a few cases where you will proactively share your portfolio link:
Make Your Portfolio 1.0
At this point, you may be excited about all the possibilities and overwhelmed with uncertainty. Here's my recommendation for creating at least a starter portfolio for yourself.
Congratulations. You now have a portfolio. Take a week off from looking at it, and then make an appointment with yourself to revisit your portfolio goals and next steps.
What Do You Think?
What goals and design choices did you make with your online portfolio? Include your thoughts in the comments.
By Brenda L. Peterson, The Layoff Lady
Layoffs Happen All The Time
It starts like any other day. Then, it takes an ominous turn:
Whether you have a one-on-one that ends with a pink slip, are perp-walked to HR on your first day back from vacation, or receive an awkwardly worded email notifying you of your last day, you are now among the newly unemployed.
Welcome to the suck.
Now What Do I Do?
Even if there were buyout rumors, a quarter with low sales, or a new company direction, being part of a reduction in force (RIF) is still surreal when it happens to you. It's hard to know what to do with yourself when you find yourself unexpectedly out of the job. It's time to redirect your attention.
Your New Focus Areas
The work problems you had an hour ago are gone. Along with your freed-up future come very different challenges. It’s time to shift to these top three focus areas:
Your Guiding Principle
Along with your new focus areas, your overall guiding principle is not to do anything counterproductive (or downright stupid) as you figure out your post-layoff next steps.
Your Never-Do List
Here are the career-limiting moves that will make your life harder. Instead of springing into action, stop, think, and then just don't do the following:
Your Think-Before-You-Consider-Doing List
Here are a few things you may want to do at some point, but that require thought and a plan before you move forward. At the very least, sleep on it before you do any of the following:
Now that you are at least somewhat inoculated against creating utter chaos for yourself, let's get back to those top three focus areas.
Focus Area 1: Process Your Emotions
Losing your job can be an emotional roller coaster. An unplanned job change is a stressful life event on par with getting divorced or going to prison. Just like dealing with a death in the family, you’re dealing with the death of the future you thought you had. Losing that imagined future is a significant loss that needs to be addressed.
Figure out how you will cope with these changes. While distracting yourself from the unpleasant parts of the process is natural, building healthier coping mechanisms, like prioritizing self-care, is better for your long-term success.
While you can get away with avoiding your feelings for a while, eventually, you need to acknowledge each one so you can move on. If you don’t work through those difficult emotions, your ignored feelings will come out sideways at just the wrong time. It is better to work through your grief privately than to fall apart during an interview or snap at someone who is trying to help you.
Step 2: Review Your Finances
While I know quite a bit based on my previous work experience supporting financial coaches, my own research, and my personal life experiences, I do not currently hold a license or certification to give financial advice. Therefore, the information provided here is educational information provided as guidance.
I hope you can glean value from my lessons learned. Feel free to take my recommendations or not—but whatever you do, double-check my information (and everyone's facts, for that matter). This is your life, and you will care more about your finances and health care than anyone else. With that, read on.
Possible Money From Your Former Employer
Although your paychecks will eventually stop, you will receive your final paycheck, possibly vacation time that you have earned and, hopefully, a lovely parting gift from your former employer in the form of a severance package. Severance could be equivalent to a set number of weeks of pay or include an additional lump sum, continuation of some benefits, and job placement services. In most cases, employers do not have to give you any type of severance.
If you are eligible for a severance package, you will need to sign something before receiving that money. Once you sign, any thoughts you might have about legal action regarding your employment with the organization are pretty much over. Read the agreement given to you, consider having a lawyer look it over, and ask for clarifications (and any revisions) before signing it. After that, there is typically a waiting period before you receive that money. I also encourage you not just to sign whatever paper they put in front of you. Make sure you advocate for yourself.
After a layoff, most people will be eligible for unemployment insurance income, or UI. I encourage you to apply for unemployment payments. The money used to make unemployment payments comes from the payroll taxes that employers pay. That money is intended to help people who have been laid off to pay their bills as they search for something new.
Unemployment payments are administered at the state level and vary by state. After you apply, there may be a waiting period before you receive a payment. Your state will also outline the amount of each payment you will receive, the number of payments you are eligible to receive, and additional factors impacting your payments. You may also qualify for job search support services and even programs to help you upgrade your skills.
In short, apply for unemployment income right away. In most cases, there is not a good reason for most people to forgo unemployment payments.
A Note About Health Insurance
Since many people rely on their employers for health insurance coverage, consider how you’ll cover healthcare costs. If you have a spouse, domestic partner, or parent who can bring you onto their health insurance, that may be your best option. Check with the other person’s employer and let them know you no longer have health insurance through your employer because of a layoff. Their employer can talk you through your next steps and cost changes.
If that's not an option, consider COBRA coverage through your former employer. This means you could stay with your previous health insurance, but now you'd pay the whole premium cost. Brace yourself when you see your new premium amount because it is usually A LOT more than you spent as an employee.
Another option is going on the insurance exchanges at Healthcare.gov to find coverage. You may even be eligible for a subsidy to offset the cost. Alternatively, for less expensive coverage intended to cover a big expensive medical issue should it happen, short-term health care insurance may be a good interim option. Do your research and determine what makes the most sense for you and your household.
Step 3: Prepare For Your Job Search
Next, plan to launch your search for a new job. Start by thinking about what kind of job you want. Write down job titles, possible employers, and your target salary range. Update your resume to include details about your last position and showcase your unique skillset as it aligns with your target job.
From here, start letting people know your new status of being “in transition” and ask for help. They might be able to introduce you to a valuable business contact, keep an eye out for job openings that meet your needs, and introduce you to a hiring manager looking for someone just like you.
It Will All Work Out. It May Also Take A While.
All told, I’ve had seven workdays that started with lots of obligations then quickly evaporated into unemployment. The good news is that it will all work out. The bad news is that there is a lot of uncertainty between your last day of work and your first day of your fancy new job when it does arrive. Using these tips will set you right as you begin your career transition.
Seven Lessons From Seven Layoffs: A Guide
If you've recently been laid off, check out my book Seven Lessons From Seven Layoffs: A Guide. You can even buy the eBook to get help right now.
In this book, I cover seven lessons from my seven experiences with unplanned job losses. I include my personal stories alongside practical advice for navigating this tumultuous time.
You'll learn strategies for managing your mindset, finding the next right job for you, shaping your career story, and overcoming setbacks.
by Brenda L. Peterson, The Layoff Lady
'Tis The Season
Of my seven total layoffs, three began with my role being eliminated in the fall and ended with me starting a new job well into the new year. Being in a career transition always has rough patches. Being in a career transition during the holidays—especially the week before Christmas through the first full work week of January—is soul-sucking.
I’ve read several articles touting the benefits of job searching during the holidays--and I mean a lot, a lot of them. (No one else will be applying! You’ll get a leg up on other applicants! Tons of people are trying to fill positions before the year's end!)
I'm sure somebody somewhere found the role of a lifetime the day after Christmas interviewing with the one HR rep who was out of vacation and stuck working. I am not that person. I'm also not going to make the mistake of trying to be that person ever again.
The Hiring Process Takes Time
My shortest period of post-layoff unemployment was 50 days. In that time, I discovered the opportunity, applied for the role, had a phone screen, interviewed with the hiring manager, met with the hiring manager's boss, had an interview with the team, received an offer, negotiated the offer, waited for the background check, and then started. During this entire process, I had an interview each week. We started talking in mid-March, when no one was on vacation, and there were no major holidays.
Holiday Hiring Challenges
Not even considering each organization's busy season, making progress on finding a new job in December is challenging. In addition to whatever year-end tasks need to happen, people are also focusing on holiday parties and family commitments, and sometimes using their vacation so they don't lose it. Unfortunately, focusing on getting people through the hiring process ranks lower on that full priority list.
The Darkest Job Search Time
In my experience, the absolute worst weeks for job searching are the last two weeks in December, with the very first week in January still being very slow. Then, as if by magic, on the first Monday of the first full workweek of the year, the world starts moving again.
Those last two weeks in December can be downright brutal if you're trying to continue job searching. Possible referrals will suggest you wait until people are back in the office. The HR person you might manage to talk to is likely the one with the least vacation who is not hiring for the role that interests you most. You may also find that you'll get next to no good news and instead get a lot of long-overdue "we regret to inform you" emails confirming that you did not get that job you applied for several months ago.
My Holiday Job Search Advice
Here is my advice to job seekers at the end of the year. Take a break from pounding pavement on your job search, and just breathe. Stop applying for a week or two. This break will do you good.
Instead, take some time for you. Go do a few things you enjoy but don't always take the time to do while you are gainfully employed. Go to a noon yoga class. Get together with friends for lunch. Read a novel with no obvious professional development benefit. Go to a matinee. Visit a museum. Take a road trip. Walk around the mall on a weekday. Buy fancy coffee in a café and people watch. Whatever it is, do some things that bring you joy.
Just like we all need vacation time to recuperate from our day jobs and be able to do good work, we also need to take a break from a job search so we can have the mental space to regroup. If you want to do something for your job search, revisit what you want in a new role and ensure your goals are still the right ones. Then, you can move forward and have more success in the new year.
7-time layoff survivor Brenda L. Peterson, The Layoff Lady, waxes poetic on layoffs, job transitions, & career resilience.
Buy The Book!
Were you recently laid off from your job and need a roadmap for what's next? Pick up a copy of my book, Seven Lessons From Seven Layoffs: A Guide!