By Brenda L. Peterson, The Layoff Lady
Learning About Yourself
Whether you’re considering making a career change, are currently in the midst of a job transition, or want to be more effective in your role, increasing your self-knowledge is a great place to start.
A Good Starting Point: Values and Strengths
In other articles here on The Layoff Lady, I’ve outlined ideas for exploring your values and discovering your strengths. Knowing more about what you truly value and what you are good at will help you think about the why, what, and how of the type of work you are driven to do. Reflecting on your findings will also help you have better conversations about your skillset and what motivates you personally and professionally.
A Solid Next Step: Discovering Your Saboteurs
It’s incredible how our strengths and values also show up when we are in challenging situations—often in good ways, but sometimes in more destructive ways. Learning about how you can get in your own way is a valuable strategy for making better decisions when you’re mid-crisis.
Enter Shirzad Chamine. He is a professor, professional coach, and the author of the best-selling book Positive Intelligence. He introduces strategies for how to be mindful of what we know (IQ) our overall emotional intelligence (EQ), and how to leverage our positive intelligence (abbreviated as PQ). The end result is learning to be more effective and increase our overall.
Nine Ways We Self Sabotage (According to Positive Intelligence)
Here arer the nine saboteurs outlind in Positive Intelligence listed in alphabetical order along with my brief description of each:
Yikes. We're certanly not our best selves when we show up this way. Let's look at how you can identify your saboteurs and use that information to improve how you show up.
About The Assessment To Find Your Top Saboteurs
Set aside time to take the 9 Ways We Self Sabatoge Assessment from Positive Intelligence. The assessment takes 5-10 minutes to complete. In addition, I suggest giving yourself 30-45 minutes to review your results and reflect.
This assessment consists of 45 questions. Each question includes of a statement, and you'll rate your agreement with that statement on a 5-point scale ranging from strongly agree to strongly disagree. The directions encourage you to answer each question relatively quickly and go with your initial response.
The final 7 questions are about demographics and finding out where they will send your assessment results.
Your Assessment Results
The results you receive include a ranking of your top sabateurs and your score for each. In addition, you will receive the following information about each of your saboteurs:
Reviewing Your Results
I find these types of assessments fascinating. As someone who is committed to ongoing professional development, I appreciate getting insights that might be hard for someone else to share. These insights are valuable, and also help me understand why I do what I’m doing as well as helping me to recognize those non-helpful patterns so I can adjust my approach going forward.
Not at all surprising to me, my top three saboteurs are as follows:
My Initial Reflections On My Results
Here were my initial thoughts as I saw my top three identified saboteurs:
My Additional Reflections On My Results
Under Controller, here are a few statements resonated with me from the details included within my report:
Reflecting on Your Results
By Brenda L. Peterson, The Layoff Lady
Onsite, Remote, and Hybrid Work Implications
One challenge during my most recent job search has been the newly added focus on work location. Specifically, the following labels have become more standard on job listings: onsite, hybrid, and remote.
While there are, indeed, many remote jobs available, I discovered first-hand that companies and job search sites are not necessarily aligned on what remote, hybrid, and onsite work arrangements mean. Let's dig a little deeper.
Remote Job Clarifications
Overall, a "remote" job could mean one or more of the following are true:
Onsite, Remote, and Hybrid Roles in Practice
Regardless of the label, jobs may work differently in practice. Here are a few of the many possible scenarios:
Navigating Job Listings for Remote Roles
As a job seeker, knowing that companies may vary on how they list details in their job descriptions, here are a few strategies for navigating job listings:
Remote Work Implications: Candidate Location, Job Location, and Pay
There are also a few other implications of remote work to keep in mind:
Strategies for Remote Work Salary Conversations
Given these variations on how salaries work for remote roles, be sure to think through your financial requirements and how you will address questions about your desired salary:
An Unlikely Day of Reflection
There are several days each year when people typically look back and assess their lives. This could be the anniversary of a death, a holiday full of memories, or your birthday. For me, the day I reflect is Groundhog Day.
February 2, 2006
Early in 2006, my life was at a crossroads. My then-husband and I were in the process of getting divorced, and I was figuring out how to transition from a house to two houses and what co-parenting my 2-year-old daughter would be like. The one shred of stability I had was my job. I was happy to have one thing I could count on not changing.
…and then February 2 happened.
That morning, I went to work. I took a few minutes between meetings to create a spreadsheet to figure out if I could afford to buy a condo I’d looked at the night before on my own. As I saved my file, I got a tap on the shoulder that I had an impromptu meeting. I grabbed a pen and a legal pad and walked into a conference room full of executives who informed me that my position was eliminated due to restructuring because of the company being acquired.
Welcome to layoff #2.
I was in shock. I returned to my desk, deleted my spreadsheet (which had just become irrelevant), told my coworker Brad “I’m gone,” and found myself sitting in my car with a box containing all of my formerly workly possessions.
From the parking lot of my ex-workplace, I called my soon-to-be ex-husband to tell him about my now ex-job. His only response was, “Huh.”
Then, It Got A Little Worse
That weekend, I was on a road trip to visit some of my high school friends for a fun weekend of reminiscing and going to the Snowflake Ski Jump. On my way there, a local cop pulled me over for speeding. As I sat there, I glanced at the notification I’d just received from unemployment sitting in my passenger seat—the one that said I’d receive less money than the last time I’d been laid off—meaning I wouldn’t be bringing enough money in to cover my half of the mortgage. As the officer approached my window, I could feel the tears well up. I could not get a ticket, too. I would cry (as I often heard people threaten to do), but this was no empty threat that would come to bear only through theatrics. I was legit going to fall apart if this happened.
This moment—sitting in the car with indications of my life failures greatest hits smacking me in the face was a low point in my life—rivaled only by my dad’s unexpected death when I was still in high school.
Then, It Got a Little Better
Fortunately, I think because of my street cred, which included being a native of a town nearby, I drove away ticket free. One thing had gone okay. Then I saw friends, connected with new people, and spent more time with my daughter. I also had the time and space to figure out what to do with myself now.
The Transition Begins
It was an ugly, ugly few months.
I applied for countless jobs. I put our house up for sale. My daughter’s dad (new language from the book Mom’s House, Dad’s House) and I decided to move in tandem to Minneapolis, Minnesota from Madison, Wisconsin. I looked for jobs, made business connections, and stayed with friends on the way to and from my regular trips to Minneapolis. I didn’t sleep well for months. A tree fell down in my front yard the day of my open house, so I figured out how to have a giant tree removed while driving on I-90 back home from a job interview.
That May, I found a job, a preschool for my daughter, a new place to live, and reconnected with one of my best friends from high school. Later, my daughter's dad found a job and moved to Minneapolis, along with his new girlfriend (a lovely person and good to my daughter).
Then, to mix it up, I totaled my car, dated and broke up with a couple of people, and got Shingles three times in a row. Some days, after work, I would lie on my floor and look at the ceiling in my apartment, my low-cost therapy as I acclimated to all of the life changes. I adjusted to my new normal after going through every significant life change (save a death in the family and someone I love going to prison) I could think of to endure.
Then, It Kept Getting Better
In October, on the same day, I was approved for a car loan and found out that my house in Madison had new owners. Over time, I made two great friends from my job and got comfortable in a new city. I started dating someone who was great, then bought a house with and married that guy--who is an awesome stepdad and cat dad.
I got laid off again and got another good job, then got laid off again and got an even better job. Things have gone pretty well through layoffs, reemployments, trials and tribulations. Through it all, my husband is awesome, my now-adult daughter is amazing, and the cats mostly tolerate my presence.
A Frame of Reference for Gratitude
Sometimes, I see people who are unhappy with what they have. The strange upside of having gone through rough times is that it gives you a frame of reference. It reminds me to be grateful for the roof over our heads, my husband playing video games with our two cats in his lap, my healthy, happy daughter, and an ongoing stream of new challenges and adventures.
I’m grateful for being active, able-bodied, and having a strong sense of well-being. I am grateful for winter heat, summer air conditioning, and all the machines that do my housework. I treasure mother/daughter movie nights, trips to the skating rink, and building relationships with new friends and colleagues. I value my roller derby skates, my outside roller skates, and my inline skates. I appreciate my cats, Zippy and Meathook, and the combination of disdain and affection they have for me. I am genuinely grateful for it all. Groundhog Day is my annual reminder to remember all these things.
by Brenda L. Peterson, The Layoff Lady
Don't Go It Alone
Life is challenging when nothing in particular is happening. When you're going through a job change (especially one you didn't plan), it's even harder. While I'm a fan of self-reliance, I also know the value of finding people who want to support you and letting them do it. You're not weak for needing people. You are smart for planning ahead for what you will need.
You Need Help Because This is Hard
I have been through a post-layoff job transition 7 times, and it is difficult each and every time. There is the fear that it will just never end and you'll be drifting for eternity trying to find paid work where you can pay your bills--much less in a job you want. You worry that you'll have to settle for something that may be even worse than the worst job you've ever had. You also worry that you'll run out of money and not be able to pay your bills and lose everything you own and everyone you've ever loved. While your rational mind knows this is all pretty unlikely, there will be moments when it all seems hopeless. That's where your support network comes in.
No matter how resilient and downright badass you are, doing this alone makes it way harder.
People Want to Help You: Make Sure to Let Them
As an extra added bonus, people want to help you!
I'm always inspired by people who come out of the woodwork to check on me, tell me about an open position, thank me for helping them once upon a time, or offer to refer me for a role. Everyone has struggled with something at one time or another, and someone has helped them. Let other people help you.
Building Your Team
It also takes a village to get you through a career transition. Relying on one person for everything is all kinds of stressful. Know that people want to help, and it's a matter of figuring out what you need, letting people know, and reaching out to people when you need it. Going through a job search is challenging even in the best of circumstances. If you're starting from a layoff (especially the part where someone else got to make a big, uninvited life decision for you) it can be even more challenging.
Types of Help You Need
Here's a starter list of the types of help you may need during your job transition. More specifically, here is some of what I needed. Use this as a starting point and add details as it helps you:
Who Can Help
When it comes to help, I start with my inner circle--close friends and family. I'm also sure to widen my support team beyond them, too.
I also move beyond that immediate group. I interact with my LinkedIn connections. I tap into online groups including job search groups, The White Box Club, and even LinkedIn groups focusing on networking or a content area (like sales enablement).
I interact with in-person membership groups like ATD or the Omaha OD Network. Or I seek out non-work connections through social Meetup groups or activities. Sometimes, I just spend time in coffee shops to indirectly interact with other people. It's a matter of figuring out what you need and finding a person to help.
Asking for Help
Know, too, that there will be times when you need to straight up reach out to someone because you need help. Each person will have their areas of interest and expertise, so be sure to keep that in mind when asking for help.
It's helpful to consider who you might contact for different needs. Here are a few cases where I reach out to different people to ask for help:
by Brenda L. Peterson, The Layoff Lady
Welcome To The Suck
The process of being "in transition" is like no other. Not only do you have no outwardly dictated plans on any given weekday, but you don't know how long your unstructured time off will last (another week, another month, a few months?) or what your day-to-day life will look like once the transition is over.
There's also the issue of figuring out what to do with yourself when you're not job searching--in addition to feeling guilty because you're not doing more job searching. As an extra added bonus, there are the occasional freakouts about money, nervousness about career prospects, and the once-in-a-great-while "I will never be employed ever again!" full-on panic.
Suffice it to say that job searching can be full of obstacles that make the process hard to manage. Knowing the possible issues is the first step towards figuring out how to mitigate each challenge and move forward. Here are five unfortunate reasons I have discovered about dealing with an unexpected career transition and a few coping strategies for dealing with each.
Reason 1: You Won't Always Get An Interview For "The Perfect Job."
Congratulations! You just found THE PERFECT JOB! You have all of the required and preferred qualifications! It's at the right level with your dream company, and you even know someone who works there who will say great things about you! Surely your days of job searching are coming to a close because you are the purple squirrel for THE PERFECT JOB!
Enter reality. I'm sorry to say that you may not even manage to get so much as an initial phone screen for this position. Even when you feel like the job was tailor-made for you, someone in a decision-making position may not agree. Why might that happen?
For one, the position may not actually be available. Some organizations post job openings to gauge interest in the position even though they have no plans to hire anytime soon. Conversely, the role may have been open for a while, and the selection process may be well underway. There could also be an internal person who will take the job without additional people being considered. In some cases, companies may have a policy that they need to post positions externally for a given length of time, even though they already have a candidate in mind. Still other organizations may decide part way through the hiring process to leave a position unfilled but not remove it from their posted jobs.
Assuming the job is really, and for true accepting applicants, there may still be issues. For one, key organizational stakeholders may lack common agreement on what a job role will do and what constitutes being a well-qualified candidate. Decision makers may also each have their own non-negotiable requirements for the qualifications for the potential hire--which may or may not relate to the person's ability to do the job. Remember that no matter what the issue is, it seldom has anything to do with you personally. It's just the life of recruiting for and trying to fill positions with the best candidates they can find--sometimes with people who are (unfortunately) not you.
Reason 2: People Who Aren't Good At Their Jobs Will Make Things Hard.
Remember a time at your last job when you had to deal with someone who was not good at what they did for a living? Like the rude salesperson who never did their paperwork right and missed deadlines? Or the recruiter who didn't keep good notes and forgot who they had phone screened? Or the company leader who wanted to approve every decision but would become unavailable for a week or more? During your job search, you'll realize those people exist in other organizations, too, and they sometimes stand between you and the job you want.
It could come in the form of an administrative assistant who is supposed to coordinate your travel for an in-person interview--who didn't make reservations and then went on vacation, leaving you scrambling to find someone else to help. It may be the recruiter who doesn't realize that a learning management system and a learning content management system are roughly the same thing and wrongly screens you out early in the process. It may be the hiring manager who is overly concerned with your lack of industry knowledge and doesn't believe that anyone could just LEARN what they now know. It may be an insecure possible future coworker who wants to avoid hiring someone who might outshine them. Like the rest of life, things are not always "fair." You may not get the job, even if you are a strong candidate. And so it goes
Reason 3: Along The Way, Someone Will Dislike You.
I don't know about you, but I am friggin' delightful. I'm also able to connect and get along well with most people. However, during the interview process, no matter who I am or am not, it will not match what someone else thinks the candidate for the position should be. Whether they thought I should have smiled more, made a different outfit choice, or given more detailed examples, someone's negative reaction to who I am may take me out of the running for a job.
People often have their own pet theories about what they'd like in a coworker, manager, or direct report. They may be convinced that having the title "account manager" is pivotal for success, that all candidates must have a master's degree, or that people who ride horses are pretentious. You might also have the misfortune of reminding them of the mean girl in high school and BOOM--instant dislike. Again, life isn't necessarily "fair."
Reason 4. The Interview Process May Be Sort Of All Over The Place.
The job interview process can be anything from one interview to many, many, many interviews, depending on the organization and the role. Typically, I expect to have a phone screen with an entry-level HR person to confirm that I can speak in sentences, an in-person interview with the manager and potential coworkers, and a final interview to demonstrate skills and/or meet with a company VP. In addition, a given employer may want you to do more to show that you have the skills necessary to do the job. For example, you might be asked to pass written assessments, submit work samples, present to a group or complete a project. They may even have you come into the office for the day and "work" as if you are already in the position you are applying for.
Interviews could take place over the phone, via web conference, through email, in person, or (more likely) a combination of all of the above. Some companies will have a pre-defined, structured process for the pacing and format of interviews. Other organizations will appear to be making it up as they go along. You may also inadvertently skip steps and realize near the end of the process that you should have talked about a basic topic like salary range or work location. Sometimes, it may seem that the interview process is never-ending because you have yet to talk with every single person in the organization.
Reason 5: Their "Moving Fast" And Yours May Be Very Different.
I remember being a child and how LONG the year seemed. It always took forever to get from my birthday at the end of August to Christmas. Enter adulthood. I find myself consistently marveling that it's already whatever day/month/season it is because it seems it was just that other day/month/season. In this scenario, your employer is the adult, and you are the child.
Some companies will be motivated to fill positions and move quickly. In contrast, others might have days, weeks, or even months between your contact with them--all because something that wasn't filling that position became a priority.
What about that two days the employer estimated it would take them to contact you? It may turn into a week or two. Since they're busy addressing customer issues, traveling to client sites, and doing their expense reports, they didn't even realize it took that long.
Or, as any job seeker doesn't want to hear, you may not be getting the job. Responding to a candidate quickly usually shows that the potential employer is interested. In many cases, taking longer to respond may indicate lagging interest. Such is how the whole process works.
by Brenda L. Peterson, The Layoff Lady
The Value of Professional Networking
When it comes to job searching, professional networking is a critical component of success. Ideally, you make initial connections with people through LinkedIn (maybe even after meeting them in person or at an online group event). While this is a great start, there is value in building relationships beyond that initial connection. A 1:1 meeting can significantly strengthen a networking relationship and help you learn how you and your new connection can help one another succeed.
About 1:1 Networking Meetings
So what exactly is a networking meeting? Back in the day, I remember hearing people talk about doing "informational interviews." In short, if you were interested in having a particular job or working with a specific company, you would contact an organization or individual and ask if they would meet you for an informational interview. In this 1:1 meeting, which could take place via phone or in person, you might learn about the company, what they are looking for, skills to acquire, and more. It also allowed you to start to build a relationship with a company--or a possible advocate in the person doling out said information.
Fast forward to now. Today, a networking meeting is typically between you and another person deciding to spend a half hour-ish together. This meeting, sometimes called a coffee chat, could happen virtually via Zoom or in person, often over coffee.
If you're job searching, the typical focus will be on how to progress in your job search. Someone may agree to a networking meeting because you have things in common (like a field of work, background, professional goals), because they are generally committed to helping people when they are job searching, or because you have a mutual acquaintance to ask that person to meet with you to help you out.
Networking Meeting = Informal Interview
Whenever you have an opportunity to meet one-on-one with someone, remember that you are taking part in a type of informal interview. Whenever I meet with someone in career transition, my goal is to help them figure out their next steps, offer advice (if they ask and are interested), and give them ideas on further steps they might take, including who they should speak with next
While I go in with this idea, the amount of help I'll provide also depends on how this networking meeting goes. Ideally, we have a good, productive conversation, and I think to myself, "I totally want to help this person more."
If the meeting goes well, I'll refer them to specific resources that might benefit them (like a networking group they might want to join, a company to check out, someone to follow on LinkedIn) and even put in a good word for them to have a networking meeting with someone else who might get them closer to their goals.
In addition, if it goes REALLY well, this is a person who I'll refer to others for openings, pass on job opportunities, and maybe even hire someday. If the meeting doesn't go well, I'll share a few resources, but I may not be willing to help them as actively moving forward.
Remember, any interaction you have with people will impact their desire to help you in the future.
Types of Networking Meetings
Here are a few common types of networking meetings:
Networking Meeting Best Practices
Here are a few best practices for networking meetings:
The True Power of Networking Meetings
When people talk about how they "networked" into a new job, typically, that means they leveraged their initial connections to help make inroads with new contacts, who helped them get closer to a new position.
The holy grail of networking meetings is when the person you meet with agrees to introduce you to someone else they know who could help you. That process repeats until you're talking to a hiring manager or influencer who can help you get an interview for a job. Having good networking meetings is a critical step in that process.
by Brenda L. Peterson, The Layoff Lady
Change Is The Only Constant
Businesses are always changing. They constantly update their strategy to stay viable long-term. Changing staffing levels is one way they evolve to meet needs. While changes may bring great opportunities, they could also mean a few layoffs--or a company-wide reduction in force (RIF) may be imminent.
Here are a few signs layoffs might be a-coming
From the dot.com bubble, to the 9/11 attacks, to the subprime mortgage crisis, to pandemic fallout and beyond, economic conditions impact the viability of individual businesses.
For example, during the pandemic, we saw some businesses boom (like video conferencing) while others struggled (like hospitality). Consequently, for those organizations that were floundering, job eliminations followed. More recently, mortgage rates rose, causing mortgage companies to streamline their operations.
Not all companies are successful--even in a strong economy. Companies might miss their sales targets for a quarter (or longer) or start to lose market share to a competitor.
To adjust, they may start with small cost-cutting measures, like having fewer snacks in the breakroom or downsizing employee events. Then, on a bigger level, there may be hiring freezes, no raises, or stopping performance bonuses. There could even be temporary pay cuts or eliminating some benefits (like employer contributions to a retirement plan).
Since salaries are one of the biggest line items companies have, eliminating staff is one way to address financial troubles that shows a significant, more immediate impact on the bottom line.
Whether a CEO or a frontline manager, leadership changes can impact an employee’s future. When a president is replaced, a VP of a critical department moves on, or a manager leaves due to personal reasons, new people fill those gaps.
New leaders typically review the current state, assess staffing levels, revisit company goals, and make changes. This may include them bringing in their own people, restructuring departments, halting unsuccessful projects, or starting new initiatives. In some cases, they may bring in one or more consultants to make recommendations—including the jobs that will continue, their scope, and who will do them.
When companies have new owners, changes are inevitable. Duplicate teams will combine and some positions may be consolidated or eliminated. In addition, differences in company values may mean that a department in one company is no longer valued in another.
Regardless of the circumstances, one thing is sure. The organizations in question will determine changes that need to be made and move forward to strengthen the company—which may or may not include a job for you.
Occasionally, companies revisit their goals and decide to switch directions. For example, a call center might start expecting all agents to be able to answer all call types, then shift to having specialized teams, then decide later to outsource or eliminate a service altogether.
Shifts take place to minimize costs or capitalize on a potentially lucrative market. Unfortunately, this also means that the job you have that was once considered essential may be deemed out of scope.
On an individual level, changes to your job (especially if it becomes less challenging) may be a hint about the future of your role. If at one point, you led projects, and now you find yourself being left out of crucial meetings, take notice. See if this is an isolated incident or a pattern.
This may also be a downstream effect from changes elsewhere in the organization. For example, a new manager may observe you doing your (now less challenging) job and see a misalignment between the value you bring and the salary you receive. Whether this is due to a new boss who isn’t your biggest fan, or one who has a former colleague they want to bring in to replace you, it’s important to pay attention. Changes in responsibilities may put you in jeopardy as the organization evolves.
Depending on company culture, the amount of voluntary and involuntary turnover varies. While some companies have employees who have been there well over a decade, others may have the bulk of their staff there for less than a year.
A larger, more established company has a better chance of longevity, while a tech startup may have more people regularly coming and going. Some may quickly decide if an employee is an organizational fit and take action. Others will have a structured (and often lengthy) procedure for attempting to correct performance before terminating. An organization’s mission, values, and day-to-day practices impact the likelihood that someone else will decide when you move on.
All of The Above
Sometimes, a layoff is inevitably caused by a series of events. For example, it may start as an economic downturn, followed by the company’s financial issues, then a leadership change, a resulting reorganization, and ending with the company being sold.
by Brenda L. Peterson, The Layoff Lady
Managing Job Anxiety
Recently, I was at a professional development event learning about the finer points of corporate training. During networking time, I talked with a woman who had been previously laid off, then called back to work for the same company (which is rare for my chosen field). What was her biggest concern? In short, she was trying to figure out how to be happy in her new/old position and not constantly worry about the possibility of getting laid off again.
To Worry, or Not To Worry?
Here in the land of having been laid off from various and sundry positions many, many times over the course of my career, I know from being worried about job loss. Granted, the first time I was laid off, an involuntary job loss was outside of my realm of possibility since it had never personally happened to me. After that, though, once I knew it was a thing, there were many times when I worried about being laid off. Maybe it was concerns about market performance, new management, rumors about reorganization, or other things that caused my anxiety to kick in.
An Alternative to Worry
Way back when, I had two operating modes when it came to work: “I’m happy with my job” mode and “I need to find a new job right this minute” mode. “I’m happy with my job” mode included excelling at my day-job with a side order of inactivity. “I need to find a new job right this minute” mode is when I started to network, look for career opportunities, dust off my resume, highlight my skills, and look to make a change in the very near future.
Now I realize that I needed to change from those two to an all new “working professional” mode—which is a both/and way of being. As a working professional, I still excel in my current role, but I also remember to keep my skill set up to date, continue to make ongoing professional connections, and have a career plan B (and up through about J, honestly) just in case I need it. Regardless of my employment status, this mindset serves me well and helps me live my life without focusing on fear.
Learning and Growing
Once upon a time, I planned to be a high school English teacher. While I didn’t end up teaching in a school setting, I use that skill set to help adults who work for businesses learn the knowledge, skills, and abilities that enable them to excel professionally and personally.
I’m a lifelong learner, and I literally learn for a living—and help others do the same. I’m always learning new technology, reading up on adult education theory, and gaining insights from those around me.
In addition to having a formal background in education, I also attend regular professional development meetings, and I constantly read in and outside of my field. I make sure I can speak intelligently about trends in business, education, and beyond. Staying current and continuing to learn and grow keeps me doing well in my current position and future ready. In an ever-changing world, continued professional growth is the best way to manage whatever happens next.
Building (and Tending) My Professional Network
People talk a lot about “networking.” Too often, I think networking is depicted as a superficial act that involves shaking a lot of hands at a nametag-laden event where people dread the next day’s “would you like to buy something from me” calls. As an introvert, I approach networking differently. My goal is to build mutually beneficial relationships with people. These relationships are an opportunity to share information, help one another out, and feel more connected.
I keep track of my network using LinkedIn. In the beforetimes (aka pre-pandemic), I would typically meet people in person first, then connect with them via LinkedIn. Now, after I interact with someone via webinar (at a professional development meeting or after we work together for the first time), I invite them to connect on LinkedIn.
I've also taken a more proactive stance on online networking out of sheer necessity. Regardless of how that connection comes into my life, from there, I’m happy to help a friend of theirs look for a new job, or talk with one of my connections about how they might want to design their technical certification program, or answer a question about a job applicant who is a former coworker of mine. I expect to help people in my professional network out, and know that they will be willing to do the same
Regardless of the role I’m in, and even if it seems to be going well, I always have a backup plan, and a backup-backup plan, and then a couple more backup plans after those. After many layoffs and the unique challenges of each, I have a broad sense of the types of situations (like figuring out the healthcare exchange and determining when it made sense to do short-term contract work) I may need to mitigate. This means being ready to manage possible adversity or taking advantage of opportunities as they become available.
In addition to being proactive with my network, some things I’ve thought through have made me better equipped for issues as they arise. Here are a few of the things I’ve contemplated:
by Brenda L. Peterson, The Layoff Lady
Network Building in the Beforetimes
Pre-pandemic, "networking" typically meant attending in-person events, shaking a few hands, and having a somewhat meaningful conversation with another human. While in-person opportunities are available again, it's still a good practice to continue to build your network when interacting with people online.
Enter the Webinar
Like many people, I have attended (and delivered) approximately a bijillion online meetings, trainings, and interactive instructor-led sessions. I've been approaching these sessions with a mind towards not just attending, but also making new connections. Although the process differs from in-person interaction with people, I have managed to connect with more people (and often form more meaningful connections) than attending in-person meetings and “working the room.” As someone who runs introverted and communicates effectively in writing, this was an opportunity to turn webinars into a bonus network building exercise.
Your Personal Webinar Branding
When attending a webinar, I make sure that people are able to see who I am, my full name, and a picture if at all possible. I use the same photo I use on LinkedIn so that people associate me with that picture. I also make sure that my first and last name are present so people have a chance of being able to find me after the session--or will recognize my name.
In addition, during the webinar, I interact during the session. This usually involves commenting in the chat when prompted--which is also an opportunity for other attendees to see my full name. During any small group interactions, I'm sure to turn my camera on so people can see my face, hear my voice, and see my name. If the presenter asks people to share out loud, I usually turn on my camera, and share my thoughts. Again, this is another opportunity for people to hear my voice, see my face, and see my name. Each of these "impressions" helps people start to get to know me at least a little bit.
Finding Potential Connections
During the a webinar, I often take a screen shot of the participant list, and a gallery of attendees if people are on camera. Whenever possible, download the chat from the session. This helps me identify who was active in the webinar and gives me additional information on anything they might have shared during the session. I often make notes on notecards during sessions to help me remember who might have said what and key content covered. All of these details can help me when interacting with attendees later on when I send LinkedIn connection requests.
Researching Potential Connections
After attending a webinar, here is my process for adding new LinkedIn connections:
Personalizing a Connection Request
Personalizing connection requests is a great way to start building a relationship with a new professional contact. Here are the key components I include:
Connection Request Examples
Here are a few examples of messages that you can use to invite people to connect. Currently, LinkedIn allows you to include up to 300 characters when personalizing connection requests.
Hi, Jen. I see we both attended today’s White Box Club meeting. I’m also in career transition and seeking a new role in learning and development. Let's connect!
I'm also always up for a 30-minute "virtual coffee" meeting to discuss how we can help one another as we job search.
Hi, Jack. Great to interact with you a bit at this morning's Excellence Share. I love sharing ideas with fellow L&D professionals. Let's connect!
Hi, Javier. I see we both attended today's "Sales Enablement Best Practices" webinar. I definitely enjoy learning from this group.
Since you mentioned that you are job searching, be sure to check out The White Box Club on Meetup to help you as you find your next role.
After The Initial Connection
How do you further nurture that relationship? Here are a few ideas.
Continue to Build The Relationship
After connecting with people initially, be sure to continue to nurture those connections. Posting useful content, and occasionally messaging people is one way to do that. Ideally, you can add value to the relationship before you are in a position where you need to ask those individuals for help.
The Emotional Side of a Layoff
by Brenda L. Peterson, The Layoff Lady
All The Feels
Whether due to an economic downturn, an acquisition, or a company reorganization, I’ve found myself in an unexpected career transition quite a few times. Even having been through more than my share of layoffs, it’s still an emotional experience each and every time. Here is the good, the bad, and the ugly of the feelings I’ve personally gone through.
The phone call from HR, the perp walk through the office to the dreaded conference room, the last-minute ominous meeting invite, or the oddly timed tap on the shoulder all seem to come out of nowhere. There is something surreal about being pulled into a virtual or in-person room and having someone look you dead in the eye and tell you that you are going to go through a significant life change starting, well, now.
Even if there were layoff rumors, or news about leadership changes, or low sales reported for the quarter, it’s always a surprise on the date and time when layoffs go down. It’s the feeling of the ground being pulled out from under. It’s the gap between expecting a full day of meetings and finding yourself in your car mid-morning with a white box.
Even in cases where I was actively looking for a new role, a certain amount of anger goes along with a layoff. I was angry learning about the people who didn’t get laid off (like that guy whose messes I’ve been cleaning up for the last year) and comparing my perceived value to theirs.
I’ve been angry at the timing (right after vacation, right before a holiday) and how that makes finding something new an even longer process. I’ve been mad that yesterday’s mission-critical work-all-night project has become irrelevant. But, mostly, I’ve been mad that someone else decided when I didn’t get to do that job anymore instead of me getting to choose when it was time for me to move on. Feeling that lack of control is often the most challenging part.
Exiting a job abruptly leaves a big hole in your life, starting with the 9+ hours per workday being replaced with dead air and uncertainty. People who earlier that day were coworkers, casual work friendships, or confidants now may be nothing at all now that you no longer share an employer.
The consistency of a morning routine, daily commute, and regularly scheduled meetings are replaced with a battle with the unknown that may last a week or a year. Sometimes it’s easy to be hopeful about the future, and other times it’s hard not to be mired in sadness about all the things you can’t control.
There is plenty to be afraid of. First, the idea of not having a paycheck is horrifying. Not knowing how long your final payout or severance check has to last is unnerving. Now knowing how long your jobless period will last and what job you’ll end up with is sometimes unbearable.
I fear being unemployed endlessly and not being able to support myself. I worry about panicking and taking the first job offered to me. I worry about holding out for something closer to the “perfect” job that may never come. I fear that I will never get a job as good as the one I had. On the worst days, when fear has given way to full-on catastrophizing, I worry that I will lose my house, car, professional reputation, and everyone I’ve ever loved.
Here's the one that might seem unexpected. At one point, during an ongoing economic downturn, I made it until the seventh round of company layoffs. While I was happy to be employed that long, each time we heard rumblings about reorganizations or started seeing those empty white dots pop up on Microsoft Teams, I had that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach waiting for it to be me.
The strange benefit of finally being laid off is that you don't have to worry if it will happen (and when) because it just happened. At that moment, you also realize it's not as bad as you imagined it might be, and now what there is to do is pick yourself up and create your fantastic new future.
The Good News
Through the tumult of emotions, it’s important to acknowledge each one and process those feelings. It’s helpful to grieve, then focus on all the possibilities to come.
7-time layoff survivor Brenda L. Peterson, The Layoff Lady, waxes poetic on layoffs, job transitions, & career resilience.