Copyright 2000 W. Jan Austin, Corporate Coach and President of Potential At Work, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Downsizing has become commonplace in todayís work environment.  There are many factors which contribute to downsizing, including increased competition, need for new technology and skills to support it, mergers and acquisitions, and the need to increase the bottom line for stockholders through cost reductions. Increasingly, downsizing is affecting your co-workers, neighbors, friends, and family, and there is a real possibility it could affect you. The following tips are intended to provide a road map for you in handling your situation if you are personally affected by a downsizing.  


What you can do if you are terminated from your job as a result of an organizational downsizing:



q       To deal with your emotional reactions:  Itís the rare person who doesnít have strong emotional reactions to being terminated from oneís job.  Itís natural and expected to feel demoralized, insecure, angry, overwhelmed or frightened, if only temporarily.  After all, a lot of our personal identity is connected to our work.  Itís also natural to want to jump right in and get a new job before anyone knows that youíre out of work, but when youíre in the midst of dealing with strong emotional reactions is no time for going to job interviews.  You wonít make a good impression, and, when you donít get a job offer, you may feel worse than before.  The time it will take to come to grips with your new reality may be a few days or several weeks, and may require professional support, but this is a necessary step in your personal and career transition. 


q       To think through what direction you want to take:  the aftermath of losing oneís job provides an opportunity to re-think oneís career goals, and to recognize the myriad of choices available.  This is an important step which, when addressed fully, can actually make your job search and interviewing process more efficient and effective. Not thinking through these things and getting clear on what represents a good job situation for you can lead to jumping into any job that is offered, even if it represents a poor fit.  It can also lead to poor presentations in interviewsóyouíll appear disorganized, perhaps desperate, in your presentation. 



q       Of your financial situation:  take stock, but donít panic.  It may not be nearly as bad as you think.  Most people will have from several weeks to a year or more of company severance which is supplemented by several months of unemployment benefits.  Itís important to evaluate what income is coming into your household and whatís going out as well as how long your benefits will last.  This process can, for many people, be reassuring, and the benefits you receive may provide a solid bridge until you find a new job.  If the news isnít so good, look at what steps youíll need to take to minimize the negative impact.  This will likely mean taking action to reduce expenses and consolidate debt.  DONíT WAIT to talk to creditors if you think you may need to negotiate flexible payment arrangements. Waiting only exacerbates the problem, and your credit rating may be seriously damaged in the process.  Many lenders are quite willing to work with you to develop a plan to see you through your period of unemployment.


q       Of how others in your family are handling the news:  being honest with those you are close with can provide you with a source of much needed support, and it can help them to deal with their own reactions, and to be able to support you more effectively. 



q       Of outplacement, career coaching or other career transition services:  Youíll want to consider your strengths and liabilities in light of the current employment market, and this is best done with professional support. Youíll need a professionally done, polished resume which highlights your marketable skills.  If you are middle aged, your age is an issue, but you can and should position yourself to make it an advantage.  Identify the ways you can add tangible value to a new organization, based on your experience and expertise. 


You may also need to take a hard look at your style of communicating with others.  Personal idiosyncrasies may have been accommodated by your former employer, but may represent significant liabilities for you in your search for a new job.  


q       Of retraining benefits:  You may qualify for generous retraining benefits provided under state and federal programs, particularly if you lost your job due to work being sent overseas. 


q       Of your network:  If youíre like most people, you have an extensive network of friends and business associates which youíve developed over many years.  Donít be afraid to let those in your network know the truth about your situation and to make specific requests for their support.  Remember, 80% of all jobs are filled as a result of networking, and fewer than 10% are filled through newspaper ads..



Donít let yourself get down or lose your sense of purpose and optimism.  Realize that getting a new job can take time, particularly if you are changing fields.  Youíll need persistence, patience, and a positive attitude to see you through.  Remember, no employer wants to hire someone who is desperate or insecure.  Itís important to believe in yourself if you expect to convince someone else to believe in your ability to make a value adding contribution to his or her organization.