To Those Who Lost Their Jobs Recently
December 28, 2008 by Akemi Gaines
I’ve had two layoffs since I came to America in 1995
So you lost your job. Let go. Laid off. Downsized. They told you to pack up your personal belongings in the brown box, bye bye. Or was it more strict, like you were called to a meeting one morning, never to return your own cubicle?
I feel for your stress. I know. The uncertainty about your financial future is frightening. Plus, if you’ve been identifying with your job, the loss may feel like losing part of yourself.
In this post, I will show you how to turn this loss into the opportunity of your life. Specifically, I will share several tips that worked for me to get the job I wanted after I lost my own job. I will also tell you what NOT to do while you are feeling horrible (like, right now, probably). Finally, I will help you understand the situation from the spiritual perspective. (It’s a long post of approximately 3600 words. Please bookmark for your future reference.)
Job loss recovery: What NOT to do while you are feeling horrible
Now if you just lost your job, you are in one (or more) of the following emotional conditions:
- Denial: This can’t happen to me. They’ll notice their mistake soon.
- Anger: How can they do this to me? I worked so hard, so long. I made so much sacrifice! (I heard the #1 cause of violent crimes at workplace is the anger by former employees. In the US, some of them actually go back to their old workplace with a gun. Please don’t do this.)
- Despair: I have no idea what to do. My life is over. (Ummm. . . no. Please stay put.)
- Reactive joy: Hey, I HATED that job anyway! This can’t hurt me. I’m going to go on a two week vacation to prove I’m okay. (As you can see, this is not a very smart choice, either)
Please be gentle with yourself. As time passes, you will calm down and be able to accept the reality as reality. It probably takes a few weeks. It’s kind of like mourning – it is a mourning of a significant loss – so if at all possible, spend sufficient time for your natural recovery.
In addition to the big no-no’s above, don’t just take the first job that comes your way. If you absolutely must take a job for your financial reason, take a job that is completely unrelated to your former job. Like waiting at the tables. (That is, if you were not working for restaurants before) This way, you remember this is just a temporary fix for the money.
Everyone I know who has been let go eventually got better job than the one they had lost EXCEPT the ones who made this mistake. One got a position that offered almost twice as much as what she made before, doing basically the same thing she did before, just for a different industry. Another did take a salary cut by taking a position at a hospital her daughter was working, but this helped her to connect with the daughter and her family.
Yet another decided to go back to school to do what he really wanted to do. Previously he thought taking a job that he wasn’t particularly happy about but paid him well was just the way of life. If that job was not “secure”, however, why compromise? He decided to do what he really wanted to do.
What kind of work do you want to do?
After you are done with the emotional roller coaster ride and you regain the full thinking function, it’s time to figure out what kind of work you really want to do in your life going forward. This takes a good deal of soul searching, and covering this topic in its entirety is outside the scope of this article. However, Yes to Me offers various other articles that may help you, like this one about life purpose.
In this article, let me just point out that life is about learning and growing ourselves while we serve others do the same. Your work is about learning, growing and serving. Money follows when you follow this formula. (In other words, how are you going to make money when you don’t serve others while you learn and grow continuously?) The right work for you is the work that helps you learn, grow and serve in an authentic way.
Unlike some personal development experts, I don’t think having a job is necessarily a bad idea. I worked my share in Corporate America, and I learned a lot there. The experience is further helping me in my current endeavor as entrepreneur. It helps me understand business and enables me to talk business.
So, although the emphasis of Yes to Me is on entrepreneurship, I’m happy to help you find the job that is right for you.
At the same time, however, don’t write off the idea of starting your own business. This may be your opportunity of your life to do so. Many people I know gathered the courage to start a business after losing their “secure” jobs.
How to get the job that is right for you
Now let’s say you figured out what you want to do and it takes the form of employment. Here is the basic steps to land a job:
- Make a killer resume.
- Write killer cover letters.
- Follow up after sending the resume and cover letter.
- Interview or other forms of meeting.
Three signs your resume is outdated
If you resume looks like this, consider it non-functional.
- Your resume is one page.
- Your resume starts with “Objective”
- Your resume is filled with feel-good adjectives.
Here is why:
1. This is so old fashioned. I don’t care who told you to put it in one page – your parents, grandparents, or your career counselor (who probably never worked on their own career improvement for ages). NO. If you’ve had significant work history (and you do, because you just lost your job), it takes two or more pages to cover it appropriately.
Resume is your sales copy. You are marketing your skills and expertise by the resume. Don’t look cheap by the single page resume, like a newly graduated student. Show the potential buyer you have plenty to offer.
You don’t want to go too long, either, however. In most cases, two page is appropriate. (And I mean full two pages, not one and a half page.) If you are in the kind of industry that requires a lot of certifications, you may add another page for that.
In fact, even if you are a newly grad, you probably have plenty to cover two pages. Have you had any leadership roles at school? Have you had part-time jobs? Volunteer work? These matter just as much as the full-time full-paying jobs. Because . . .
2. It’s the skill and knowledge, backed by solid experiences, that the employers are looking for. And this is why a resume should never start with your “Objectives”. Your objective is to get the job. Everyone knows this, so don’t waste their time.
Instead, start your resume with “Highlights of Qualifications” or just “Qualifications”.
Again, your resume is your sales copy. When you are looking to buy something, say a cell phone, do you care about the objective of the sales person or the manufacturer? No. You want to know what the cell phone does. If it says it does all the things you want to do with your new cell phone (and hopefully some more), then you’d be interested.
So, list up your expertise in the beginning of your resume. If this gets the potential employers attention, they will read on. The rest of your resume is about proving your qualifications by real experiences.
This approach works both for experienced workers and the new workers. If you never had full-time job but lead large student group as the organizer of that group, write “leadership” in your Qualifications. It’s true you are a leadership material, just without workplace experience. And when you do this, be sure to . . .
3. Quantify whenever possible. Feel-good adjectives are fine, but if that is all you can say, you don’t earn much trust. Numbers promote credibility. In the aforementioned example, say “I lead XYZ student group, which included 400 students.”
The most common way to use numbers in resume is to talk about the number of years in relevant experience. If you want to get a job in the same area you worked before, this is fine. But what if you want to get a job in a new area?
I’ve done this before, and I can assure you the same principles we just discussed works fine. First, focus on the qualities you bring to the table, state them, and then prove you have them even though your previous profession was in another field.
What Color Is Your Parachute? 2009: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers Classic, but still worth every dollar of its price.
Do you need a cover letter?
I use to assist a president of a mid-large company, and was always amazed by the number of resumes sent without cover letters. These were from executives (in VP or Director level position) according to the resume. So what they were implying was, “See what a wonderful person I am? Now go figure what I want.”
This approach is a total waste. My boss’s responsibility was to run the business, not to read a stranger’s mind.
Cover letter serves two purposes:
1. Your cover letter persuades your prospective employer why you are the EXACT MATCH to the specific position they are trying to fill.
You can use the same resume to all the employers you are contacting, but your cover letter needs to be personalized. First, use the personal name of the hiring manager. Specify the position you are applying. And give them three reasons why you are THE best person for that position (this part needs to effectively relate to the Qualifications of your resume.)
2. Your cover letter proves you know the basic business protocols, like writing appropriate business letter in the right format.
In neat one page. If you don’t know how to write proper business letter, by all means, study it now.
Obviously, it takes time to write a super cover letter. You need to do research about the company and the position, and you need to match what they want with what you can offer. You may feel tempted to just send the resume and maybe a formed cover letter. Is that what everyone else does?
That is another big waste of time in my opinion. Would you send five sets of resume and cover letter to the companies you really want to work for and get two interviews as a result or would you rather send out fifty sets of resume and formed cover letter and get – probably the same two interviews? I’d choose the first for the sake of potential job satisfaction.
Prepare your portfolio
While you work on the cover letters, you might also want to prepare your portfolio. A portfolio is usually something artists prepare – they put together their best works to show off their expertise. However, I find the same approach effective in other fields, too.
The basic idea is to prove you have the skills your resume says you possess. For example, my portfolio had several business letters and documents for various occasions to prove I have the writing skill and the knowledge of business protocols. It also contained PowerPoint presentation which incorporated Excel spreadsheets, both static and animated visuals, and some other eye catchers to prove my computer skills.
You don’t need to send your portfolio with your resume, but you want to bring it with you to the interview. So be prepared.
Everyone says nice things in their resume, that they can do such and such stuffs. You want to think creatively how you can showcase your skills – and add a bit of taste of entertainment in it. This will differentiate you from the crowd.
Don’t just send your resume and cover letter
After you put in your time, energy and some heart into the resume and cover letter, don’t just send them out and sit back. Call them after a few days.
When I was in job search, I made follow up calls. Once, I sent out my letter to a company that was not hiring at the time. I did some research and liked the company anyway. A week after I sent my letter, I called the HR Director. He was kind enough to spend a few minutes on the phone, and in that few minutes, I impressed him enough that he promised to get back with me when they had openings. He did call me a few months later, and I got the job.
Do you think he even remembered me if he just saw my resume? He receives hundreds of resumes. It’s that one phone call that made the difference.
Needless to say, please be polite and friendly when you call. Not just to the HR and hiring managers, but also to the receptionist and the admins. Your every move matters.
Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters: 400 Unconventional Tips, Tricks, and Tactics for Landing Your Dream Job More unconventional approaches to get the job you want.
Meeting with the prospective employer
There are tons of advice about job interviews already available online and offline, so let me be brief here. There are two critical points:
First, understand their needs.
Don’t just push your agenda. I know you need to pay the bills and you are frustrated with the lack of leads and all that, but that is your issue, not theirs. They don’t really care about your bills and debts. They care about getting a good worker that can do the work they need be done. This is not selfish. It’s business. If they don’t fill the position with a quality person, they business would suffer, affecting their other employees and their families. (And their stockholders and other investors)
Always, pay attention to what they need and want, whether they say it explicitly or not. Then show them how you can fill their needs. (Do I need to remind you of the Qualifications part of your resume?)
It doesn’t mean you have to bend backwards. No, definitely don’t do that. Because if you do, one of the two things happen:
- They hire you and expect you to bend backwards. (Hey, you said you would do so gracefully!)
- They don’t hire you because they think you are desperate and faking things.
Which leads to the second critical point . . .
Second, present yourself as their equal.
Stand tall, talk professionally, and don’t forget to ask them questions. Remember, they are just as desperate (if not more) to fill the position as you are to get the position.
You don’t need to play hard-to-get (hopefully, you are done with that game in high school), but you do need to show that you care you get into the position that allows you to utilize your expertise fully to serve others. You also want to make sure there are learning opportunities with that position so that you can grow further.
Usually, “growth potential” of a position means there are other positions above that position in the organization so that you can get promoted internally. That is not what I’m talking about here, however. I’m talking about your life’s learning, growth and service that we discussed in the beginning of this article.
Some of the questions that worked for me are:
“What learning opportunities will I have in this position?”
“What is your vision of this position and the department (or the company) five years from now?”
“What would be the biggest challenges for me in this position?”
This one about challenges, asked at the end of the interview, serves additional purpose. If I don’t get the position, I’d know why they didn’t choose me.
And if you think it’s a good match, don’t be afraid to ask,
“When can I start?”
Acing the Interview: How to Ask and Answer the Questions That Will Get You the Job You need to practice this, like practicing public speaking.
The true reason why you lost your job
Now the really interesting part. You, your soul, or your Higher Self, caused your job loss.
Huh? You say you certainly didn’t do such a stupid thing? But it’s true. You create your own life. Your old job wasn’t in alignment with your life purpose, so your soul decided to let it go.
This is not about accusing you. I’m not saying you did something wrong to cause yourself misery. I mean, if you know you did mess up, well, so much so, then you know. However what I’m trying to tell you here is different.
You think job loss is bad. Exactly, that’s what you THINK. Your thinking mind is limited with the knowledge you have gathered in your life. Also, because your thinking mind, or sometimes called the Lower Self or the ego, only remembers this present lifetime, security and survival is supreme for it.
Your soul, or your Higher Self, has completely different perspective. The soul knows this lifetime is only one of many lifetimes it goes through. It knows life is a journey of learning and growth. The maintenance of life is not the objective of life – the soul knows and accepts the end of life. The objective of life is to learn the life lessons the soul itself chose before incarnation.
I know this is hard to accept. We are all conditioned with collective consciousness. The “evidence” of trouble is so readily observable while the truth is quiet. I still find myself go back to the fear-based place from time to time.
What I learned from my job losses
As I said in the beginning, I’ve had two layoffs since I started working in the US. First one was from the bank I worked for two years. It was my first full-time job in America. I also lost my marriage at the same time (for unrelated reasons). So I was in a big emotional mess.
What resulted was a full summer of resting and reorganizing my life without him. And just when the severance payment was drying up, a new job magically appeared in the fall. (It was with one of my former clients at the bank – apparently I earned their trust while I was working in the bank.) Looking back, I see I really needed that off time.
The second one was harder. I lost the executive assistant position with a company I really liked. Well, I liked the people there (most of them), but I was honestly getting bored with the office work and was spending more and more time painting and learning about art. So my Higher Self released me from the “boring job”. However, I couldn’t see it this way back then. So I looked and looked for a new employment.
The job market in Ohio at the time was so bad I could not land a new job for a year. I remember thinking of relocating to West Coast, but got scared with the even higher unemployment rate. Now from the current vantage point of view, that was my soul calling, and if I followed it, I could have saved several years out of my life.
Instead, I ignored it and took a job in Tennessee with a company that paid for my relocation. I was there for three years, again doing the same kind of office work I did before, until I finally figured out I had to follow my heart. This time, I didn’t wait until someone cut my cord and downsized me – I quit myself.
So, again, it’s very important not to freak out about your job loss. Take some adjustment time (don’t shortchange yourself, this is absolutely necessary). And let your soul guide you. Listen to your intuition.
Is there something you always wanted to do but have been putting off?
What do you really want to do? Now that you are free from the bondage of your old job, what do you choose to do?
What kind of work will better align with your life purpose?
You now know how to get the job you want, and you are certainly free to choose this path, but you might also want to consider other options. Like, if you have lots of time anyway, do you want to start a business?
The existing economy is coming to crumbles as we can all see. The old standard of “go to school, get a job, stay there” is not going to serve as standard any longer. What you can rely on, then, is yourself. This may actually be the best time to be honest with yourself and reorganize your life.
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