If you’ve ever been fired or let go, you know that an emotional tempest usually follows the news. You may be overwhelmed with any or all of the following feelings: anger, anguish, frustration, disappointment, despair, disbelief, and sadness. In the hours and even days after your layoff, you are not thinking clearly. That’s why it’s important to avoid “jumping right in” to your search for a new position. Unless you are presented with an immediate and extraordinary opportunity, or your financial circumstances are dire, there may be some benefit to holding off.
Wall Street professionals are accustomed to a fast turn-around time, and often start working toward a new job aggressively, motivated by a fear that they will become irrelevant the longer they are out of work. The unemployed have a limited shelf life, such thinking goes, and the longer that you are on the market, the more you begin to look like damaged goods. Wrong!
Cohen warns that the damaged-goods theory is not the biggest professional threat to those who have recently been laid off. “You can make yourself valuable through action,” he explains. But don’t make the mistake of wasting your social capital before you have a crystal-clear sense of what you are looking for.
When you first get laid off, Cohen advises that you take a step back to prepare yourself for the project ahead of you. Polish up your resume. Craft your story, the clean and consistent answer to the question, “Why were you laid off?” Establish your target, the goal of your search: what kind of new position do you wish to achieve? Finally, come up with a game plan, a strategy that will guide you through the search.
“Without a clear idea of what you want, you’re wasting your time and your contacts’ time,” Cohen says. “Use your network wisely. Don’t waste precious calls.” If you go into the search without a strategy, you will make a bad impression on the people in your network that you reach out to for help. If you don’t know what your goal is or how they can help you achieve it, then you are not maximizing the potential of the meeting. Your contact becomes a career counselor helping you to think through your options, but not directing you to people and opportunities. You can imagine that they will be less likely to accept a phone call from you again once you’ve got your plan figured out.
When you contact someone in your network, you should have a brief, structured pitch. First explain what happened to you: the story you crafted about your layoff. Then, tell them what you want: the target. Finally, tell them why you chose to reach out to them specifically.
In addition to networking over the phone, you need to work on building your network on LinkedIn. This is something you should have kept up with during your career, but if you didn’t, consider it a lesson learned.
Finally, you can avoid becoming damaged goods if you stay active and engaged in your professional community. Choose a professional organization in your field and volunteer to help them in a way that showcases your professional skills. This will keep you in touch with other professionals in your field and keep you up to date with industry news.