Get Coached on How to Deal with a Pink Slip

This month iMag spoke to real people to learn about their experience getting laid off and provide them with the advice they need to get back on track. Our coaches, Robert Hellman and Laura Grashow-Rywell, stepped in to help them find their next job.

Lauren’s* Pink Slip

Number of years at company: 1.5 years

Brief description of job: I worked for a music magazine's Web site editing web videos of interviews with bands and musicians. I also occasionally helped out on the production shoots.

How did it happen? I had a funny feeling something was up. The company had been taken over by new management and within a few months, my co-workers in other departments started dropping like flies, either having found a job elsewhere, or just hearing that so and so had been let go. It occurred to me to start looking for something new, but I thought I was pretty safe due to the fact that I had just completed my annual review, in addition to my boss being happy with my work and even questioning me at some point to make sure I was still on board. Then one Friday afternoon the head of HR called me into her office to inform (without even notifying my boss) me that they were laying me off, due to a downsizing of staff. I felt like a bus just hit me and started bombarding her with a million questions as to why. She wouldn't get into anything else. I asked if I could have some time to save some of my edits for my reel but she said IT had already shut down my computer. She had me escorted me out of the building with only a two-week severance package!

What's your biggest concern? Being able to pay my bills!

First thing you did: Went home, re-vamped my resume and started job hunting online.

Right now: Lauren* has just started her next job search.

Robert Hellman, Five O'Clock Club Career Coach shares his advice:

Lauren's key mistake is a common one; not seeing the writing on the wall until it's too late. Most (but not all!) of us have ample warning of a job loss, but don't want to acknowledge it because of a faith that dedication, hard work, and good performance review. Unfortunately, in today's economy, this faith is misplaced.

The best approach to job security these days is to take a “consultative” approach to your job—view any job you are in as a temporary position, just like a consultant would. And do all the other things that consultants do, including:

• Always keeping a backup copy of your “reel.”

• Keep your network active, and think big as in Anne's case. For this holiday season, you have a perfect opportunity to re-invigorate your network through sending out holiday cards.

• Be involved in your industry — attend meetings, find out what is going on, then bring it back to your employer. Think of yourself as an investigator on behalf of your current employer. You have to constantly re-sell yourself!

• Know when it's time to move on—don’t ignore the warning signs!

• Make sure you are positioning yourself for your next job by keeping yourself marketable — acquire new skills as appropriate.

In Lauren's current situation, I would advise her to take much the same approach that Anne is being advised to take regarding getting interviews. In addition, Lauren should leverage the good will of her boss and her strong performance reviews in a couple of ways: 1) to get a copy of her reel, and 2) to see if there is any wiggle room for some severance compensation. She could ask her boss to set up a meeting with her and HR, or contact HR directly. In addition to making a logical case for severance, she can play the sympathy card and appeal to the humanity of her former employers. If the downsizing involves a lot of people, the appeal for more severance may fall on deaf ears, but there's no harm in trying, and this effort is often successful.

Dr. Laura Grashow, Psy.D., Licensed Psychologist weighs in:

For Lauren, this is quite the tough initiation into the American workforce. Not only losing her job, but so suddenly becoming an outsider who was — escorted — out of the building without a chance to even go through her own reel. It's important for Lauren to understand that the initial shock she is feeling is common; that it comes with a feeling of disorientation as routines are suddenly disrupted and that there is the feeling of loss as well. Perspective is key here, and Lauren needs to have faith that this initial feeling will subside — especially if she not only takes action and moves forward with an organized job search, but also if she reminds herself that while all the road signs pointed to a longer career at this company she is just getting used to reading those signs.

This sounds like probably just a case of lack of experience. In other words, she relied too heavily on reassurances from her superior and the formality of a good review, without considering the long arm of HR. Messages come from everywhere in the work place, not just from the mouths of superiors and co-workers. Lauren needs to learn about reading between the lines and keeping good relations with people who seem to know the office buzz. Live and learn that's what mistakes are for. Alternatively, the possibility of being unaware of a poor job performance always exists when you're fired "from left field". If Lauren feels that this possibility exists, in spite of her good review, it would be wise to ask what she could have done differently.

For more on Rob & Laura see below:

Robert is Associate Director of the Five O’Clock Club Guild of Career Coaches. He’s also a Guild member himself with a substantial private practice, and teaches Career Development at NYU. Rob has over 20 years of experience in Marketing and Organizational Development through organizations such as JP Morgan Chase, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and American Express. In addition, Rob founded his own successful marketing/multimedia production company where he has worked with clients such as the Audubon Society and 1-800-flowers. His educational background includes a BS in Economics from Binghamton University and an MBA in Finance/Marketing from Fordham University .

You can contact Rob through the Five O'Clock Club at 212-286-4500, or by sending an e-mail to guild@fiveoclockclub.com

Laura Grashow Psy.D. is a licensed psychologist who has been working with children, adolescents and families for over 15 years. She specializes in relationship issues, parenting, divorce, and child development. For more information, see Dr. Laura's website.

Plus, check out Laura's new book "Dating the Older Man." It is the ultimate comprehensive guide to coping with large age differences in love relationships. In today's world, factors such as high divorce rates, plastic surgery, increased life span, internet dating, and even Viagra are making older men more available and more attractive choices for younger women. Get great practical answers to real problems and dilemmas — including issues relating to blended families and how to be a step-parent. The book is a veritable "how to" for relationships packed with great strategies and is an invaluable resource for women in the modern dating world.

*Individuals names have been changed*

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