Career Corner: What if You've Just Joined "Club Laid Off"?

Advice and perspective from Meg Busse.

From Clementine Gallot (Creative Commons)

I won’t be so flip as to say that getting laid off is in vogue, but it’s definitely becoming more acceptable and in the current economy, more understandable. This doesn’t mean it’s easy to deal with or a pleasant topic of conversation at the Saturday BBQ.

However, that should be your primary goal: to have your next career move be a topic of conversation at the Saturday BBQ. And Sunday supper. And every other event where you’re surrounded by friends and family who would like nothing more than to help you find a job. Because with employers using their networks to find candidates, word of mouth will be your best job search strategy.

So how do you bring up the subject? I have a ridiculously smart and witty friend who was recently laid off from her nonprofit job. This is the first paragraph of the email she sent out to everyone in her network:

Club Laid Off has a new member…me! It’s super exclusive, like only 8% are allowed in across the whole county. I’m choosing to look at this as an opportunity of course, as you all know I’m a glass-half-full girl…and am hopeful that an even better opportunity will be coming my way. Until then, I’ll available to wait at your house for the cable guy or any other chores that your pesky job gets in the way of.

Her next paragraph briefly outlined some of her skills, as well as examples of positions and companies she’s looking into in case anyone has any connections that might be of use.

What are some of the reasons this is brilliant? First of all, my friend controls the spin and tone of the announcement, and doesn’t have to tell everyone individually. Her message is simple, funny, and makes it easy for friends and family to respond to with condolences/congratulations, offers for assistance, and specific contacts. With one email, her network is officially leveraged and she can follow up with more targeted requests and conversations.

When I moved a few years ago, I was unemployed, switching careers, and in a city where I didn’t know anyone. I leveraged my network to the best of my ability, but realized that I just basically needed to meet new people. To pay the bills, I worked a retail job while volunteering with organizations I thought were interesting and with people I found fascinating. This approach not only allowed me to grow my network, but to gain skills (such as grantwriting, strategic planning, board service) that strengthened my resume.

These are two tips, but there’s a slew of advice floating around about what to do if you’re unemployed. Here are some of my favorite pieces:

And if you’re employed but have friends who aren’t, read this article on how to support a friend who has been laid off.

All tips aside, it’s good that some of the stigma of being unemployed is gone. This doesn’t help the financial realities, but it does make the transition and job search process a whole lot easier.

How about you — are you unemployed? Know folks who are? What are your tips?

[This blog entry appeared on an older version of Idealist; any broken links are a result of having re-launched our site in Fall 2010.]

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