Top 5 'I've been laid off' to-do's

We're hearing about layoffs in IT and technology companies on what seems like an almost daily basis. And many say we could be in for a long recession. It's hard to say what's really going to happen, but the reality right now is that companies are doing layoffs because of poor quarterly financial results or to prepare for what look like difficult times ahead. Every time a friend or former co-worker of mine gets one of those "You have a great future ahead of you -- just not at this company." notices, my heart goes out to them. (That's why I blog about this topic, trying to help out whomever I can.) Just like everybody else, I've gone through layoffs, both as the recipient and as the manager delivering the bad news. I can tell you, both situations are about as much fun as a barrel full of monkeys. There are a lot of other things I'd certainly rather do, given the choice.

Here are my suggestions for what you should do immediately after hearing the news that you get to look for a new job.

1. Deal with it, get over it and move on. The most common reaction to a layoff is shock. Often that shock is followed by anger. It's not fun being told, "we don't want you to work here anymore," no matter what the reason. And despite what we might think, everyone is replaceable in the eyes of a company, all the way up to and including the CEO. If it's any solace, most everybody will face losing a job at some point in their career, and probably more than once. Even entrepreneurs who work for themselves face situations where their business doesn't work out and they have to fold their tent and move on to the next thing.

Take a day or two -- or just 10 minutes -- whatever you need to deal with it, get over it and move on to your next thing. My own pride has made it tough for me to tell people I was looking for a job, but once I got over my own preconceptions about it, it was a heck of a lot easier to move on and get to my next gig.

2. Change your job description to "networker." Seriously, that's your job now -- connecting and reconnecting with people, forming new relationships, and greatly expanding and strengthening your network of people who can connect you with your next job. Doesn't matter if you are the biggest social butterfly or the smallest wallflower. People find jobs through people. You're so much more likely to get hired because of an introduction, a professional connection or personal relationship. Job sites, job ads and so forth are a secondary source to your networking efforts.

Learn to be very comfortable asking questions like, "Who do you know at (company name)?", "Would you do an e-mail or phone introduction for me?", "Can I get their contact information from you?" "Hi, my name is (your name). Bob such-and-so recommended I give you a call to talk with you.", and "Here's why I'm calling..." Your dedication to being a networker and the quality of your network will most likely determine how quickly you'll find a new job.

3. Get active in social-networking circles. User groups have now morphed into Meetups. Check out Meetup, and see what groups are getting together. I bet you'll be shocked at how many Meetup groups you'll find in your area that are relevant and interesting to you. Contact the Meetup organizer and ask him about the kinds of folks who come and how active the group is, and see if the topics fit your skills and interests. Ask if it's a good group to be involved in when you are job-hunting. Update your LinkedIn and Facebook pages, join some online groups, and beef up your friends list. Most importantly, don't be shy about telling people you're looking for a job.

4. Know and practice your story. The first thing you do in any sales situation is learn to give your 30-second elevator pitch about your product, service or company. Guess what? You have a company now, and it's called "(your name) Inc." The product is you and what you can do to benefit a potential employer. Your job at You Inc. is head of sales for selling you to a potential employer. That doesn't mean you're a pushy car-sales-guy kind of salesperson. You're the spokesperson for You Inc., and if you can't tell them your story, it's going a long haul looking for that next job. What are you good at? What do you want to do? And can you tell that to someone in one or two sentences, followed up with examples? Hiring managers are looking for people who are really good or can quickly become good, at whatever the position requires. If you know how to make Microsoft Exchange dance like Shirley Temple, don't be afraid to say so. Have a knack for supporting end-users?

Tell your story. But most importantly, practice telling your story multiple times before you get in that interview chair. Practice telling your story while driving in your car. (The driver next to you will just think you're on your hands-free car phone.) Practice it with a friend. Heck, pitch your story to the family dog -- now there's a non-judgmental audience. The idea here is to know your story and be able to have it roll comfortably off your tongue before you get into that interview.

5. Get mind and body healthy. Athletes wouldn't expect to win a race if they weren't in good physical or mental shape, would they? Same goes for you. If you want to be successful at finding that job, you should be in as good mental and physical health as you can. Maybe you've been burning the candle at both ends on some project you were working on at your last company. Maybe there's still some anger, resentment or even depression about being laid off. Right now might be a good time to start that walking program, or to join a gym to get physically active. Maybe a little bit of counseling would help you get over feelings about that last employer. If you feel good and are rested and in a good frame of mind, those will help you both in interviews and in doing the legwork to get to the interview stage. Nobody wants to hire a toxic person, so get healthy.

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