12 Tips for Conducting a Job Search Fire Drill

How to Navigate to a Soft Landing When Faced with a Layoff

Conducting a “Job Search Fire Drill” necessitated by a layoff may seem especially daunting. More and more people are finding themselves sounding the alarm due to the state of the economy. Being laid-off has almost become a right of passage in some industries. Through my own experience and observing friends and colleagues, I discovered some best practices that are especially helpful in navigating to a soft landing in a new position. Let’s walk through a fictional case study drawn from these combined experiences that outlines an emergency escape route if you are faced with your own job search fire drill.



1) Don’t Stick Your Head in the Sand.

Sandy saw the signs.  She worked for a Fortune 500 company and business was down.  The industry was mature and consolidating.  It was clear that the company was tightening its belt and hunkering down to weather the economic storm.  Sandy heard in the news that her company may in fact be the target of a takeover by another firm.  That’s when she took the time to update her resume.  Fast forward 2 months.  Sandy went home a little later than usual one evening when a surprising meeting invitation appeared with her manager and HR representative early the following morning.  Sandy heard through the grapevine about a number of these meetings being scheduled.  She tried to contact her manager but he didn’t respond — very unusual.  She knew something major would be going down in the morning. 


Sandy walked into the meeting with her manager.  The HR representative was already seated.  He wasted no time.  “I’m afraid I have some bad news.  Your position has been eliminated”.  He proceeded to talk Sandy through the details.  She would have a short, fixed amount of time to find another opportunity internally.  If she failed to secure a new position, her employment would be terminated and she would receive a modest severance package.  Sandy was naturally upset by this turn of events and left the office immediately.  She stopped at a bakery and indulged in a big, fat decadent cupcake while sitting on a bench outside to reflect on the situation.  After about an hour, she knew it was time to pull it together and get to work.  She returned home to strategize, mobilize her network, and figure out a path to a new role.   


2) Get the Word Out – Sound the Alarm Far and Wide.  

There was a meeting scheduled the day after the job eliminations were announced to discuss the situation with a broader set of employees.  Sandy knew that it was important to hear how the organization was framing the job eliminations and see if there were any tidbits she could glean to help her find a new role in her current company.  She listened to the meeting by teleconference in an out-of-the-way corner of the office with two other colleagues.  The message was pretty emotional.  The executive leading the meeting asked that employees respect the privacy of those that had been impacted.  Sandy decided at that moment that she was going to take a very transparent approach to the situation she was in.  It was essential to get the word out, not hide behind a deflated ego or be embarrassed that her position was eliminated.  The more people she told, the more eyes and ears would be on the lookout for her.  She told the two others at the meeting about her situation.  She knew one person slightly and the other she hadn’t met before.  Both offered to help.  She asked if she could send them her resume as a reference in case they learned of any suitable opportunities.  They told her to send it over and she followed-up that afternoon by email.  In the spirit of getting the word out, she also put a link to her online resume in her instant message status bar.  


3) Develop Your Messaging.  

Sandy had never been in a situation like this before and felt self-conscious.  She thought that some people would naturally think that she did something wrong to end up in the position she was in.  They would assume she’d been a poor performer.   That wasn’t Sandy’s case and that isn’t the case for many others impacted by the struggling economy.  She felt that it was important to be able to concisely explain what happened and come up with messaging to combat any perceived negative connotations.   She crafted a message to stop those impressions in their tracks:  “My position was recently eliminated.  I have always been rated a strong performer at my company, I just got caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.”  She felt better and assured that no one would have any lingering doubts about her performance.  In time, the words rolled off her tongue with ease.


4) Craft a Personal Branding Statement.  

Sandy knew that she needed to come up with a powerful statement to grab people’s attention and convey the skills she possessed.  She found it helpful to talk to colleagues and get their perspectives on her key strengths and value proposition.  Sandy’s educational background was in the sciences but she transitioned into a customer-facing technical service role a few years back.  She recognized that she had developed some fantastic transferable skills during this time, specifically involving program, project, and relationship management.  She expected that these skills would make her more marketable to a wide range of employers.  She crafted the following statement to sum-up her background and experiences:  “I am a highly analytical scientist with exceptional program and relationship management skills”.  The language works well in email or face-to-face conversations and she felt her confidence grow just saying that.  


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