Job loss is regarded as one of the top ten life stressors in life. Imagine if you lost your job today – one of the scariest things that could happen to you, right? The thought of this is what keeps you up at night and it just became real. How will you pay the mortgage? How will you support your family? What should you do and where should you start?
These very real and valid concerns plague the minds of the people we work with when they enter our career advising offices. It’s our job to listen, clear the fog of panic, and help them get back on track to finding fulfilling employment.
Step 1: LISTEN.
Give some space and time to let your client share their pain with you. In this rushed life, it’s hard to find someone who is willing to just listen with empathetic ears and an understanding heart. Give them the opportunity to unload some of the pain, anger, fear, and uncertainty that is currently clouding their minds. Help them to try to begin letting go of the pain and hurt associated with their loss so that they can open their minds to the possibilities of a new career.
Step 2: Ease their fears.
It’s important to emphasize the fact that many people have gone through this same situation, and have ended up in a better place as a result of this forced life-altering event. I've met and worked with people who started their own successful companies after a job loss. Others have returned to college after a job loss to earn a degree in a field they had been interested in for several years, but were too afraid to take the leap to pursue their passion. Let your client know that sometimes losing a job is a catalyst that can propel them to move toward a career that is far more satisfying than what they had been doing before. Point out that sometimes it takes a push to create the momentum that is needed to achieve a more fulfilling and rewarding life.
Step 3: Work that network!
It’s highly likely that your client’s next job will come through someone they know. Studies have shown that between 70% to 85% of people landed their job because of networking. Sometimes clients will hesitate to let others know about their job loss because they feel embarrassed or as though they've failed in some way. Help your clients to move beyond these insecurities by reminding them of all the things they've accomplished in their career and in their personal life. Encourage them to get the word out about what they’re looking for in a new position by communicating with friends, family, professional contacts, and previous coworkers that the job search is on. Updates should also be made to their online status (on sites such as LinkedIn) to clearly state that they’re seeking employment.
Step 4: Help update the resume and start applying.
Sometimes the resume needs some dusting off and restructuring before it’s going to be an effective tool to secure an interview. If your client has an out-of-date resume, help them create a better version that showcases their qualifications, uniqueness, and talents related to the position they’re working to secure. Make sure they understand how to use keywords from the job positing in their resume and to tailor their resume to optimize the relevance of their work experiences to the job position to which they’re applying. Also, remind clients that they should send out a cover letter every time they send out their resume!
The cover letter is essential and it is a place where clients can put their best foot forward by explaining why they’re the perfect candidate for the job opening. Have them set up alerts for job openings on websites such as Indeed.com, Careerbuilder.com, Monster.com, and others. Also, encourage your clients to check out employers online by visiting the websites of companies where they’re interested in working.
Step 5: Brush up on interviewing skills.
Run through some practice interviews with your client. There are various websites that provide examples of the most commonly asked questions during an interview. Have your client practice applying examples from their previous work experiences to highlight their past achievements to answer these questions. Be sure to have your client think of the BEST examples from their work history to share, examples that clearly show off their expertise, experience, and why they would be lucky to have this person working for their company.
Also, remind your client to send a thank-you note after each interview, and explain that doing so will demonstrate that they’re thankful for the time that the interviewee spent, and that they’re willing to put in the extra effort to follow through with important details –ones that others may overlook.
Step 6: Find balance.
Help your client to set up a schedule to keep a sense of structure in their daily lives. Have them delegate certain hours of the day to job searching and completing applications, schedule lunches with friends, previous coworkers, & family (this counts as “networking” time), and keep up with healthy routines, such as exercise, healthy eating, and hobbies. By adding structure to each day, the transition from a tightly scheduled workday to complete freedom will be eased, which will help your client adjust to the new daily environment, to make the most of each day, and find a healthy life balance amid all the changes.
Your client may need encouragement to see the bright side. Good things can come from this “closing door” experience. Let them know they can and should embrace this change as an opportunity to explore dreams that they haven’t yet achieved in their lives and keep an open attitude to all that the future may hold. Here's how my colleague and friend, Mark Danaher, past president of the National Career Development Association and a well-respected innovator in the field of coaching, did just that:
About five years ago, I was working in my dream job and loving life. Everything was going great, until one day when I was told that they were closing the career center [where I was working]. On that June day, everything changed in my life. I was out of a job and wasn't sure what I was going to do in the fall. This event put me in a bad place where I wasn't sure of myself and I had no energy to move forward. I felt like there wasn't another job out there for me. Through hard work with a coach and reflection of what I wanted, I was able to take steps to use my strengths and creativity to find a new job within career development. The job loss experience got me to form a new coaching business around pre-retirement career coaching where I help professionals build and implement new life plans. Now this did not happen overnight, but my job loss experience led me to look at different things in my life and seek out new paths in passions that I could follow and bring to life.
United States Department of Labor, Rapid Response; Solutions for Economic Transition
The Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale; Understanding the Impact of Long-term Stress
- tips for career advisors