Times are tough. While the overall economic climate is slowly improving, some industries are still struggling to bounce back from the global downturn. Cost-cutting remains the order of the day at many companies, as they wait for the inevitable turnaround. And it’s not just the usual suspects, like recent grads, who are having a hard time finding, or holding onto, employment. Hiring freezes, layoffs, downsizing and rightsizing abound in these lean times; even the most qualified and experienced professionals are finding themselves unexpectedly out of work. There are grounds for cautious optimism about a recovery, but for the near future at least, this looks to be the “new normal” for the job market.
So what should you do if you’re unlucky enough to be on the receiving end of a pink slip? Should you start frantically looking for any kind of work you’re even minimally qualified for, before the bills start piling up? Can beggars really be choosers?
I won’t pretend that there are any easy or simple solutions, but you can definitely take some positive, concrete steps to ensure you land on your feet after a layoff. Once you’ve gotten over the panic, anger, and shock of losing your job (and coming to grips with this is often far more gut-wrenching than any of us could ever imagine), you’ll want to formulate an aggressive plan of attack for getting your career on track again. Here are some ideas for getting yourself back on your feet after being laid off.
Taking the right “rebound job”
Most of us have heard of the “rebound relationship”: that first romance you pursue after you’ve just gotten out of a long-term relationship. You know they’re probably not your soulmate, or the great love of your life. But they do help you get over your old flame all the same, so that you can eventually move beyond the grief of that breakup and get on with your life.
For people who have been laid off (or are about to be laid off), the “rebound job” can be the professional equivalent of the rebound relationship. It might not quite be your dream job — it may not even be on your regular career path. But a rebound job helps to keep the lights on, while you look for a position better suited to your skills and experience. In a tight job market such as the current one, awash with plenty of smart, talented jobseekers like yourself, it may take some time before you find your ideal position. The rebound job allows you to bide your time while you continue your search.
But just as you don’t want to rush into just any relationship on the rebound, it pays not to take a rebound job in haste. Sure, not everyone has that luxury, when there are mortgage, car, or insurance payments to be made. But if you do have enough wiggle-room to be a little picky about what kind of work you’re willing to take on post-layoff, you can use a rebound job to position yourself strategically, so that your next line of employment feeds your passions and interests — and not just your stomach. In short, the right rebound job can not only restore some of your income and earning power; it can also help you pick up some valuable new skills and experience that will make you more attractive to potential employers.
…you’ll want to formulate an aggressive plan of attack for getting your career back on the track.
Be focused, not desperate, in your rebound job search
When you first find yourself between jobs, your initial impulse might be to blindly fire off resumes and start pounding the pavement for interviews, in the hopes of landing any position that’s available. This is a perfectly understandable response, but it’s not necessarily the best one. Unless you’re in a real urgent bind and need to start earning money immediately, it may be more prudent for you to take a moment to step back and reflect upon your career path and development, before you begin looking for another job.
Start by identifying the particular knowledge, skills, and achievements that you took with you from your previous position. A good rebound job should ideally draw upon at least one of your abilities. Unless you’re desperate for a paycheque, avoid taking a rebound job that is significantly below your skillset. For example, it might not make much sense, if you’ve worked as a veteran accountant in Toronto for the past seven or eight years, to apply for an opening for bookkeeping or financial analyst. Based on your experience, some employers might balk at considering you for a more junior role. More importantly, these kinds of career moves can be tough to explain away to potential future employers.
Take a contract position
One especially good option for people looking for a rebound job is to pursue contract opportunities. I’ve discussed some of the benefits of doing contract work on this blog before; the same arguments make all the more sense for recently laid off individuals.
Many employers today prefer to hire contractors rather than add to their permanent headcount, so that they can preserve cost flexibility. If you were a financial analyst in your previous full-time position, look for similar work on a contract basis, even if the length of the position is only for a few months. Short-term work will look vastly better to any future potential employers than a lengthy bout of unemployment. Also, the pay will often be more generous (albeit you probably won’t receive benefits or other full-time perks). And in many cases the job can turn into a permanent position.
Explore the possibility of a lateral move
A good rebound job to consider would involve moving into another functional area from the one in which you were previously employed (even if it means taking a paycut, as I discuss below). For example, your company’s accounting department might be facing massive layoffs, but perhaps other divisions within the organization — or, if it’s a larger outfit, in one of its subsidiaries — such as sales or marketing, are weathering the cuts better. They may even be actively hiring, for all you know. This kind of rebound job would have the added benefit of developing your skillset in a more operations-friendly direction, which can position you as a better partner for the business later on.
And remember: it’s always easier to switch directions within the same organization than to start afresh with another, as I’ve pointed out before. The key decision-makers at your old company should already know what you can bring to the table, and will be more likely to endorse you for a different role than at a new company. If you really love the organization you were let go from, a lateral move like this makes a lot of sense.
You might want to approach HR for these and other kinds of opportunities; given your experience and knowledge of the business, they may be interested in keeping you onboard in some capacity or another. Ask about the possibility of assuming a consulting role, if the department you’re interested in has the budget for it. They may be interested in retaining someone on that basis, especially someone who is already closely familiar with the company.
…the right rebound job can not only restore some of your income and earning power; it can also help you pick up valuable new skills and experience that will make you more attractive to potential employers.
Brush up on your skills
Many people return to school after they’ve been let go, in order to retrain themselves. If you can afford it on your rebound job’s pay, you may want to consider enrolling in a course that will expand your current skillset and repertoire. This can be an especially good idea, if your rebound job is outside your original/preferred career path or industry. Among other things, it will demonstrate to future employers that you’ve remained committed to your professional development, even though your rebound job has taken you slightly off-course.
Accept a paycut
In many cases, a rebound job will be a lower-level — and therefore lower-paying — position than the one that you previously occupied. Earning less than what you used to take home from your old job can be a bitter pill to swallow. Still, it’s a necessary sacrifice that individuals between jobs have to make in order to recover from a layoff.
Your decline in earning power will be easier to cope with, however, if you think of your rebound job as a launching pad for your next position. Keep in mind that more lucrative opportunities may be available internally down the line, and that you can be considered as a candidate for these. So while you might not have much choice in terms of taking a lower-level position or a smaller salary, you may want to look specifically for a rebound job that offers at least some opportunities for promotion and advancement — and accordingly, higher pay.
No matter what kind of rebound job you take or how long you’re at it for, make the most of your time in the position. Build relationships and network with everyone you meet. And try to learn as much as you can from your rebound job; whatever skills and knowledge you gain will be assets when you make your next career move. The job market might be tough, but people are getting hired every single day. I know this, because every day, as accounting and finance recruiters in Toronto, all of us at Clarity Recruitment help companies with their hiring needs. Be smart about whatever rebound job you take.
Let us know what you think! At Clarity, we’re always interested in hearing from accounting and finance professionals like yourselves, who are ready for new, exciting opportunities that can take their careers to the next level. And be sure to follow us on Twitter (@clarityrecruits) for more great tips and advice!