The phone on my desk started to ring. I picked it up. The conversation didn’t seem real. I was told I was being laid off. My immediate reaction was numbness. It was November of ‘09. I had been looking forward to the holidays. There didn’t seem to be a cloud in the sky. I was listening but finding it hard to relate to what was being said. I did not know where to turn but luckily I decided to call my wife. Her support was immediate. She instantly pointed out that we would get through this layoff and suggested I come home for lunch. I was in such a daze that I don’t even remember driving home. Then anger set in. “How could they let such a hard working guy like me go?” It took a couple of days, but I soon realized that anger wasn’t going to get my job back. Instead it motivated me to “show them” what a mistake they had made by finding an equal or better position.
In addition to severance, the company was decent enough to give me several weeks’ notice. During that period I came to understand the practical side of the company letting me go. Being a team player by nature and knowing that I had a reputation to protect, I continued to work hard, especially at helping my replacement transition into his new role. During the exit interview I was cordial and did not express bitterness toward the company or anyone in it.
Once off premises, I put a full-court press on getting a new job. I read as much as I could about job search techniques, attended career seminars, became friendly with career coaches, got active in several professional support groups, and networked, networked, networked. All the while I kept a positive attitude, and never spoke disparagingly about my former employer. In fact, I positioned my dismissal as a gift; an opportunity to counsel and motivate others in transition while seeking a job that met all of my criteria for satisfaction.
Throughout the job search process I shared my thoughts, feelings, and concerns with my wife. The open dialogue encouraged her support and made it easier for me to cope with the uncertainty I was facing. Getting support is vital, either from family, friends, or your peers.
So how did I get my new job? Believe it or not, the same company hired me back to work in a different division. I had maintained contact with fellow co-workers who let me know about the open position. The HR people knew that I had been an asset to the company. They remembered how well I handled being phased out and how helpful I was to my replacement. And, they were aware of the work I was doing to help other people in transition.
If asked what were the most important strategies that helped me get another job, I would point to my positive attitude and networking. It took a couple of days to resolve my anger. Once I thought about the company’s decision from a business perspective, I realized I got caught in the perfect storm. As I clarified my thinking, my attitude changed. If you remain angry or down in the dumps, it will come through in all your job search activities including networking and interviewing. In the end, it was my attitude and networking that led to some income from consulting and ultimately a new position. I didn’t look back. Rather, I focused all my attention on my job search. Once you recognize your old company is not the enemy and neither are you the enemy, you can begin to use your anger to motivate yourself to intensely pursue your next position. Reaching out and helping others in the same situation keeps you socially connected. You will likely to get back more than you give away. And above all, do not let negativity get in your way.
Matt Levy is an HR Professional/Recruiting & Talent Expert/Innovator. He blogs at http://mlevy2222.wordpress.com