No finance professional wants to experience the sudden loss of a position, but the reality of the modern business landscape is that sometimes layoffs happen. Being laid off can be a traumatic blow, but quick action can help mitigate the fallout.
Your success at lessening the impact of a layoff depends on being assertive and resourceful. The first steps you take after being laid off are some of the most crucial, but for many, the shock of dismissal can lead to emotional rather than logical decisions.
“I think when you’re getting laid off, a lot of times, it’s like hearing that you have cancer,” said Scott Bishop, CPA/PFS, partner and executive vice-president with STA Wealth Management in Houston and a veteran financial planner who has written advice on surviving a layoff.
Here are four tips from experts on how to prevent your layoff from doing professional damage and using it as a chance to discover new opportunities:
Don’t panic. The main thing to remember is not to panic. Give yourself time to breathe and reassess your career. Are you going in the right direction? Where would you like to see yourself in the next two to five years?
“Plan your networking and search for opportunities, so you’re not taking the first thing that comes up,” said Jane Jackson, career management coach based in Sydney and author of Navigating Career Crossroads. “If you panic, that’s what will happen, but if you do things sensibly and plan, you’re more inclined to make the right decisions going forward.”
Another reason to stay calm is to avoid making tactical mistakes. Before signing any sort of severance package, you may want to have someone, possibly an employment lawyer, take a look at it.
“The last thing you want is to take a severance package, start applying for jobs, and then three months later, find out you’re in the middle of a lawsuit with your prior employer because you violated a noncompete agreement that you didn’t realise you signed during the severance paperwork,” Bishop said.
While you’re at it, make sure to confirm any residual pay or benefits from the company that you might be due, including unused paid time off, trailing fees and commissions, and outplacement assistance.
Update your personal brand. If you’ve been working at the same job for a long time, you probably haven’t put together a CV in a while, and you may find the rules of the game have changed. Most jobs are applied to online now, and an applicant’s keywords and internet presence are more important than ever.
When you craft your CV, it needs to be tailored for each application in order to get past the applicant tracking system, Jackson stressed. The keywords that you include in your CV are very important, because if you don’t tailor your CV and cover letter to the specific jobs to which you’re applying, you’re far less likely to get a response, she said.
To stand out, she said, you must build your personal brand on sites like LinkedIn. She recommended optimising your profile using the right search terms so you can be found, and sharing content about your area of expertise to attract more attention.
“I would recommend publishing a video of you talking about something you’re passionate about because that will stay at the top of your LinkedIn profile,” she said. “You should also stay active by commenting and posting relevant articles in your area of expertise, because then you will turn up on the feeds of recruiters or hiring managers who are looking for people like you.”
Work to be an expert in your area. When new US tax laws were enacted at the end of 2017, Bishop got to work learning about all the changes and how they were going to impact his clients. He put together webinars and wrote articles so his firm could be a thought leader in that area.
“If your company has to cut 20% of the workforce to stay profitable, you don’t want to be part of that 20%,” he said. “You want to be one of the people who would be more painful for them to terminate than to keep on.”
Being one of the most valuable people in the office makes it less likely that you will lose your job in the first place, but even if you are let go, attaining more expertise in your field will help attract new opportunities. Take advantage of any continuing professional development that you can in areas that are specifically beneficial to your business and create sharable content online that exhibits your expertise.
Expand your network. For 75% to 80% of Jackson’s clients, networking is the way they secured their next role — far more than using an online job board.
“When you expand your network, it’s important to think about whose sphere of influence you want to be in, and if you’re targeting certain industries or companies, how might you be able to facilitate an introduction?” Jackson said. “Have a chat with them, not for a job, but just to find out a little bit more about what’s going on within that business.”
Similarly, attending industry events is a good way to expand your network. Make sure you bring business cards and have a prepared pitch so you know what to say when you meet someone. That said, Jackson recommended never saying you’re looking for a job, but rather telling people what your area of expertise is and what you’re passionate about.
“Give people the chance to get to know you, like you, and trust you, so down the line, they may reach out to you because they like you and think you would fit the organisation,” she said.
Bishop believes professionals should always be networking, and if you’ve just been laid off, networking is your new job.
“As soon as you’re terminated, it’s your job is to do everything you can to get your name out there to find your next situation,” he said.
Hannah Pitstick is a freelance writer based in the US. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Drew Adamek, an FM magazine senior editor, at Andrew.Adamek@aicpa-cima.com.