Bounce back from a downsizing

By Jeff Hasenfratz, Managing director, Mindsight Talent Management Services

This is the first article in a five-part series about career transitions

Take some time to identify the right job for you, then go out and get it

Are you one of the many thousands who were "downsized" during the economic turmoil of the last few years? Well, I can't say I'm surprised because the days of safe jobs and a secure career path with a "good" company are probably a thing of the past. That's the bad news. The good news is that this creates the perfect opportunity to take control of your own career!

You may still be in shock, with self-confidence at a low ebb, but have faith and follow these "great 8" suggestions to get you back on your feet again:

1. Chin up!
A positive attitude is everything. You will experience emotional swings involving anger, uncertainty and excitement as you get back into the workforce. Realise that the "healing" process takes time and do things to help you stay positive. For example, meet friends and tell them about the highs and lows of your job search. Keep busy by having a weekday job search routine, doing regular exercise and by volunteering. Helping others keeps things in perspective and may result in new job leads.

2. Assess your finances and act
If you have limited savings, this is not the best time for an extended job hunt. Calculate the cost of your basic needs and tightly manage your cash flow until you are in better financial shape. This may involve saving accommodation costs or doing temporary work to make ends meet. If you have sufficient reserves from a severance payment or savings to tide you over for 8 to 12 months, you should still reduce discretionary expenditure to make this money last longer.

3. Manage your career proactively
The days of one company providing a steady job until retirement are now gone. As a result, you need to take a strategic approach to career development as the CEO of "Me First Inc". Target new opportunities based upon your strengths, interests, values and goals. Support these with appropriate self-marketing techniques and review your plan every six months.

4. Know yourself
All the sages were right. You need to know who you are and what you want. Therefore, do a personal assessment and specifically identify your natural talents and key short and long-term goals. Be clear about your preferred working environment and location, and don't hesitate to do some information interviews to help decide if a job is right for you. If that doesn't sound so easy, buy a copy of What Color is Your Parachute? (Richard N. Bolles) or Cool Careers for Dummies (Marty Nemko). Work through the exercises and the recommended process. The results will soon be apparent in both your life and your bank account.

5. Target the right opportunities
Once you know what you want, do an opportunity assessment to determine where to find the job you want. Target the industry or vocation that most interests you, the companies or organisations that fit you best, and the specific individuals you should contact. Use the information from your personal assessment to narrow the range of research possibilities. Then network and use directories, trade journals and the Internet to build up background knowledge. Look at forecast growth prospects over the next ten years, find out if companies have core values which match your own, and see if they have problems you could fix.

Once you've shortened the target list, get the contact details of the people who could hire you for the job. In most cases, this won't be someone in the HR department, unless you're after an HR role. Instead, it will be the line manager or someone a level or two above the position you want.

Getting access to these people is more art than science. But keep networking to get direct access or a referral to these decision-makers. Talk to suppliers and headhunters focusing on your target companies, or attend industry conferences and chamber of commerce events. Keep trying and you'll find a way to connect.

6. Prepare your marketing tools
Before calling your target contacts, make sure you are ready. This can mean rewriting your CV to reflect your legitimate qualifications for the role; preparing for interviews by creating a 20-second pitch; doing mock interviews; and acquiring necessary new skills via training or volunteering.

7. Engage
When you have done all the above, the only remaining thing is to engage! Call the decision-makers, send your CV, request interviews, track your progress, and keep following up politely and persistently. If a decision-maker won't agree to meet, ask them to refer you to someone else in the company or the industry. Get phone numbers and don't waste even a single contact.

8. Chin up!
This suggestion truly bears repeating. With the right attitude and action, plus a little luck, you will maintain self-confidence and land the job you want. It is best to view being "downsized" as an opportunity to reflect on where you are and where you want to go. Then formulate an action plan to get there. After all, it's your life!

Jeff Hasenfratz ( is managing director of Mindsight Talent Management Services, a consultancy offering retention consulting, executive coaching, and dialogue management services in China. He is a Putonghua speaker and a lawyer by training.

Taken from Career Times 14 January 2005
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