In the past week, unfortunately, I've met with four people - all high-performing executives - who have been 'let go', that is, made redundant. This can be because of the financial situation faced by the organisation for whom they worked, or it could be the organisation and the individual were not a good cultural match, or it might be a genuine restructuring. It's very rare that someone is inefficient or incompetent.
Once someone gets over the shock of losing their job, survival kicks-in. How do you get a new job? How do you talk about what happened? How can I get the most out of where I left?
Each night on the news there is more talk of job losses in a variety of industries and recent job ad figures show that there are even fewer advertised vacancies. I thought it would be useful to put these basic tips together on what to do if you, or someone you know or love, is faced with this situation.
1. Negotiate the terms
Most likely you’ll be offered some sort of severance package by your boss or human resources manager when you are let go.
What you may not know, though, is that that these terms are often flexible, so you should try to negotiate for more, if possible. It may not be in cash terms, but it could be in other benefits. For instance, one client I had a few years ago worked at a major entertainment venue. She asked for, and received two years worth of tickets to every event at the venue as part of her severance! She went to those events she wanted to, and gave them as gifts to friends!
2. Get a written reference
If you’re being laid off due to no fault of your own, you should ask for a letter of reference. You can even inquire about having your employer endorse you and your skills on LinkedIn. Let your boss know that you are also open to any job search leads she or he might be able to provide.
Make sure you do this! I have known of people who were assured of an oral reference from their former boss, only to have a falling-out later - and no positive reference.
3. Prioritise your workload
Let’s say you’ve been given two weeks’ notice before you’ll have to leave the company. While some people might try to complete all of the projects, it’s in your best interest to take care of yourself first. Structure your workdays to be as efficient as possible while also gathering what you’ll need to take with you, such as your contact lists and other important emails and files.
Even if your boss is helpful and has lined-up possible positions for you, never assume you will get a job straight away. It's tough out there and, depending on your role and industry, it can be really tough! If necessary, see a financial advisor - and make this part of your package on departure - so you can budget for the best and worst scenarios.
I have a client who was 'terminated' by her employer - totally unfairly - a few years ago and he has not been able to find anything but casual work since, even though he is highly qualified and experienced. The one good thing he did when it happened was to consult a financial advisor and plan out a budget on such a 'worst case scenario'.
5. Be professional
Being 'let go' or laid-off is a stressful and difficult experience to go through, especially if you’ve been an outstanding employee.
But put your anger aside and try to remain as professional as possible throughout the remainder of your work days. In 95% of circumstances, your boss will feel as bad as you do - albeit, they still have a job - and they wouldn't have done it if circumstances were different.
You don’t want the last few days of your employment to cast a negative light on you - and your overall job performance with the organisation. So be polite to your boss and colleagues while you are still working. That way, it will be easier to maintain a positive relationship with them moving forward, and also reach out to them for networking help down the road.