oConomy
June 22, 2009 by James Waters

It's a statement of our times. I almost hesitate to mention I'm qualified to write this piece because I've gone through a layoff. The experience is ubiquitous, hardly unique. I'll mention it only because the following isn't a compilation of what others have written on the topic. There won't be many links to well meaning lists of tips about LinkedIn usage; it is just my perspective having gone through it personally and vicariously through countless friends.

Thought 1

I like to start with the basics: what is a layoff? This is especially important if it's your first one. Think of it this way:

A layoff is when your current employer is no longer a qualified buyer for your skills.

I prefer this simple definition because it reinforces the impersonal nature of the event as well as the market system driving our careers. Many times a subtle game of "but I was very good at my role," will come into the conversation about layoffs. Don't go down this road. Don't even begin to look at a layoff as a measure of your worth. If you want insight into your performance, look at your performance reviews.

Now you're thinking about the event as a market event. You are also focusing on your previous employer's financial situation instead of your own self worth. Your emotional approach to this event is very important in the job market; nobody likes to buy even their favorite products if the packaging is badly beaten up and damaged. Your perspective is your packaging.

Thought 2

Hire yourself.

I'm a huge advocate of "working is its own reward". I hate government statistics about unemployment. Maybe this term made sense in the early 20th century when factories and farms were the primary employers, but it certainly doesn't in 2009. While you may have faced an immediate drop in your pay, you are now working for yourself, not unemployed.

When you were company employed, more of your task direction was dictated by your organization's needs and inputs. Now that you are working for yourself, hour is just as precious as when you were on the clock, probably more so.

Realizing you are now the manager of your own day is my most important step in facing a layoff. Managers have goals, objectives, and tasks to monitor and metric. What are your management metrics for yourself?

Don't try to boil the ocean. What are the three big areas where you can accomplish something related to your employable skills? Are you a writer? Keep writing. A coder? Keep coding. An executive? Write a business plan and study your market.

It's important to have your own vision and understanding of what you are uniquely good at. If you don't know, figure it out. Where have you had success in the past and why?

Don't fall into the trap of accomplishing generic, perhaps household, tasks to feel better. It's great if you finally have an opportunity to clean your pool, but will it contribute to rejuvenating your career?

Thought 3

Use your self-driven accomplishments to network meaningfully. Who can you collaborate with on your projects? How can you market and promote them? Big companies no longer have a strangle hold on our attention. The TV advertising era is over and this is the era of social media, Meetup, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and more.

The best way to get hired is to be a product someone wants to buy. How much easier is it for a friend to help promote something you have accomplished or created to a hiring manager vs. simply mentioning you are available?

Contract work is a great way to network and impress new contacts with your abilities. This is thinking like a marketer. Maybe the pay isn't the same as your prior role, but what is the value of the new connections? Perhaps it's better to take a lower offer with a company with a long-term future.

Meaningful networking is putting your highest value skills on display in front of qualified buyers and their recommending peers. Build your life around this metric – it's your new job.

Use social media to build and support these networks. Not only will it help you in the present, but it will be a good investment the next time you may be looking for a new job.

Summary

Defiance for me is self-autonomy in work, growth, and accomplishment. It's knowing your employer was only a buyer of your skills, not a parent evaluating your worth. It's having the ability to relentlessly pursue qualified buyers with a "WOW must have" product demonstration.

If you are looking for a blog that will help to boost your spirits and give some good advice, you should look into Rajesh Setty's blog "Life Beyond Code".  It's a high-tech way of looking at the world without focusing so much on the work.

Photo credits: pirano, Andrew Feinberg

  • http://www.pulseuniform.com/dickies-scrubs.asp Macy

    The outsourcing company that laid me off is no longer a qualified buyer of my skills. I will tell my former colleagues about this.

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  • James

    It seems that one phrase has stuck. :)

  • http://www.catcherinthewhy.blogspot.com aine

    Yes, the school that laid me off is no longer a qualified buyer for my reading skills. The down side is the students becoming a consequence. I will survive.

  • Tamara

    Love it! The magazine that laid me off was "no longer a qualified buyer for my skills."

    Brilliant! I like the way you think.