Here you will find out how to look after yourself and keep cool in times of high pressure and crisis, when you are worried to lose your job. You will have to find out about your rights, withstand and deal with rumors and gossip, deal effectively with your actual situation and secure and protect your present position. When do you have to enlist professional help? How are you going to prepare an action plan? From preparing a communication plan to identifying new opportunities, networking yourself to your next job, creating contacts, preparing, succeeding in and following up the job interview, Eleven Steps to secure a new Position will see you through your rough patch until you have resolved your situation.
A few days ago, I overheard a conversation between two young men in a café: «I am worried to lose my job before the age of forty», one of them said.
What would one do in such a situation, at any age? Being afraid of losing one’s job is a pretty scary situation which requires you to keep your head on your shoulders and do the right things. If you are single, then the situation is rather unpleasant, but if you have a family with school children, fear can turn into a massive mountain.
1. Look after yourself and keep cool
There is tension in the air and rumors are boiling. Your nerves are tense and all you want to do is to run and hide or get drunk. Now is the time to look after yourself very well. If things get on top of you, prepare a three-day retreat at home by taking the necessary time off. Get a doctor’s certificate if needed. If you can, take a whole week off and pamper yourself. Buy your favorite food, some nice papers, journals or a book, rent a movie, replenish your cosmetics and prepare for a quiet break at home.
On day one, have hot bath or shower, put on some comfortable lounge wear, lock out the noise and just take a rest and sleep whenever you like. Have some nice and healthy breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Read something relaxing, drink some herb teas or some water and eat regular meals with your homemade food. Go for a walk in the fresh air if you like. But do not do anything except what you feel like. Ban electronics, no mobile, no computer, no TV, stay away from booze, drugs, tobacco and coffee.
On day two, write down on a notepad everything that bothers you. Then put the notes away and continue to relax and nurse yourself. Try to get as much sleep as you can. Eat regular meals, take some vitamins, stay away from alcohol, nicotine and coffee. Drink lots of water, tea, juices, or smoothies if you like. Stay away from your electronics: no mobile, no computer, as little TV as possible. Go for a quiet walk in a park or a nearby forest or take some fresh air in your garden or on your terrace. Breathe.
Day three is the time to get back on your feet. Go for a walk, a jog or to your sports center, for some light activity. Take your notepad and write down everybody and everything you are grateful for in life. Start drafting an action plan. See further down: Eleven Steps to Secure a New Position.
Write down all the names of people who could be of help. Find the address of professional counseling or coaching and make an appointment.
2. Know your rights
Depending on your employment status, you will have different delays for notice. You cannot be fired without notice unless you are caught with your hands in the cashbox or in any other criminal offence. If the threat is real, try to find out discreetly how much time you have. But do not wake up any sleeping dogs. Find out how much notice you have if it comes to the worst. Check out your contract and the law applicable in your country. Find out from the internal regulations and bylaws of your company if you are entitled to some compensation payment if you are laid off due to restructuration. Some companies offer several months up to two year’s salary, or a certain time of paid coaching or outplacement, if they cannot give you a similarly well-paid job according to your qualifications. Find out if there is a social plan in the case of mass layoffs. If you are not sure, go and see a lawyer to make sure you have the right information. If the company is trying to get rid of you in an unfair way, ask your lawyer for advice and for action. Most of the time you cannot reverse unfair dismissal, but you can get more or less compensation. If you don’t have one, get a legal protection insurance as fast as you can. This must be in place before the conflict starts, but then they will take the company into court, all fees and your lawyers paid.
3. Rumors and Gossip – a Trying Time
If there are just rumors and gossip, do not let them drive you crazy. This is a trying time for everyone, and management will notice if you stay on an even keel and continue to deliver excellent work, display a positive work attitude, if you are supportive and set a good example to your colleagues and your team. Do everything you can to make yourself feel good. If the company is in a major reshuffle and has to let some people go, this is a real-life test for finding out who they will keep and who has to go, who can withstand pressure and who cannot. A client worked in a company involved in a major restructuration where in a certain area every third employee was laid off. She was a project manager involved in the restructuration. In the beginning she thought it was interesting and was given some hope that she would keep her position under the new structure. However, as things progressed, she let fear overcome herself. Within a short time, she ended up a bundle of anxiety, working endless hours. She gave up looking after herself. Her hair was a mess. She abandoned her daily skincare routine. She wore no make-up. Her clothes and shoes looked neglected. She was and looked run-down. In the end she was fired. No longer part of the team and of the company. So sad. Had she arranged for help at the right time, she could have spared herself this trying experience. She might have ended up with a different position, in a different team, but still part of the company.
4. Secure and protect yourself and your present position
If you are still in the race, make yourself indispensable. Not only behave well and set an example, but help the company by increasing turnover in your area, by giving excellent service to your customers, by identifying new customers and new business opportunities, by improving processes and services. Make sure to deliver what you promise and more, in time and in top quality. Be patient and resilient, contribute to a good working climate, help to calm down your colleagues, stay positive and be an inspiring person in every way. You can use the situation to your advantage by being proactive, anticipating what is needed by your leaders, and increasing the quality and quantity of your output.
Even if things are getting very difficult due to some inconsistency at an upper level, it pays to keep calm and sit it out: Some problems solve themselves if you allow enough time. You need grace under pressure.
5. Reduce your expenses and save as much as you can
Unless you have already started saving, this is the time to consolidate your finances and start saving, so you have enough cash to see yourself through some rough patches. Reduce your expenses as fast as you can. Instead of going on shopping sprees, stay at home, clean out your cupboards, get your clothes dry-cleaned and your shoes repaired, sew that missing button and mend that hemline. Plan to buy a limited amount of new things if you notice any gaps: a new pair of shoes or a new shirt can give every outfit an immediate lift. Meet your friends for a jog or for a hike with picknick instead of expensive bars and restaurants. Ideally you have 6-12 months salaries stacked away in some savings account to give you some freedom to think aheadif it comes to the worst.
6. Enlist the help of a professional
If things get very stressful or if you feel that you have problems coping with a difficult situation, seek help from a professional, a coach, a counsellor, a medical doctor, or a therapist, who are all under the professional secret. This will give you the necessary strength to face the day-to-day pressure at your job and stay on top of things, to remain superior. Moreover, it will prevent you from letting your hair down with your colleagues, thereby setting a bad example, fueling rumors and showing weakness in times of crisis, opening yourself to criticism. If you are in a difficult, demanding high-power position, you may want to get regular counseling or coaching to help you keep your life in balance. Life at the top can be pretty lonely, and most of the time there is no one with whom to share your worries and your doubts.
7. Prepare your action plan
Plan your actions step by step according to the Eleven Steps to Secure a New Position. Quietly and very discreetly set out to start looking for a new position. Either things calm down and you stay where you are, or you will land a new job. You can only win.
Eleven Steps to Secure a New Position
- Prepare a communication plan and a wording to explain your situation until you have some ground under your feet.
- Update your CV and double-check your references. Get some neutral business cards without the logo of your present company, just your name and professional credentials plus contact information.
- Make a list of all of your contacts everywhere: Business, family, friends, sports clubs, any leisure activitiy, competitors, customers, in particular if you work in B2B.
- List your 100 favorite companies where you would like to work, from top Nr. 1 to Nr. 100.
- Check out each company on your list for new positions in your field. If there is an opening in your field, phone before you apply. Prepare a number of interesting, good questions about the job, then ring the contact person indicated and do your best to leave a lasting impression. Follow up immediately with an application. This should get you into the top five applications.
- These days, most of the positions are not published openly but are on the grey market. Some job ads are just used for marketing purposes with no real openings, while others have not yet been published, and in some instances, a new job may even be created for a very promising prospect, or new jobs are in the pipeline due to a major acquisition, merger, expansion, even company relocation or start-ups. Scan newspapers and online for press reports about company moves and changes in your field of employment. Check out construction projects of companies which could mean expansion and new jobs. Also watch out for company websites with a slot «jobs» or even «work for us». Sometimes there are postings on Linkedin “ xxxx is hiring”. Some companies invite you to register and upload your CV for future positions. For uploads you need an updated resumé with CV and publication list or Portfolio. In your Portfolio, you can list your major achievements, similar to a publication list. Most job openings come on the market after Christmas and after the summer holidays, when people discover major unplanned changes in their lives: weddings, divorces, separations, pregnancies.
- Networking strategies : If possible network yourself into the companies.If you do not know anyone who knows someone, make contact yourself. Ask for an appointment with the Head of the department where you would like to work to gather some market information for some report you are preparing. If you have held a similar position, you may want to invite him or her for lunch, which is always an accepted strategy for business talk. Do not ask for a job at that point. Just use the occasion to make contact. Or find out where your potential contacts go for lunch and hang out there, you may get to know each other if you share a table during a crowded lunch hour at the local pub. Do not exclude any possibilities. One of my clients once got recommended for a job in a prestigious university by a little old lady working in facility management whom he had met on the train by chance. He followed the lead, said thankyou and got the job. Another client got a job offer in a local bank when its new Head of Personnel joined his Saturday skiing class. The offer was very good, he took the job and stayed for twenty years. There are zillions of such examples, where someone happens to be in the right place at the right time. You will have to bring yourself into the right place at the right time.
- Check out your alumni list to identify possible companies. Look at the members of your sports club, of your parenting association or any other association you adhere to. Are there any interesting potential contacts? Join your chamber of commerce, the leading professional association in your field or one of the linked-in groups. Start making yourself known by attending professional events in your field of expertise, by writing contributions to the specialized publications or networks in your field, volunteer to give talks, support your local school and youth groups, do volunteer work in your community, join a sports club or any other club in your favorite pastime area like chess, a cine club, a photography or video class, any activity which makes you meet people. Or the classic: play golf.
- Research the company you are interested in, its profile, its field of business, its style, its management, its employees and their style until you literally own it. Would you be a good match? Could you identify with the company and its values? Could you adapt to their image and blend in? In some companies everyone from the apprentice to the receptionist to the top level wears black suits and white shirts or black dresses and black shoes and stockings, five days a week. One organization was known for only hiring Nordic looking people: it was an unwritten rule.
- For your job application to get attention you will need a résume that shows a strong track record of getting results in the areas of the job requirements, a convincing cover letter explaining why you would excel at the role required. The tone of the letter should be friendly, responsive, and enthusiastic. Stay away from routine sentences, try to write a pleasant, positive enjoyable letter which stands out from the crowd. You will have to tailor your application custom-made for each new position to make it so hot, it lands on top of the pile. These days, HR get up to 200 applications or more for one position. For one job, finances might be most important, while for another position the most important part would be sales or customer care experience. Use your experience to demonstrate that you will fit the job requirements. State your previous responsibilities as precisely as possible: “Assistant to the CFO, sole budget responsibility 40 billion CHF, 5 years experience; Vice President Private Banking, budget responsibility 800 billion CHF, responsible for a staff of 200, 8 years experience”. In your résume, list the most important qualifications for the job requirements at the top, depending on each individual job and add what kind of experience you have had. Don’t use any gimmicks, any wild graphics, just prepare a stylish, simple and neat application file and a friendly, well-formulated letter. In Switzerland, a photograph is a must, in all other countries a photograph is a no-go. Some coaches recommend a pain-letter, but this must touch exactly the right points, or it will not get you the effect desired but rather the opposite.If you work in a creative area, you can use creative tools to show off your talent in your job application, if it can be delivered as a hard copy. If only uploads are accepted, you will have to use your graphic talent to get the best results.
11. Job interviews get your wardrobe and shoes into pristine condition. Buy some new pieces if necessary. A new pair of shoes, a new handbag and some new shirts can greatly update your look and boost your confidence. When you get invitations for job interviews, go to the hairdresser, get a fresh haircut and color, a professional manicure, men shave just before the interview – maybe you want to go to a good barbershop to avoid cutting yourself and showing up with a bloodstained shirt collar like one of our candidates once did – poor chap, no one warned him. Unless you work in a creative field, avoid anything flashy, loud, remove piercings, cover tatoos, use professional, undramatic makeup, keep fingernails well-groomed and at a reasonable length, hair cut or long hair up, skirts just above the knee, reasonable high-heels, no stilettos, no flipflops, no shorts, no T-shirts. When you have the job, you can be a little bit more daring. In a very conservative setting avoid bare arms and legs and open shoes/strappy sandals, wear court shoes, men wear shirt, tie and suit, watch your socks and shoes!
At the interview be on time, bring some note paper and pen with you, you may not have time to type into your notebook. Have a number of intelligent questions ready:
About the project you would be working on: is it a new project, what are the financial expectations, results aimed at?
About the people working on the project, do you have a predecessor, expectations from your job, how many people work on the team, can you meet them?
About possible expansion of the product range, new developments, market development, possible support, marketing department, communication department.
Work methods like CRM tools, process management, software, hardware.
At this point do NOT ask about your salary.
If you are asked by the interviewer how much you expect, ask back what range they have in mind. If pressed, give them a range within which you would be happy to settle and mention possible fringe benefits which might also come into consideration. If you want the job very much, tell them you do not know their salary structure, would they be able to tell you where your position would be within that structure. Sometimes you will get a compromise between what is planned and what you have in mind. If the position is very promising and the company offers a lot of potential, sometimes a step back salary-wise can be compensated and even surpassed within a short time. Sometimes you have to descend to the valley in order to get ready for the next ascencion.
After the interview follow up with a short thankyou note either by email or handwritten if the company is in a very traditional field, thanking for their time, saying how much you enjoyed the interview and how interesting the facts about the job and the company are, what you found particularly interesting, informative, enjoyable, and that you would be very happy to work for such an amazing company.
If the recruiting process drags on forever, more than one or two months, and your interlocutor makes excuses, after a reasonable amount of time contact him or her directly by phone and let him know that you need a decision because you do not have endless time. You could just say that you would like to know where you stand. Some experts recommend to say that the reason is that you need the new job soon, while others recommend to say that you have another potential job in the pipeline needing a reply. Both strategies could work out or backfire, you will have to feel what is appropriate.
You may not land your dream position immediately. Finding a new job is a job in itself and it is hard work. Companies want to be sure to hire the right person, as mistakes are expensive. Recruiting may cost several monthly salaries and even up to an annual salary. You may have to go a different route, accept a detour to land where you really want to be. A famous example is the nice girl who had a master in communication and wanted to work in the communication department on the seventh floor of a well-known company. She saw an opening as a receptionist on the ground floor of just that company, applied and got the job. One day she was in the elevator on her way to the seventh floor to deliver some document, when she met the Head of communications and delivered her elevator speech. Soon after she was transferred to communications.
If you do not get a job right away consider being self-employed for a while until you have landed a new position. This makes a better impression than carrying the label “unemployed”. Before you start out, find out if this could affect your entitlement for unemployment benefits. Also,you may have to consider extending your geographical range and relocate if you cannot find any interesting position in your area.
Do not despair, the best is yet to come, just carry on, hone your strategies, persevere, by the time you get to your favorite job at the top of your list, your job application strategies will be so good, that you will land the job of your dreams for sure.
Susanne H. Keller has been a coach since 2012, specializing in leadership coaching and organizational development. She has more than thirty years experience in executive management, project management and managing science and technology. As a systemic coach she can help executives and teams to manage change, develop their personalities and their companies, create start-ups, work on their projects, discover new perspectives, and reach their goals. You can contact her at www.susanne-keller.ch