One of the great things about the work that we do is we are often one of the first people that individuals meet after receiving the news that their employment has been terminated. When I tell people that is what I do for a living, they will scratch their head and will often say “that must be a really tough job”
To be honest, nothing can be further from the truth.
The reality is that we are the ones that can help people do smart things at a time when they are not likely thinking clearly. When most people find out their employment has been terminated, their first instinct is to take their resume and blast it into the marketplace with the hope that some magical job will appear before their eyes in very short order.
But that is a sure fire way to weaken your value proposition in the marketplace.
When you start sending out your resume to anyone and everyone in your network or send your resume to any and all job postings that you find on job boards - the reality is that the marketplace is going to be saturated with your name and more importantly, your resume. And that is not necessarily a good thing.
So, what is the number one thing you should do if you have been told that your services are no longer required?
Stop and take a pause.
That may seem like petty advice but the bottom line is this........You are likely to go into panic mode (Think fight or flight response). The fight or flight mechanism means that your body is pumping adrenaline not to the brain where the thought processes need to happen, but rather to your muscles. As such, your brain gets starved of oxygen and you are operating at a weakened state. It is almost impossible to think clearly.
So here are a few quick tips to remember should you ever find yourself on the receiving end of the news that you’ve lost your job or have been terminated.
First, stop and think – do not react. Next, craft a reason for leaving statement. That’s the statement that you tell people when they call you and say “What happened?” “What did you do wrong?” “Did you screw up?” (Or maybe they’ll be less aggressive and forceful and be more curious and more sympathetic). Either way, it’s going to be incredibly awkward conversation for you.
So when somebody asks you what happened, use the following formula. It’s easy to remember.
A reason for leaving statement is based on three key concepts. They are past, present, future.
Now they don’t quite align to what the final message is but you’ll get the point in a minute.
Past sounds something like this: “Thanks very much for asking. I had fifteen great years at ABC Company and have really enjoyed my time there. And upon reflection I accomplished a lot and was able to achieve a lot of significant goals and made a significant contribution”.
Present sounds something like this (here you are trying to ‘sandwich’ the bad piece of news): “Unfortunately, I was caught up in a recent restructuring inside the organization”. Or if you know that your position has been eliminated, state that because that really depersonalizes a situation. So, it might sound something like “You know, there was a recent restructuring and my position was eliminated”. The bottom line is, if you have been terminated from your job, that organization has gone through reorganization. Even if they have a person taking your spot immediately upon your exit, the organization has ‘reorganized’. It is not a lie. It’s not an error of commission to state that you were caught up in reorganization.
Past is “I had a lot of great years at ABC company. I accomplished a lot. I was proud of my accomplishments”. Present, “I was caught up in a reorganization” and then the clincher….future. And this one is critical. “Now I am looking for a job”. NO! Scratch job from you vernacular. Instead you want to say that you are looking for an opportunity to utilize my skills, experience and knowledge to help organizations solve problems. Perhaps you may know some that are having trouble in the area of marketing or in the area of engineering or human resources or in the area of your field of choice. If you don’t know what your field of choice is, if you are still thinking that through, simply say for your future comment “And now I’m taking some time to really get my head wrapped around where I can best apply my skills, experience and knowledge going forward and I hope that I can get back in touch with you to talk more about that in the future”.
This is probably the most mission critical thing that you can do upon learning the news that you have been terminated.
Terry Gillis, M.A.Sc., M.B.A., Vice President Canada, Career partners International presented on behalf of MCI business Group Inc. / CPI Ottawa