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The weeks following a layoff are a confusing time. Update your resume, look into health insurance benefits and get centered. After the initial shock wears off, it’s time to put a plan together and focus on all the things you can control in your job search. You’ll want to ensure you are in the best position possible to not just get a new job, but land in a position that excites you and offers a long-term career path. Here’s how:
Ask for a recommendation
Layoffs often have nothing to do with performance. As companies globalize and merge, specific positions or departments are sometimes cut without any consideration of an employee’s quality of work. If you had a generally good relationship with your manger and colleagues, ask them to be references now, before you need one as the last step of a potential job offer. This could be in the form of a LinkedIn endorsement or one of the professional references you pass along during the new job search process.
Assess your strengths
Now is the time to take stock of what you excel at and what you really disliked about your last position. Use the time to stay positive and write down other challenging professional situations and how you solved them. You’ll likely find a pattern that helps you pinpoint common strengths (like negotiating, solving budget problems, being a great leader, etc.) and this will help you focus on a specific skillset that you can bring to your next position. It’s also worth being honest about what you didn’t like in past jobs and known professional weaknesses. Not only will it help you ace your next interview, but it will help you better craft a successful job search.
Network with industry peers
Now is the time to lean on your network. Whether it’s former colleagues, industry groups or past managers you’ve had a great relationship, reach out. That can take the form of asking for the above reference, suggesting a coffee date to chat about the industry landscape, or tapping others who might be in a company with current openings. Don’t be shy, and don’t underestimate the power of networking. Recent studies suggest that 70 to 80 percent of current workers ended up in their current position thanks to professional connections, as opposed to sending resumes to positions where no network existed.
Take a class
Is there a new skill you’ve been meaning to hone? Do you want to get better at programming? Perhaps you want to better understand data analytics, so you can be better suited to a data marketing position. After a layoff, make a list of the skills you see listed in job postings and consider taking a class or two to improve the areas that are best suited to the kind of job you want—not the job you had. Also, be sure to investigate unemployment benefits. Depending on the state and the type of layoff, you may be eligible for professional training or education credits.
Practice for upcoming interviews
It's likely you’ll be asked about why you left your last position. Exerts advise to be transparent and clear that your current job hunt is he result of a layoff, but not go into too much detail. After all, layoffs are, unfortunately, a common occurrence as cyclical budgets, mergers and automation play a greater part of today’s corporate landscape. In addition to the expected questions about strengths, weaknesses, and management style (if you’re a manager), be prepared for the unexpected. Depending on how long you held your job, you may find that the types of interview questions have changed. You might be asked to describe yourself in the length of a tweet, your favorite cartoon character, or asked to talk about your most unexpected adventure. Keep your answers light and don’t overthink it.
Kristin Amico is a career and business writer who spent more than a decade managing creative teams at digital agencies. She has written for The Muse, The Independent and USA Today.