Written by Kelley Keehn
Tuesday, April 11th, 2023
It was during the pandemic when everyone was in lockdown that Tara McEwen received the news. She was getting a severance package to leave her job.
“In retrospect, it really didn't come as a surprise," she says. “I was the senior producer for a local TV show for over 10 years. I knew that I wanted to do something different, but I didn't know what that was. And then of course the pandemic happened, and I was just gripping to that job.
“The idea of exploring something else wasn't on the horizon. My director knew I needed to leave, and it was the kick in the pants I could never make on my own. So actually, after she gave me the news over a Zoom call, I was instantly grateful."
Corey Daxon, President of Feldman Daxon Partners, which specializes in career coaching and transition services, knows that the impact of getting laid off or getting a company package to leave your job can come as a massive shock. But it's more common than you might think.
“On average," says Daxon, “people receive a severance three or four times in their career. And the higher up you are in seniority, the more likely it is."
What's his advice? Here are six simple steps to help you shine in your next job search.
Step 1: Get in the right headspace
“This really is your starting point," stresses Daxon. “You have to think positively and focus on where you go from here. Your former company wouldn't have hired you in the first place if you weren't great at what you do."
McEwen met with three people after her severance offer: a lawyer to negotiate her severance, a banker to help with her finances, and a career coach and team at Feldman Daxon. “Their workshops were all about what's going on with your mind," she says. “There's so much work you have to do to settle your brain because you go in this shock. It's a drastic change and you have no idea what the future is going to bring."
Step 2: Know your brand
Daxon stresses the importance of understanding your own brand.
“What's unique about you to go out into the marketplace? It's a competitive landscape. Why should the company hire you if 100 people responded to a job posting, made it to the interview stage, and all of you have similar background? Write out what you've done that makes you unique and will have you stand out from other candidates."
McEwen agrees. “One of the best coaching sessions I had was about separating who you were at your old job and who you're going to be at your next place. I remember my coach asking a simple question: what do you want? And I didn't have a clear picture for it. I had a vague idea and needed to work hard to get a clear picture of my future. Getting laid off isn't an excuse for a vacation. It was time for me to get to work on my personal inventory."
Step 3: Shine a light on your accomplishments
What's the story of your accomplishments? Daxon asks you to ponder this question. “Things you have done that made a difference. There are three key parts to your story," he says. “What you did, why you did it and what the results were. They're all critical to be a good story. And they need to be specific."
Step 4: Getting your materials ready
Make sure your LinkedIn profile and resume are up to date, professional and impactful. “Look at your resume, and for every job that you've had, provide two or three stories or accomplishments," Daxon says. "Those should be detailed on your resume and LinkedIn profile. They don't have to be long. Are you a great leader? Did you overcome adversity? Are you a brilliant problem solver or have exceptional skills? If you say you're an 'out of the box thinker,' be ready to demonstrate that with an example. Not a lot of people take this extra prep time. It's a big, big differentiator for those that do."
Step 5: Prepare your finances
If you think a layoff may be in your future, it's essential to do everything you can to fully fund your emergency account now. Take a spending break if you can and add as much as possible to this financial cushion. Once you're back on solid footing with your current or a new job, then you can take a breather and return back to your spending as usual.
You may also want to consider getting a line of credit before you need it. This doesn't mean using debt to spend on things you don't need, but to help you in between jobs if you need the extra help. Getting approved for credit while you still have income is probably much easier than it would be if you become unemployed.
Step 6: Go above and beyond
Finally, Daxon wants to remind you that if you want that next great role, there is extremely tough competition out there. “You're going to have to outwork and proactively sell yourself. And people don't think that way. We don't like to brag about ourselves or seem salesy, but this is the time to do just that.
“Pick 20 companies you'd love to work for. Identify who'd be the person in those organizations you'd be reporting to and then connect with them on LinkedIn. Drop them a line and let them know you're interested in the company, you're recently on the market and you'd like to have a 10-minute call with them. The worst that could happen is you may be ghosted."
Daxon leaves us with some parting words.
“In school we shoot for 80 or 90 percent on our grades. That's success. In the job search process, you just need to land one great job to be 100 percent successful."