Tough Decisions

Photo Credit: myCAES via Compfight

Last week, I began getting a flurry of invites to connect on LinkedIn from ex-colleagues, all of whom were at the same firm — a sure indication that pink slips were in the offing! Alas, I was right, as the entire location got the axe on Monday. I suspect the first day every engineer in the place was in a state of shock, not to mention folks in finance, admin and marketing. It was hard to see folks that I admired, liked and even loved, struggle with what to do next – even as I counseled some, made calls for others and helped with resumes.

As a veteran (survivor, victim and instigator of) numerous layoffs stretching from my first week at work in August 1988 through the mid 2000s, I thought I should share my learnings on the Top 5 things to do when you lose your job. Not s Surprisingly my first list looked very similar to the Top 5 things to do while you still have a job! Further thought and reflection helped refine it. So here goes….

  • Plan: Write down a set of objectives for next 90 days
    As the man said, when you don’t know where you want to go, any road will take you there or NOT! So it better to know where you want to go first and then we can figure out how to get there. So get a plain piece of paper and a pencil and write down a set of 90 day objectives. This could be as forward looking as “I’ll figure out what I want over the next three years” to “I’ll have at least six/twelve/twenty four interviews.” Break this down into what you will get done in the next 5 days, 15 days, 30 days, and every two weeks beyond.
  • Create Collateral: Get your resume re-done
    With the 90 day objectives in front of you, create at least two versions of your resume/curriculum vitae

    • The first one is a plain vanilla, one pager (or one sheet, if you have to go to two sides of a hardcopy resume) that highlights your skills, summarizes accomplishment and a quick employment summary. This is useful firstly for yourself to hone in on what you want to highlight and particularly for headhunters to get a sense for who you are.
    • You can do a second, more detailed one (build on the first, don’t waste time), that adds an objective up front (what are you looking for) and expands on specifics of what you have done or skills you possess to make you the right person for the stated objective. This you tweak for each company/interview that you appear for. Feel free to bring in an updated CV to the actual interview, particularly if there’s been a phone screen.

Doing your CV also means making yourself easy to find – so update your profile on LinkedIn, Spock or other business networks that may be relevant to your business. Regardless of your feelings or advice you may get to the contrary, it is worth posting your resume to the job sites – be they,,,, or whatever specialized job sites may be there. Don’t forget your alumni sites, regardless of how long ago you graduated or it was only an executive ed program you attended at that school.

  • Reach out: Work the phone/email/fax
    Be clear that you are in sales, regardless of what job you are looking for. Sales is a numbers game – so you have to set a clear target on how many folks you will call, how many mails you will send out and if you have to fax stuff, you’ll do it! Ten (10) is a nice round number, as are of course, 15, 20 or 25. Set realistic goals for the number of mails you’ll send or calls you’ll make EACH DAY. And then just do it every morning. Yep, start your day with this. Once you connect with someone, or when you can never connect with someone you are trying to reach, you’ll figure out what’s the best time, if it is not the morning. You don’t have the luxury of “I didn’t like how he spoke to me,” “Will she think I am desperate?” “I’m not sure I want to work there” – regardless of the truth of the these statements, they are EXCUSES – just move to the next call/email on your list.
  • Track
    When you lose your job, the only thing certain is that you are going to have a few lousy days. The best way to keep these short, is to stay busy meaningfully which is best done by tracking two critical things.

      Who did you send a resume to, or make a call, where did you already attend an interview, who said they’d give you an intro. Write everything down, so that nothing falls between the cracks.
      What worked and what didn’t on a given day & how you felt. So any day that you feel down, you can see what you got done that day or at the least find another day that was lousier, that you already survived and so you know this too shall pass.

    I find using a daily diary or a notebook with one page per day is the best way to get this done. You can carry it with you and there is no boot-up time nor do you lose it because the battery died. I know folks who use MS Excel and a diary – choose your favorite method but do it!

  • Volunteer
    Instead of sitting at home or in your cubicle (till your last day), get out and keep yourself busy. Volunteer to help out at your friends’ startup, at a local VC firm, at a non-profit – with your specific skills – be it letter (copy-)writing, programming, project management or basket weaving. Firstly this prevents you from moping around the house and bothering the spouse, kids or pets; more importantly it keeps your game sharp through practice at something real it helps you make new contacts, potentially learn a few new things and finally builds psychic karma for doing good. If it opens your eyes to new opportunities or insights about yourself, that’s icing on the cake.