Job Talk – How to recover from downsizing
By Irene Kim
Relax. Take a deep breath. And network.
If you've been let go recently, you're in excellent company. Hundreds of thousands of job cuts this year sent armies of good people out to pound the pavement. "In a downturn, usually only the bottom 10 percent are cut. In our situation, of the 90 or so worldwide employees who were hired with me, nearly half were laid off," says Hani Zabaneh, MBA '07, a former J.P. Morgan investment-banking associate whose entire Chicago division was excised after the Bear Stearns merger.
How to bounce back from a layoff? First, keep your perspective. "After the smoke clears, remember that you have your core experience, your core education. Everything is still there," says Zabaneh, now an investment banker with StoneRidge Advisors in Chicago. "You have to calm down and make good decisions."
Stay optimistic — but realistic. "This is a challenging time to be job hunting," says Lynne Allen, Johnson School alumni career advisor. "You might need to focus less on your dream job and more on what you need to do to stay financially viable."
Don't ignore early offers. Allen tells of a woman who almost snagged a job offer immediately after being laid off, "but didn't want to grab the first thing to come along. Don't miss out on people who hear you're out of work and think of you when something comes up."
Use tools. Allen advises posting your resume on job boards such as eCareers. LinkedIn is also useful for networking and exploring opportunities. "Explore getting a LinkedIn account and building a profile," she advises.
Network! "I stepped back and thought about my skill set. I thought about the industries I wanted to apply to. Then I started hitting my network," says Zabaneh. Allen advises spending 80 percent of your time networking. "Build relationships with as many people as possible in your industry, initially for getting advice, information, ideas, and referrals. These four things will lead you to a job opening." Request face-to-face meetings with your contacts, letting them know that you'd appreciate their advice on your career. "If you say, 'I've really enjoyed talking with you and I'd like to follow up with you and ask some questions,' people will meet with you," says Allen.
Be honest. In a weak economy, employers understand that you weren't let go because of performance. "Be open to telling interviewers how many people were laid off with you," says Allen. Then mention that you're looking for new directions for your career. "Be positive and act like this is a great opportunity. People will see that you're enthusiastic and energetic and, if they don't hire you themselves, they'll be more open to referring you to someone they know."
Take care of yourself. "One of the worst things you can do is become isolated," says Allen. "Seek out groups of people you can interact with on a regular basis — even an adult-ed class or volunteer organization. Part-time work can help pay the bills and break the 'I don't work' cycle."
Keep an open mind. "If you were at the top of the pyramid, you might not be able to find a new job like your old one," says Allen. "So always be thinking of different ways in which your rich experience could be of value in a different type of environment — a smaller company, a different type of employer."
The Johnson School is offering alumni a selection of new career services in addition to established services such as Jobs on JAC. You can find them all at www.johnson. cornell.edu/alumni/career. html. New services include JohnsonJobs, a job posting and networking listserv, the new Alumni Résumé Database, and the online Career Guide.
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