Mourn your layoff, then get back to work

The Briggs and Stratton announcement made the headlines all week and sent waves of shock through the employees. Like many other lay offs that have rippled across the country, the casualties must face their fate and move on with their lives.

If you speak to people who have been through this, they will tell you there are some predictable mourning stages similar to the grieving process.

Denial hits first. ("They won't lay me off...") This is often coupled with bargaining, ("Something will happen; they'll change their mind.") When it becomes clear that the loss is real, anger often takes over. And frequently, anger mixes with depression and guilt as the full reality slowly seeps in.

The best way to deal with the emotional blow of losing your job is to talk to others who share the burden and the challenge of putting the pieces back together. Job-hunting support groups are a perfect place to vent your emotions. And the sooner you get it out of your system the faster you'll be able to put it behind you and find a new job. If you don't let the poison out in a safe environment, it's bound to show during interviews.

Often, companies provide outplacement assistance to help ease the transition. If not, there are groups sponsored by government agencies like Job Service, church groups, and even some private services such as The Job Forum.

Don't wait. Mourn quickly and then get moving. First assess your skills. What do you have to sell to an employer? (The answer isn't, "Twenty-five years of experience." Employers want to know exactly what you can do for them that will help them grow their business. And they'll look at your past results to see what they can expect from you in the future.)

Are your skills up-to-date? Have you been keeping up with classes offered at a technical school? Have you finished your degree? Do you look at want ads and say, "I have done all those things." If not, it's time to go back to school to get tuned're skills must be in perfect running order.

Next, examine your interpersonal and leadership skills. Employers want to hire people who get along well with their co-workers in a team environment. They want people who step forward on their own and take responsibility for getting a job done. If you've been asked to serve on committees or if you've volunteered to work on special projects, highlight these things on your resume or application. List your contributions and the end results.

Another thing employers are looking for is a general understanding of the quality improvement philosophy. Have you taken classes on quality principles? Do you take responsibility for making improvements in quality on your job? Quality isn't just a job for "inspectors" anymore.

Now for the most important thing of all: your approach. Aggressive networking is still the best way to get a job. Looking through the want ads will only reveal a tiny percentage of available jobs and everyone else who reads the paper is going to apply. Networking doesn't have to be an intimidating experience if you start with people you know and fan out from there. Talk to all your friends and relatives and ask them to give you a few names to start with.

Don't ask," Do you have a job..." because the answer will usually be no. Instead, describe your skills and tell mini-stories about your results, your leadership, your quality. Think of it like a dress rehearsal for an interview. You want them to think to themselves, "Hey, this guy sounds really good...I should put him in touch with some of my contacts." They'll look good for making the introduction.

Finally, be prepared for what you will find in the marketplace. The days of high-wage manufacturing jobs are over. If you must, take a lower paying job that could lead to an increase in pay and responsibility and keep on looking. You're always more attractive to an employer when you are already employed.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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