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You’ve Been Culled from the Herd. Now What?

You’ve Been Culled from the Herd. Now What?

So you’ve been canned. Fired. Layed off. Downsized. Whatever. You’ve been culled from the herd.

For some it happens abruptly with no advance warning. Others knew it was probably coming, the final painful step after months of waiting, wondering, worrying. But whether sudden or gradual, for most people the moment they lose their job ranks among the lowest points in their professional life. And for some it is the low point of their entire life.

Culling is defined as the process of removing animals from a group based on specific criteria. This is done either to reinforce certain desirable characteristics or to remove certain undesirable characteristics from the group. For livestock and wildlife alike, culling usually implies the killing of the removed animals.

cull  (kl)

1. To pick out from others; select.

2. Something picked out from others, rejected because of inferior quality.

There, doesn’t that definition make you feel better? Probably not. And if your reaction is typical of most in your situation, the bad feelings are going to get worse as you replay the situation in your head over and over again. Like most you’ll probably go through the five stages of grief:

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

Plus you may go through a few additional stages such as:

  • Self-doubt
  • Self-loathing
  • Embarrassment
  • Wanting revenge
  • Eating too much
  • Drinking too much
  • Blaming Obama
  • Blaming those damn Republicans
  • Going too many days without a shower

Important hygiene note for job seekers: Your family loves you and wants to be sensitive to your pain, so they may not mention your lower hygiene standards. When the dog starts avoiding you it may be time for a shower.

Equally important fashion note for job seekers: Your bathrobe is not a lounge jacket. If you find yourself wearing it around the house throughout the day, get dressed and get outside.

But here’s the deal: All of this grieving and wondering and worrying and blaming is just a waste of time and mental energy. The first and best advice anyone can give to you is this:

Get-Over-With-It

Every second you spend in self-doubt or anger at others is a total waste of your time and energy.  And it gets in the way.

The economy is tough and the job market is tight. So the search for your next job is likely to be long and challenging. You are going to be competing against numerous other individuals; some are better qualified, some are better networked, some are more motivated, and some are better at “selling” themselves. Given this set of circumstances, you cannot afford to waste time or energy on anything that gets in the way.

The battle for your next job starts now. Today. So here a plan to kick-start your job search project. It is by no means a complete “how to” guide. This is simply a plan for the first five days, designed to move you toward productive action as quickly as possible.

The 5-Day Job Search Kick-Start

Day 1 – Read “The Survivor’s Club,” Refresh Your Social Media Presence, Exercise

  • Read this book: The Survivors Club: The Secrets and Science that Could Save Your Life
    • Note: You are not going to dawdle with this. You have two days to read the entire book. After that you will have a new reading assignment.
  • RefreshyourLinkedin page, Facebook, and any other social media sites. Not just with a status update but with details regarding all of your expertise, accomplishments and capabilities. There are numerous resources on the internet (including this blog) with specific advice in this area.
    • If you don’t have a Linkedin profile, today is the day to create it.
    • If you haven’t been diligent in acquiring Linkedin connections from your work colleagues and business acquaintances, today is the day to send all of those connection requests. Do so with a very brief personal note rather than the generic Linkedin note.
    • Do a Linkedin search for others who are in positions similar to the type of job you are pursuing, Many will be average, but some will really stand out. Use them as models to help you ensure your Linkedin profile stands out from the crowd.
    • The bottom line is that you need to create a powerful, polished social media presence, and you can do it today.
  • Exercise. Since you don’t have the time constraints of a job, today you finally have the time to exercise. Whatever your exercise habits have been in the past, today is the day to push yourself a bit. For some this will mean a 30-minute walk and for others this will be a 5-mile run or an intense weight lifting session.Go to www.indeed.com to search for job opportunities. Don’t actually respond to any of them yet, but it’s time to begin looking and face the reality of the job market in your area. This is not the day for a lengthy search, but you are naturally curious so go there and begin to explore.
    • Motion is critical to get your blood pumping and your mind activated.
    • Don’t hurt yourself! This is not an ideal time to sustain an injury.
  • Count your blessings, specifically and in writing. It is important that you do this not just as a thought exercise, but as a written assignment. Write out a list of everything good in your life. Ignore nothing, this needs to be a comprehensive list.Laugh. Whatever it is that makes you laugh, do it. If you have a friend or family member who lightens your spirit, spend time with that person today. If there is a movie that always makes you laugh, watch it. We are each unique in this way, but it is important that you find YOUR way to laughter today, even if only for a few minutes.
    • Every family member who loves you (name each of them).
    • Every friend who likes you (again, name each of them)
    • Your health and health resources
    • Your education, background, experiences, expertise
    • Your financial resources
    • Your community resources

Day 2 – Gather Evidence of Your Expertise

  • Your goal today is to acquire as much tangible evidence as you can, of your accomplishments, achievements and expertise. By the end of the day you want to have a file full of evidence and tangible work samples.
  • Do you have copies of job performance reviews from the past few years? I’m going to assume that your performance reviews were very positive. If so, get them and file them somewhere for future reference. If not, reach out to your previous employer’s HR department and ask for them. Sometimes they will be reluctant to provide these (fearing that you are gathering evidence for a lawsuit) but often with a bit of gentle, informal persuasion you can get them.
  • Do you have specific work product from any projects you have directed or contributed to? Anything from PowerPoint presentations to project planners, executive summaries, email correspondence
  • A great way to gather “evidence” of your accomplishments is to haveyourLinkedinconnectionswrite recommendations for you, referencing specific accomplishments. The very best way to do this is to reach out and give substantive recommendations to each of them. When you giveaLinkedin connection a recommendation, after they approve the recommendation, they are automatically prompted give one back to you. There is a certain art to achieving both quantity and quality inyourLinkedin recommendations:Have you received awards, certificates, trophies or other tangible evidence of exceptional work performance? Gather all of these things up, and/or reach out to colleagues who may be able to provide copies to you.
    • Reach out to all connections via email and tell them you are about to write a recommendation for them and ask if there are any specific skills or expertise they would like you to emphasize.
    • Some will respond, some will not. In any event you will still write recommendations for all of them, incorporating any requests for specific commentary you have received.
    • You will make sure that the recommendations you give are specific and substantive. There will be a natural reciprocity from others. The more specific you are, the more specific they will be when they return the favor.
  • In some cases you may need to create the evidence. If you have specific work accomplishments that do not have documentation of any kind, you can create the documentation with a detailed case study, or even just a 1-page description of the achievement. Be sure to include the tangible business impact in your description.
  • Note that if you are reaching out to colleagues at your previous employer, some of them may be uncertain or hesitant about providing you with documents. The best approach is to not send an email request, but to instead call them and have a direct conversation. Tell them about your objective (to acquire tangible documentation of your work activities and accomplishments) to use in future job interviews. Ask them politely for specific items. And if they are not comfortable providing these, let them know you understand and be sure to end the call on a positive note.
  • Exercise. For at least 30 minutes. Yes, again, the goal is to get your blood pumping and your body moving. Your natural tendency may be to cocoon yourself at home and you have to fight this.

Day 3 – Read “The Unthinkable,” Write (and Re-write) Your Resume

  • Read this book – The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes – and WhyGo online to review resumes that others in similar positions have posted on the internet. One of the great advantages provided to us by the internet is access to the resumes of others. You should actively search for resumesandLinkedin profiles of others in positions similar to the type of job you are pursuing. This will give you many ideas and examples which you can sample to write your own resume.
    • Again, this is not meant to be a leisurely read. You have two days to read the entire book. After that you will have a new reading assignment.
  • Write your very best resume before noon today.
  • After lunch, print out your resume and read through it once again. Then carefully re-write your resume with the following points in mind:Review resumes that others in similar positions have posted on the internet. One of the great advantages provided to us by the internet is access to the resumes of others. You should actively search for resumesandLinkedin profiles of others in positions similar to the type of job you are pursuing. This will give you many ideas and examples which you can sample to write your own resume.
    • The first half of the first page should grab attention and highlight your key differentiated strengths. What is it that truly makes you unique? When your resume is reviewed by someone who is typically looking through dozens, or hundreds, you have to capture their attention on the first half of the first page. Otherwise they will never read the rest of it.
    • Emphasize specific business results, not activities. “Managed department budget” doesn’t have as much impact as “reduced operating costs which improving productivity.”
    • Don’t explain how you achieved the results. Let them wonder how, because that is what the interview is for. So it would be perfectly reasonable to state “I improved customer satisfaction and retention by 38%” without explaining how you did it. Of course, during the interview you will need to be prepared to tell the full story.
  • Exercise. For at least 30 minutes. Yes, this is going to be a daily assignment. Easy to ignore, but please don’t. You need to ensure that both your mind and your body are geared up for the battle ahead.

Day 4 – Thoroughly Research Your Job Opportunity Landscape

Today is the day to begin your in-depth job search. You will spend time with each of the job search engines listed below. The key is to not depend upon any single engine. While there is often significant overlap, each engine will have some unique job opportunities listed. Plus the search process itself within each engine will be educational for you.

Monster.com

  • I’ve been using Monster.com for several years now and have always found it to be one of the best job search engines out there. You can narrow your search by location, keywords, and employer.
  • Monster has plenty of job search extras: networking boards, job search alerts, and online resume posting.

Indeed.com

  • Indeed.com is a very solid job search engine. Unlike Monster, you cannot submit your resume from Indeed.com, but the job search engine more than makes up for that by being a meta search engine of many of the major job search engines and job search boards out there.
  • I’ve found that Indeed uncovers a lot of jobs that you wouldn’t normally find on most job search sites, and they do a good job of making their job search features as easy to use as possible.

USA.gov

  • You may not have thought of government employment, but there are many government jobs which are analogous to private sector employment.
  • Think of USA.gov as your gateway into the huge world of US government jobs.
  • Navigate to the USA.gov home page, click on the Jobs and Education section, then Government Jobs. You’ll find a wealth of resources here to help you find jobs working for Uncle Sam.

CareerBuilder

  • CareerBuilder offers job searchers the ability to find a job, post a resume, create job alerts, get job advice and job resources, look up job fairs, and much more.
  • This is a truly massive job search engine that offers a lot of good resources to the job searcher; I especially appreciate the list of job search communities.

Dice

  • Dice.com is a job search engine dedicated to only finding technology jobs. It offers a targeted niche space for finding exactly the technology position you might be looking for.

SimplyHired

  • SimplyHired has been one of my favorite job search engines now for a while; mostly because of their SimplyFired contest. SimplyHired also offers a very unique job search experience; the user “trains” the job search engine by rating jobs he or she is interested in.
  • SimplyHired also gives you the ability to research salaries, add jobs to a job map, and view pretty detailed profiles of various companies. I highly recommend SimplyHired.

LinkedIn.com

  • LinkedIn.com combines the best of two worlds: the ability to scour the Internet for jobs with its job search engine, and the opportunity to network with like-minded friends and individuals to deepen your job search.
  • LinkedIn’s job postings are of the highest quality, and if you are connected to someone who already knows about that particular job, you’ve got a way in before you even hand in your resume. If you really want to dive into the inner workings of LinkedIn, check out How to Use LinkedIn, a detailed how-to guide.

Craigslist

  • There are all sorts of interesting jobs on Craigslist. Just find your city, look under Jobs, then look under your job category. Non-profit, systems, government, writing, etc. jobs are all represented here.
  • You can also set up various RSS feeds that pertain to whatever job you might be looking for, in whatever location. One Craigslist caveat: because this is a free marketplace, some of the jobs posted at Craigslist are not legitimate (the vast majority are, however). Use caution and common sense when replying to job listings on Craigslist.

Don’t forget to exercise today. Once again – for at least 30 minutes. Even if you just talk a brisk walk, it is critically important to get out and get moving.

 

Day 5 – Let the World Know, and Ask for Specific Help

Today you are going to reach out to everyone you know, to tell them you are now unemployed and to ask them for specific help. The instinctive response for many unemployed individuals is to keep this information to themselves. Out of a misplaced sense of shame or embarrassment, they try to avoid contact and keep “the secret” until they have a new job. Then they can reach out to proudly announce that they have decided to accept a “new opportunity.”

But of course this makes no sense. There are plenty of people who might be able to help you. And you know they are going to find out eventually. So why not reach out to every friend, every family member, every neighbor, every past work colleague?

Whether you do so by email, telephone or face-to-face conversation, here is a list of everyone you should reach out to today:

  • Family members (including any distant/extended family)
  • Friends
  • Neighbors
  • Past work colleagues

Give them the news briefly, and then let them know how they can help. Something like this:

“Just sending you a brief note to let you know that my position with ACME, Inc. ended last week, so I am now in the job market. If you are aware of any resources, connections or job openings that might be relevant to me, I would of course appreciate the help. Click here to view my LinkedIn connection for more details on my specific experience and career objectives.”

Additional action items for today:

  • Yes, exercise again.
  • Read “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor E. Frankl. You should be able to finish this in a day, two at the most.

This 5-day process won’t solve all of your problems or ensure total success in your job search effort. But it will ensure that you get started fast and help to accelerate the process.