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Laid off - again!

Posted by Elaine Varelas  March 12, 2009 11:00 AM

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Q. Help! I have lots of experience looking for jobs but each time it gets harder to explain why I am looking again. Almost fifteen years ago I went through a series of bank jobs as everywhere I worked seemed to be merged and I was on the losing side. I went through 5 jobs with less than 2 years at each, and I am afraid this is starting again. Financially I am a mess, but the worst of it is I feel like a loser, and I'm pretty sure my family and friends think that too. If they think so, how will I convince a new employer I'm a good person and (I think) actually good at my job?

A.You really have been through some tough times, and I wish I could tell you it will be easier now, but that may not be the case. Losing a job is most often painful, and going through these losses multiple times takes a toll on your self confidence. Rebuilding that confidence can often be the most important step in a new job search, and I encourage you to take the time to do that.

There are many industries that have gone through significant changes over the years, and employees have been impacted more greatly than others. The 80's had "high tech nomads"; employees in technology companies who were laid off on a regular basis as the fortunes of their companies rose and fell - seemingly with the wind. The 90's, as you know, saw a banking crisis and small banks buying bigger banks, and trading in staff that often faced long term unemployment. And skip to today - with layoffs striking the financial services industry and moving into others as well. So though it may not help, you are not alone in this plight. And hiring managers know that. Sadly, everyone feels the statistics are written about other people but not them.

I hope your friends and family really aren't questioning your capabilities which won't help you rebuild your confidence. Many people find it hard to understand how job loss, never mind multiple job loss can happen to a person. It can, and some industries, and there are many, are more brutal than others in this regard. Some generations remember the era of the 50 year employment contract, ending with a gold watch and a retirement party. We know that is gone, and what is replacing that contract is still changing. I would ask family and friends of job seekers to be supportive - the impact, positive and negative, is very significant, and can help someone be successful, or drag them down.

Maybe it will help if you introduce them to another generation who consider two years at one employer long term and wonder how you managed to stay so committed.

Good career counselors start with an assessment process, and look for patterns and themes. Review each job and look at what you did well, and what you loved to do. There is plenty of time to look at "opportunities for development" but for now, just focus on success. This is also a terrific time to talk to people you worked with who can help you focus on the good work you did, and why they enjoyed working with you. You will need to see a positive track record before you can successfully articulate your value to a hiring manager. You may also start to see areas that you need to avoid in a job situation, so start to keep a list of what is not good for you in your next role.

You may need more support than you feel you have with family and friends. Kathleen Greer, president of KGA, an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) based in Framingham, suggested you look into services offered by EAP's. Companies who offer EAP support often continue support for some time following a lay off, and your most recent employer may.

So rebuild your emotional strength, and start the job search with renewed energy. That will give you the opportunity to target the right job, and the right company for the next step toward reemployment, which you will take.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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46 comments so far...
  1. Spelling, people spelling! Losing, not loosing

    Posted by syndey March 13, 09 11:40 AM
  1. I don't mean to be a nitpicker, but maybe egregious misspellings (the word is spelled "losing," not "loosing") has something to do with it. Misspelling simple words doesn't exactly dazzle most employers, except for maybe (given that the blogger herself repeated the same misspelling). I'm not being at all sarcastic when I advise you to be extremely diligent in proofreading your resume. One misspelling or typo can immediately sink your chances, especially in this competitive job market.

    Posted by t103 March 13, 09 11:47 AM
  1. Sorry, but "loosing" one's job is simply NOT possible. :-)

    Posted by b49 March 13, 09 11:48 AM
  1. Is this a real question, from a real person or something you wrote so you could write a column about it? Seems too convenient.

    Posted by Larry Ireland March 13, 09 12:06 PM
  1. I can understand how difficult it can be when you lose a job. I lost a job several months ago, still wondering if there was anything I could have done to keep it, and just treated my time looking for a new job as my new job... I talked to Recruiters as well as friends and family. The best thing that worked for me is remembering all the good things I did when I was working. Those positive thoughts are what gets your blood pumping and you can show that you are a valuable employee...

    Posted by Newly-employed March 13, 09 12:17 PM
  1. Unfortunately this is maddeningly common in the electronics industry between offshoring, start up bankruptcies, and cyclical market changes. I've had 4 engineering positions in the last nine years, (now doing contract engineering) and amongst many of my seasoned collegues this is a very common experience. While difficult you must not allow this experience to erode your own sense of selfworth - in most cases layoffs today are completely disconnected from job performance, and most hiring managers are more than aware of this issue as they may have experienced it themselves.

    Posted by Kevin K March 13, 09 12:45 PM
  1. The US job market will continue to be rough. Learn how to day trade and shoot for $300-500 per day. You'll be done trading by 10:30 AM and have the rest of the day to play.

    Posted by Ann Alsecks March 13, 09 01:21 PM
  1. Human Resources personnel are proving to be some of the dumbest people out there today. I've been laid off five times in ten years from great jobs by companies leaving the state for lower costs. I am the best at what I do in Eastern Mass but HR "professionals" continue to get hung-up on the "gaps". How pathetic. Does HR think this is 1970? I'm not the only one to have multiple no-fault lay-offs but HR sees a dreaded gap and freezes up. HR needs to attend better seminars...
    I've also had to pull numerous excellent candidates for jobs from HR discard piles after not getting resumes meeting the requirements I sent to HR. HR grow up!

    Posted by John Locke Cardboard Manufacturing March 13, 09 01:25 PM
  1. Could we please stop using the term "lay off" or the past tense "laid off?" These terms refer to a practice in a more benign, middle class-oriented economic past from about 1950 to 1970 (beofre the right wing takover under Nixon) when if inventories at a factory were not moving fast enough, the plant would shut down temporarily and "lay off" the workers. When the inventories were worked through the system and production resumed as before the same workers were called back to the assembly line. White collar workers were usually not affected. After 1970 everything began to change as we all know by now. The PROPER term is "furing" Tor termination. Those who are fired now will NOT get their jobs back ever. They are not LAID off.

    Posted by Joe in Costa Mesa CA March 13, 09 01:38 PM
  1. Hi,

    I am sorry for your pain. I have been there, but by the grace of God and some changes in the way I approached things in terms of my career, I have been at the company I am at now the longest I have ever been. are some things I learned...first, venture funded companies and companies that are public are not good situations for me to work in, for a variety of reasons. Public companies are at the behest of their shareholders, corporate boards, etc. These institutions are focused on short term results and they take measures to shore those short term results up...(layoffs, etc.) Their thinking is short term, they want to ramp up quickly. Venture funded companies...not a good place either. They have two essential strategies, ramp up the product & sales so we can go public or ramp up product, sales, marketshare so we can be sold to another company. Remember, those VCs that invest millions want big and fast returns for those monies they invest whether it comes from going public or selling the company to another. They too make decisions that are focused primarily on the short term. All this filters down to every aspect of the company, hr, IT, Marketing, sales, etc.

    So where do you go to privately owned companies. Small privately owned companies are people that usually finance their business themselves. You may not make as much as you would for the same position at a VC funded or public company, but I have found that they are good places for your work to be able to shine. I was hired low but over the years my salary has grown to being close to what it should be and I have a pretty good bonus. I have found that the people who own their own companies more often than not care for their people. And much to what is out there in the press, many privately owned firms have descent benefit packages... are you going to get cream of the crop with all the bells and whistles, probably not but you never know.

    And where do you find these companies you ask, by networking but think the way they do...these companies don't have the money to advertise on monster (very expensive), so they use craigslist... Have to go, but hope this helped.

    Posted by Gloria Goldstein March 13, 09 01:46 PM
  1. The statement I mean to be a nitpicker is a joke and you do mean to be a nitpicker. I don't think kicking people when the are down helps.

    Posted by senta timins March 13, 09 02:18 PM
  1. more than 2 jobs in a 5yr period is red flag - any HR person that says otherwise if full corn beef & cabbage.
    i cannot tell from your resume if you been fired, left for better opportunity or were laid off - so it goes to no pile. however if you put something like the following in your cover letter you'll go in the maybe pile.
    "despite layoffs I have remained gainfully employed most recently at _________ where I saved the company $."

    focus on objective criteria you can control and will be measured on by an employer v. proving you're a good person. since when do you have to be a good person to work in finance:)

    Posted by jodi March 13, 09 03:12 PM
  1. You can't imagine the feeling of being laid off multiple times unless you have personally experienced it. And even worse is having to explain it to a hiring manager who has never experienced it him or herself.

    Stay focused. Remain positive. Good things will happen.

    Posted by Marc B March 13, 09 03:53 PM
  1. I would pitch having worked at many different banks as a plus--you've seen how multiple organizations do the same task, and that can be valuable today as companies are struggling to find the best way of doing something. People who work at the same company for 20 years have blinders on; you don't. Of course, you want to find out if the person interviewing you has worked at the company for 20 years before you make that statement....

    Posted by Guy March 13, 09 04:43 PM
  1. It is exceptionally difficult not to lose your confidence. I have been laid off since November 30th. I have an advance degree. I have never really found that 'career' position. Plently of jobs but no career. Living in the midwest is not ideal for jobs. Factories and businesses have closed. We are spending my retirement to live. Wife does work but not enough monies on her salary. Just keep plugging and going forward!

    Posted by jf kayajan March 13, 09 04:53 PM
  1. If you are laid off 5 times in a row, always on the "losing side", that kind of sends a clear message that you are an underperformer and not at all good at your job. People that are the cream of the crop don't get let go...the aquiring company will keep them or find them a position, or they will be taken along by one of the management team to a new employer. Employers use mergers and downtimes to get rid of the low hanging fruit and under achievers. This guy sounds like one of them times 5.

    Posted by Callaspadeaspade March 13, 09 04:57 PM
  1. Callaspadeaspade -

    Layoffs are the fault of management. Not the individual. If you sleep better by saying that you are not going to get LAID OFF because you are a high achiever. Please. There are a lot of good folks on the street by no fault of their own.

    Posted by Mikey March 13, 09 07:26 PM
  1. Time to go into business for yourself.

    Posted by promixcuous March 13, 09 07:30 PM
  1. Alternately, he's in a department that gets regularly axed. He's good at, say, bridge engineering. A skill that's useful but not necessarily sexy, profitable, etc. Every company that acquires his former company decides "meh, we don't need bridge engineers" and cuts him loose. So, he goes to another company. Same thing happens.

    The issue could be lack of diversity or over-specialization (which has its places: I don't want a cardiac surgeon performing brain surgery) rather than flat out performance.

    Posted by daigaku March 13, 09 09:31 PM
  1. I disagree with Callaspadeaspade, I got laid off 3 times in less than 10 years. The first was an industry down turn (funding for projects literally dried up), the second was the bust where the company mistated earnings etc. and "terminated" 40% of the workforce and the 3rd was where a small startup didn't go planned and about 70% were terminated from there. So under normal conditions some companies do layoff the bottom 3-5% constantly but there has been alot of turmoil over the last several years. Also we've transformed into a hire and fire society. HR has been slow to catch on that the workplace has become alot less stable. Sometimes companies cut workers as a panick way to reduce costs (and what happens is that the remaining workers are worked to the ground because there really isn't enough people to do the job - and thus the company further suffers.

    Posted by Conan March 13, 09 10:35 PM
  1. It's sad to say, but apparently you are not always needed. You might just be a good worker, but just average. You are probably competent, but nothing special.

    What I find to be important is someone who takes a genuine interest in his or her field of work, almost an academic interest, if not an actual academic interest.

    If you're in the banking industry, how have you distinguished yourself from other bankers? I always think that joining professional organizations, getting additional education, and bettering yourself professionally on your own time is a huge factor.

    Learn some skills that are not common in your field. I'm sure in the banking field, you have "experts" on many various things. Are you an "expert" on anything, or do you just have general knowledge?

    My main points are the following:

    1. Take a genuine interest in what you do. If you don't, then why are you doing it and wasting your time?

    2. If you do take a genuine interest, you should always be learning. You should be learning constantly, no matter what. If you are always bettering yourself professionally and academically at the same time, you have a huge advantage.

    3. You are never entitled to any job or position. Americans have fallen into this mindset that we are entitled to jobs. If you want one, then you are going to have to work for it. You are going to have to show that you're better than other people at it. It's pure competition, so deal with it.

    4. Do some self reflection. What distinguishes you from other people in your profession?

    5. Set yourself apart! It sounds like you just join companies are just settle instead of try to do something. Ask questions. Show interest. Volunteer to participate in things. Be indispensible!!

    Posted by Mikey "Insane" Monkeypants March 13, 09 11:49 PM
  1. In the high tech industry things are quite brutal with the offshoring and where companies staff up for projects and then layoff when a project is done, typically keeping a few folks around to maintain the product After 5 years at one job, where management made one bad decision after another and 1 year at another high tech company. I now consult and haven't been happier with my decision. There really is no employer loyalty anymore. I get paid to get the job done and get results. When the job is done I leave. I now make enough in 9 months to cover my annual salary before, so I now have 3 months to retool and look for new work in between, take classes and relax.

    This is the wave of the future, worrying about changing jobs and having a job for a long time is passe! Its what skills you bring to the table to get the job done. If anyone things otherwise, welcome to the new business paradigm!

    More than 2 jobs in a 5 year period is not a redflag. I know very few engineers who have not had more than 2 jobs in a 5 year period.

    Posted by techie in boston! March 14, 09 12:12 AM
  1. HR people are like guidance counselors - If they were worth anything they'd be doing something that mattered instead of what they do. I take comfort in the fact that after gicing everyone the corporate line about how it's for the good of the cmpaby they are always the last ones to go - do let the door knob hit you on the way out... And no i have never been layed off - staying employed is simple - follow the money - if you are essential where the money is coming in you are always needed. People who ignore this are the ones who go away.

    Posted by Anonymous March 14, 09 12:54 AM
  1. And one more thing - To all of you with advanced or undergrad degrees in "leadership" - please go back to school and try to get a real degree in something practical, like maybe accounting, finance, or economics - If you only feel like giving 50%, get a business management degree, I'll respect that. But a degree in leadership? C'mon - I'd take some one who was honest and got a masters in bong hits over you, or for that matter communications (same thing), at least they're not completely FOS. Leadership is gained through experience and character, not fancy paper and spending $40,000+.

    Posted by jiveturki March 14, 09 01:04 AM
  1. FUHD!!! Taking care of Henry? What a joke!

    Posted by blahblah March 14, 09 01:37 AM
  1. You HR types must be joking. Many companies are laying off and unfortunately it's quite common these days, especially in certain lines of work. It's not always a sign of an underachiever, get over your ignorant judgementalism and pay attention to what's happening in the real world. Sorry but we weren't all handed a job by some relative straight out of college that was guaranteed to last for decades. This is not the 1950s. Funny the last person who gave me this attitude got laid off herself less than a year later. Ha.

    Posted by nomore March 14, 09 02:47 AM
  1. "If you are laid off 5 times in a row, always on the "losing side", that kind of sends a clear message that you are an underperformer and not at all good at your job."

    Not necessarily. The acquiring company-especially in high tech, electronics, etc.-often eliminates most of the employees, and keeps others around just long enough for a knowledge transfer. I work for a large, very acquisitive software company, and I've seen this happen time and again. Most employees from a small acquisition are gone within a year. And it has nothing to do with performance but rather what products are perceived as growth areas. We have let top-performing sales people and engineers go, and kept mediocre ones on by virtue of their association with specific solutions, or because those solutions are incorporated into another group of products. It's not as cut and dried as you think it is.

    Posted by Meow March 14, 09 09:25 AM
  1. Response to #16 -
    On the contrary, the people who are often let go are in fact the high flighers who have the most smarts and most ambition. They are seen as threats to the establishment. The people kept through a lay off are the people who are the middle level performers who keep their heads down and do their jobs, but don't ask for more money or more responsibility. If they are underpaid, then they are even more likely to be kept. That is why women are enjoying a lower unemployment rate than men right now.

    There are many industries that regularly lay people off and it doesn't have anything to do with your compatency as a worker. Ask anyone who works in the construction industry.

    Posted by beentheredonethat March 14, 09 09:25 AM
  1. I have been laid off twice in past 15 months, both attributable to economic downturn. The first was a perm job where I had been 18 years and the
    second was a contract. I am good at what I do, but these are bad times and I have been out 2 months and have yet to even get an interview. One thing I can do - my skills in my field are dated so I am taking advantage of the downtime to update my skills. by going to school at night for next several months(though I still am looking for contract or parttime to fill my daytime). Hopefully, the economy will improve and I will be able to get employment later in the year.
    will be able to get something later in the year.

    Posted by Allen123 March 14, 09 09:31 AM
  1. When noone wanted to hire immigrants, they started their own companies. Are you aware of any general problems all of these organizations face that you can address/correct for them? Working for many different companies isn't odd if you are a consultant. Good Luck!

    Posted by ugh March 14, 09 10:16 AM
  1. Callaspadeaspade
    What a negative one-sided incorrect assessment! No, many times when businesses merge, the only ones retained in the company acquired are those mediocre performers that are not a threat to the mgt. or employees of the acquiring company. The rest who pose such performance challenges (i.e. they are good at what they do) are let go.

    Posted by NadineM March 14, 09 10:26 AM
  1. "Learn how to day trade and shoot for $300-500 per day. "

    Brilliant advice to someone in a financial advice, it's basically like telling an alcoholic "learn how to binge drink and get your alcoholism under control"

    Posted by pauldeba March 14, 09 10:54 AM
  1. It is truly sad that this person considers himself a loser because his country is failing him, and so are his friends and family for that matter. This country is failing its people. We are sending industries overseas, charging exorbitant amounts of money for what should be a human right: health care and education, and we are strangling people in debt to the point they are hopeless, blaming themselves for what is not their fault, which causes them to take almost any job for any amount of money. We are slowly becoming a serf society and the more people blame each other, rather than the real culprits, those we pay to govern us, the more that will become a reality.

    This man is not a loser. And simply because the Boston Globe misspelled loser doesn't mean we should focus on it or blame this guy for that either. You're clearly missing the point here. Our economy isn't tanking and people are not being laid off because they can't spell or write. If that were the case, most Americans would be out of work since most Americans can't spell or write well. Our education system is poor, especially in terms of writing skills. And that is because we put profits above people. Until we change our culture, this kind of thing will continue here.

    And please, people really have to stop defending the way we do things in this country, you're only hurting so many people by defending it, or especially refusing to accept that we need some major changes.

    Posted by Janet March 14, 09 12:03 PM
  1. As someone who has been laid off multiple times and not been an underperformer I can tell you good people do get let go. I've always received stellar reviews, bonuses and raises but have been laid off several times. I agree with the can't understand it unless you've gone through it yourself. It is devestating and exhausting. Many circumstances are based on the industry you are in, politics, management changes, or just getting someone cheaper to do your job.

    Posted by Michelle March 14, 09 08:58 PM
  1. #12 is either brilliant parody or striking confirmation of #8's point.

    Posted by ML March 14, 09 09:07 PM
  1. Go back to school and get a new "profession" in an industry which actually needs people--Medical or science profession, or teaching, pharmacy, engineer, etc. A job that can not get downsized or sent to china. Working in government, hospital, also may get less money but more security. Maybe you can use banking experience in a hospital. If you want security over money, get out of private sector. If you keep losing jobs, you will be 50 before you know it and no one in the private sector will hire you.

    Posted by carolyn Denenberg March 14, 09 09:59 PM
  1. It used to be that having a job was the "safe" alternative to working for yourself. Today it is the riskier choice. You have the vulnerability of an enterpreneur coupled with the privilege of giving 80% of what you produce to your employer.

    The best government that we could hope for is one that allows the individual to flourish.

    Posted by Ben Hammer March 15, 09 07:42 AM
  1. One of the hardest parts about being unemployed is that some people just don't get it until it happens to them! The people who have responded kindly and have given postive feedback are quite kind and considerate. The people who can only comment on spelling are the kind who just don't understand the hardship for those who are unemployed at such a terrible economic time. You are probably checking my spelling now!

    Posted by Jesse March 15, 09 09:14 AM
  1. I've experienced 5 job losses over the past 10 years in 3 different industries. I understand how your self-esteem and self-worth continues to decline as time moves forward and we get older. My advice? Look into being an entrepreneur and work for yourself. I'm working in that direction myself. I honestly don't have the answer(s) yet, but my trust in the business world is zero. If/when you can, look into working on something that you are passionate about, creating something of value and/or wealth for people that is marketable. Only then will you achieve true happiness and be free of the business world butchering.

    Posted by TimRobinson March 15, 09 11:42 AM
  1. I agree that HR a HUGE part of the problem. I've changed companies several times in the last nine years: one went to NY State, one went to California on the way to China, one was sold to a competitor and one was a temporary job. (Gov Patrick - see that? 3 big companies LEFT THE STATE!!!!). Moving to NY, CA, China or the deep south is NOT part of my lifeplan at this time or the best thing for my family - so adios to companies which think employees are servants and will go wherever the company goes.
    To Callaspadeaspade - you must be a very junior person. Acquiring companies do not always have duplicate senior levels, not do most companies have the budget to retain employess after a downsize, and keep them around until a new position is found for them.
    Good luck - and take whatever HR tells you with a HUGE grain of salt - notice that they hardly ever lose their jobs!!

    Posted by sailorman March 15, 09 01:23 PM
  1. Having been through my share of downsizing in the financial industry I can speak from experience. Yes it can be difficult to endure, but to blame this person's obvious shortcoming on the economy is disengeneous. He obvously has some flaws that are not being addressed. When there are layoffs pending it is the perfiect opportunity to get rid of the "dead wood" and hangers on in any company. Don't expect society to help you out. Stand on your own to feet and stop snivelling and complaining. Ever hear of having a positive outlook? If I was a hiring manager you wouldn't last 5 minutes in the interview.

    Posted by zippy March 15, 09 05:26 PM
  1. I understand these feelings intimately. I have had five jobs shot out from underneath me in 15 years, due to company cutbacks, bankruptcies, sales, etc. I was expensive and a candidate for elimination.

    You are kidding yourself if you think that potential employers are not looking at this--I had a recruiter tell me that it was a red flag on my background. In a simple way, it is an accurate assessment (if I were absolutely critical, they'd get rid of someone else). However, there are often circumstances which lead to these situations which are not solely driven by your own capabilities. Your family and friends need to be aware of this.

    Posted by it may be happening again March 15, 09 08:20 PM
  1. Watch out Callspadeaspade, karma will be coming to get you for that ignorant comment. I have been working for the same Fortune 500 company for the last 10 years. I have been lucky enough never (yet) to get laid off. But I have seen many, many really good employees get laid off. For some of these folks, this was not their first time. If you think employers lay off because you are under-performing, that is not usually true. In this economy, they don't want to waste a severance package on someone like that. As an HR professional, I can assure, you we have other ways of dealing with that type of situation.

    Posted by Kelly March 16, 09 09:09 AM
  1. #16: The acquring company keeps its people, infiltrates its people into the new divisions as soon as possible if not directly merged, and if low/mid level, the acquired company people lose their jobs.

    I'm not saying that there are not cases like you state, but I've watched good people get shoved out the door just because they did not have relationships with the decision-makers when M&A occurred. And, if you are the new guy, it makes it even easier. And yes, good people can have a bad "fit" with an employer. I've been through several mergers, and it just plain is not fun.

    Posted by LeftOut March 16, 09 09:13 AM
  1. All good comments. Food for thought from all sides, whether one is gainfully employed (for now) or not. I suspect the key is to be as objective as possible regarding one's own situation and how it fits into the backdrop of this shaky job market.

    Posted by Kim March 16, 09 10:34 AM
  1. Thank GOD we have the Democrats back in office to save us from them Godless Republicans !!!!!!!

    Posted by Mrs. Nitas Lived March 16, 09 12:02 PM

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