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How to Deal With a Layoff

Q. What are some tips on dealing with a layoff? I have a great education and seven years of experience in the education industry. I'm not "entry level," but I'm seeing numerous positions at this level and nothing at the mid-manager level. I worked so hard to get to my current salary level and many positions I'm seeing are substantially less. Is it crazy not to pursue a job because of the low salary?

A. After having been laid off from an organization, many people think they need to accept taking a step back in responsibility and compensation to find a new job. This does not need to be the case. Many years ago, people impacted by a layoff were often considered "suspect" regarding their skills and talents. This has changed as many layoffs are financially driven and not all performance driven; great employees are affected by layoffs.

Tips for dealing with a layoff include taking advantage of all support offerings your former employer will provide. These benefits most often include financial support (severance), benefits continuation (COBRA) and career transition support (outplacement). If these services are not offered, ask for them. Employers may need to be educated on what is available to support employees. Most often people see the immediate value in severance and benefits, but not in outplacement. They choose to walk away from the valuable benefit, with notions of "doing it myself," or a limited knowledge of the wealth and diversity of services available.

The kinds of issues you encounter are the types of job search questions that can be faced by developing a strategic job search plan. After a layoff, one of the most important parts of your job search is your "public statement." You need a strong answer to the questions of why you are in the market and what happened at your former employer; it can't be apologetic or a long explanation of your entire career history. Your answer needs to be a short statement that says, "The organization changed direction (or had budget cuts) and my position was one of XX eliminated. I enjoyed working there, did well and recognize the business situation they are dealing with which led to the reduction. I'm now looking for opportunities using my XXX skills." Practice this statement until you are VERY comfortable saying it to anyone you meet.

If you are only looking at posted positions, you are focused on one of the least effective job search strategies- posted openings. Posted openings can be clues to other opportunities within the organization; by using a networking approach, you may be able to find your way in to gain information about other opportunities and compensation structure. You can respond to postings and know what your bottom line for compensation really is.

Make sure your resume showcases the middle management and leadership skills you have utilized; this will differentiate you from the entry level roles. Be prepared to respond to salary questions and be sure to give a range to any potential employer. You have earned your compensation and have the experience to show for it. Be committed to the amount of work it will take to the find the right job, at the right pay.

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