Laid off in America

Monday, February 17, 2003

My ex-employer gave me 2 months at Lee Hecht Harrison, an outplacement firm, and another month if they felt I needed it (whatever that meant). In my discombobulated thought state, I thought that I had 2 months from when I walked out the door. So I freaked and immediately called LHH the moment I left not wanting to waste a moment of my time. It turns out that wasn't quite right, I had 2 months from the time I signed the contract...

I had always pooh poohed outplacement firms before. I knew how to write a resume (I thought) and how to look for a job (I thought). I couldn't have been more wrong, I discovered I had forgotten more than I remembered, learned some new stuff, and got a lot of support. I'm going to negotiate for outplacement in the event I get laid off in my next position.

What IS an outplacement firm? It is a firm designed to help laid off professionals such as myself find another position. It has all the services a person could possibly want. I was assigned a counseler Joanne who helped me write my resume, cover letters, and thank you letters. She helped me prepare for interviews, practice for interviews, gave me good questions to ask, and wanted me to stop by and tell her how the interview went as soon as it was over. She gave me names of people to network with and helped me practice what I would say in the networking meetings. She boosted me up and told stories that made me realize that this is increasingly "typical" in today's world among professionals--this wasn't my fault, I wasn't some sort of loser. Instead, this was a professional right of passage!

I also had the option of selecting a whole slew of workshops. The first one I went to was a day long session called "Managing your search project." During this session, we were given 10 milestones to work through to proceed in our search. It included surveying my environment, determining my objectives, creating my communication strategy (and resume), defining my target market, gathering marketplace information, getting my message out, talking with hiring managers, other methods of search, interviewing, cultivating offers, and negotiating, and the transition into the new position. Subsequent shorter sessions went into some of the milestones in more depth including networking, marketing, interviewing, negotiating an offer, etc. I figured, what the heck and took advantage of as many as I could take in the time I had allotted.

The firm has a website with a lot of the same information on it. I could access sample resumes, cover letters, etc. I could get access to a variety of databases for the searches I did on the companies I was interviewing with (as an individual, most of these services are not free). There was a place to post my resume. And there was a huge job posting service that I could search through.

You can even go to LHH and use their computers, their phones, their support staff, etc. So it is like going into the office every day. Basically, it takes the old axiom "It's easier to find a job when you have a job" and takes it one step further. It's easier to find a job when you have all the services a job offers but you have all the time in the world to look (and you don't have to sneak around).

Probably one of the best things about an outplacement firm was something I couldn't take full advantage of because my time was short (and no, I did NOT get the extra month). That something was support groups. There are tons of people milling around, professionals such as myself, all in the same boat. If I had a contract of 3+ months, I would have been able to join an official support group. Instead, I had to make do with chatting with folks around me when I went to the office. And I found some support groups that anyone could join...

My last day at the outplacement firm was even more difficult than the last day of my job. I really felt cut loose without a tether. For the first time I felt totally and completely alone.

As a note, I'm not advocating Lee Hecht Harrison, per se, but search firms in general. They are a great service. In the next few weeks, I'll cover some of the things I took away from that service. Unfortunately, I learned you can do all the right things in looking for a job. But if the jobs aren't out there, you still won't get a job.

posted by Valerie 8:42 AM

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The experience of the new rite of passage among today's professionals: Being Unemployed

Contact me
You can contact me by sending me email at

This blog's mention in the July 2003 issue of Fast Company
Web of Despair.

Other unemployment blogs I have found
Ask your ass.
All about Jen.
Homee's job search.
Get that job.

Some blogs I like but haven't been updated in a while
Where The Hell Did My Job Go.
Invisible Matrix.

Credit problems?

What's keeping me occupied while I'm unemployed?
My husband and my travel photography blog.


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