Laid off in America

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

I thought this was an interesting discussion!

Until next week. posted by Valerie 5:30 AM

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Monday, April 14, 2003

I figured I would talk about networking this week since I am going on two networking meetings. I'm meeting Nona for coffee on Weds. Nona is a "fourth generation" network. My counselor at my outplacement firm suggested I talk to Pat who is well connected in my field. He was great, no job, but he gave me tons of names of others to network with. One of those was Jaye, the owner of her own consulting firm. One of the people she partners with is Nona, who owns a firm in Chicago that does work in my area of expertise. She has clients and connections in the New York metropolitan area and comes out here frequently. I'm meeting Phil for lunch on Thurs. He is an I/O Psychologist who I met through a professional association I am a member of. He remembered me form a presentation I had done at that professional association, so introduced himself to me at my first meeting as a member. He's had great advice and has passed along search firms, job openings, and names of others I might network with as well. We've kept in touch through the meetings and periodic lunches.

My jobs in the past came through networking. I established a network at the first place I worked...years before I was on the job market. But I knew I wanted to work there. I got my last job by calling a network who happened to own a consulting firm. It felt so natural when I did it before. But it felt so odd for me to do it this time. But network I did.

One of the first things my outplacement had me do was make a list of ALL the people I might approach and let them know I was looking for a job. They said to come up with about 100 names. I came up with 50. Then I went through my alumni list from my graduate school and added folks I knew but never really kept in touch with. Then I went through the professional association member list and picked out some more names of people I had never heard of but who might be willing to talk to me as I was a member.

But it was excrutiating to even come up with the list. Excuse 1, I was new to the area. Reality 1, I'm terrible at networking. It never dawned on me that I should keep in touch with folks. Heck, some of them I never wanted to see again. Excuse 2, I am shy and didn't want to bother any hardworking person. Reality 2, I was very embarrassed to admit I didn't have a job.

I sent out a bunch of emails to people on the list. I think EVERYONE responded. Some just wished me good luck and to keep them posted on my progress. Some sent me numbers of search firm professionals they knew, and started passing my name on to those same search firms as they heard of jobs. A majority agreed to meet me, either by phone or face-to-face. Some set aside up to an hour of their time, during their work day, to talk with me. I was blown away by everyone's help. I came to the conclusion that folks out there have been laid off themselves in the past, personally know someone who is laid off now, and/or know they will be laid off in the future.

I never asked for a job in these meetings. I explained that I was new to the area and was using the opportunity of my time off to meet people in the area and find out what they and their companies were doing, and if they knew of any one or any company that was looking for someone to help out in the area of leadership succession and development. Once I started, I really enjoyed it too. But each Monday, picking up the phone for the first time was agonizing. I'm an extrovert too. How on earth could an introvert do this?

How did I prepare? First, I sent them a resume ahead of time "just so they would have some idea of who I was". Sometimes, I sent the resume in an introductory email, sometimes I sent it later, depending upon the situation. Second, I prepared a marketing plan (I'll talk about that in another blog, but this sure was a big ice-breaking help!). Third, I explored everything I could about the company, mostly internet searches. And fourth, I came up with a list of questions. These were usually the same, but I re-prepared them each time. It helped me feel a sense of control. My questions were typically what they thought about the job market in the New York Metro area, what was going on in their own company and other companies that they knew about in leader succession and development, if they knew of other folks or companies I should be talking to, and in return for this meeting, what I could do for them.

The meetings ranged from 20 minutes to over an hour. I always tried to keep the meetings short, but people were thrilled to talk. They toured me through their facilities and spent long lunch hours with me. But unfortunately they all pretty much agreed that the economy in New York was in the pits, that no one was hiring in my area (one guy said that prior to 9/11 there were hundreds of job postings on a professional web site I searching on, but now there were less than a dozen), and that given my level and area of expertise, I should expect to take a year or longer to find a job (that was a hard pill to swallow). They gave me advice and many others to talk to. They passed my name on to head hunters and passed job opportunities on to me. I always sent a thank you email. Always, always, always. If they gave me names of others, I always let them know when I contacted those folks, how the meeting went, and thanked them again. By January, I was getting "repeat" names (oh you really should talk to so-and-so, and I had already spoken to them through others). By January, a search firm professional jokingly laughed that I was so well connected that she received my name from numerous folks whether the job was at all related to my area of expertise or not.

I came to the conclusion that folks were very invested in helping me find a job. I know from being "networked with" by others, that my first instinct is to help get this person a good job. While I expected that others would respond to my "begging" with "euw, get away from me you stinking loser", I was totally wrong--a huge majority went out of their way to help any way they could. Although no job came out of the experience, I must admit it was one of the richest professional experiences I have ever had. And I am ready to return the favor (which is part of the reason for this blog).

If you are employed, I would recommend networking. A little note here and there is enough. Think of EVERYONE as a potential future network (so don't burn ANY bridges!!!) If you are looking for a job, I would recommend that this should be the MAJORITY of what you do. I made at least 5 new calls/emails a week (my network is now HUGE) and tried to have 1 or 2 meetings per week. The idea is to get the word out that you are looking (and what kinds of jobs you are looking for), target companies who you would like to work for and ask your contacts if anyone they know works there (whether in your field or not), get into the company, then finally get before a hiring manager (whether they have an open position or not). Supposedly most jobs now-a-days come through networking.

I just motivated myself to send a little "hi, thinking of you" email to a bunch of folks on my network list. I'm not not letting this slide again!

Let me know your network stories--successes, failures, funny happenings, etc.

And thanks everyone for responding to this blog. I'm hearing some great stuff from folks out there. posted by Valerie 10:05 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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