Most media coverage of layoffs portrays the people let go as victims. Those of us who work with job hunters hear a different story. Fifty percent of the laid off clients I’ve seen since the start of the Great Recession not only were glad to be let go (with severance) but delighted. Furthermore, at least another 20 percent knew they were treading water, making no significant contribution to the organization, and emotionally distanced from the job. When did you read that in the media? Of the remaining 30 percent, many had no idea they were in danger, much less about to be gone. But here’s the shocker — while at least ten percent felt their careers, and even lives, had been ruined by a layoff, the vast majority felt they’d been rescued from stagnation, outgrown relationships and obsolescence.
Just think: If these people are telling the truth — and why shouldn’t we believe them — they were not victims but liberated survivors! All but three in my sample or 50 have gone on to other jobs, self employment, or are busily re-careering. The three who aren’t working were in their 60s and, truth be told, are still living on severance largess. Will they return to full-time paid employment? We won’t know until they do.
If you might be laid off, face reality. Are you longing for paid escape? What can you negotiate? Could you get better severance and references by going quietly? If you have a decent relationship with your boss ask. If you knew you had three months before the axe wouldn’t you develop a strategy for getting a new job while taking severance?
I have a client who’s been laid off from three banks, with three severance packages, and banked all three because he started a new job within two weeks (vacation pay). He is so strategic! He’s also getting a degree at night in non-profit management. He needs one more layoff to complete the nest egg that will allow him to take a 30 percent salary cut to work for a not-for-profit. PS: He’s 55.
A layoff could be a new beginning, not a career killer. Severance could enable you to do something you’ve always to do. One client did a six-month tour of Africa before he started his job hunt and is thrilled he did. The trick is to always be in a job hunting mode and to keep a high-profile rather than going underground for months or years at a time. You know the drill as does everybody. It never fails but you have to live the scenario. Can you embrace it?
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