Unlike planets with gravity fields that attract things, some jobs push you away. A lay-off is like “occupational anti-gravity.” It may seem like a cruel, random, and non-directional, repelling force when it first spits you out. But use it wisely, and you can harness the energy of a layoff for your own mini Big Bang. (I know, I know, “mini” and “big” seem contradictory. Just work with me here.) Just as galaxies are formed with a Big Bang that spews energy and matter out into the universe, a layoff actually contains energy that you may not have realized.
When most companies have a downsizing, layoff, right-sizing, reduction in force, slicing the salami (a series of layoffs), or clearing the deadwood (how politically incorrect do you want to get here?), it may make the news. If the company conducts layoffs all the time or only has a small layoff, it may not be big news. But when you lose the one job you have, it’s BIG NEWS to you and the People-Who-Know-and-Love-You: the inner circle of your network. You’ve got to use the energy embedded in this newsworthy moment. It’s newsworthy because YOU—not just anybody—are gone from your job. There is attentive energy around this moment that needs to be carefully harvested by you—and right away. This window of opportunity closes in about six weeks.
Clients have reconfirmed this phenomenon over and over. I recall the first time I was personally caught up in a layoff. Before I had the sense to call out to colleagues, the inbound calls came from people in my inner circle. Then the calls came from people I didn’t even think knew where I worked. My network had started to send the alert and mobilize people’s energy and curiosity. Other business opportunities started to emerge. Interviews began and, sure enough, an offer was made.
Generally speaking, once the word is out about your departure from your last employer, you have approximately a six-week window of time during which your departure is newsworthy to your network. During that time, people will genuinely want to know:
- What happened (do you have a clean, clear exit statement?)?
- What you’re going to do next (have you written your 1-page personal marketing play to show them?)?
- How can they be of assistance (Have you prepared a Focus of Inquiry? See below)?
This valuable potential energy (others’ genuine curiosity) is given to you by the occupational anti-gravity that expelled you from your last job. Here’s what it can enable you to do:
- Enhance your ability to get face-to-face meetings with people.
- Hold people’s interest as you talk about lessons learned from the downsizing.
- Mobilize people to think out loud with you about opportunities.
- Motivate people to give you feedback about what they’ve seen as your strengths.
- Foster people’s sense of urgency about taking action to make an introduction on your behalf, to find a piece of information you need, or sign a contracting or consulting agreement with you.
Remember, you’ve got approximately six weeks before the “Your gone. You’re breaking news.” window closes, and then you’re pretty much like every other person who is networking. That is, unless you have a Focus of Inquiry. See Design Your Focus of Inquiry for Lower-Stress Networking.
Bruce Hazen, MS
Three Questions Consulting
Bruce is a career and management coach working with professionals who are at career crossroads and wanting answers and action strategies for one or more of The Three Career Questions:
1. When is it time to move up?
2. When is it time to move out?
3. When is it time to adapt my style for greater success?