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Starting over: A guide for laid-off workers and their families

husband and wife job searching on laptop
Starting over: A guide for laid-off workers and their families

Provided by Gundersen's Employee Assistance Program

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Dealing with change
The world around us is constantly changing and much of that change is happening in workplaces nationwide. The terms global economy, downsizing, mass layoffs and high-performance work organizations were unheard of just a few years ago. Now they are a part of everyday life and language. When these terms strike close to home, you may encounter a change that is very difficult to deal with – the loss of a job. The change process has four stages that everyone experiences at different times and rates:

  • Denial
  • Exploration
  • Resistance
  • Commitment

What stage are you in? What stage were you in when you first heard of the layoff?

Don't blame yourself
Some people believe getting laid off is somehow their fault. Often, the decision to downsize or close a workplace has nothing to do with worker performance or even the profitability of the workplace. These decisions are frequently the result of mergers or a desire to maximize profits, things which individual workers have little control over.

Starting over
That seemingly secure and familiar job is now gone. After working somewhere for an extended period of time, it is hard to face going back to the classroom or starting a new job. Losing that job and its security gives a sense of losing control, but by starting over with a plan, you will soon regain control.

Take back control
The key to taking back control after losing a job is having a plan about what to do now and what to do in the future. A good plan outlines which steps to take in order to arrive at your goal. Don't just wait to see what might happen, take the initiative and make it happen. A good plan will help you find resources available to help you find a new job, receive training or build a new career. Keep in mind that making long term plans to upgrade your skills or even change careers may mean sacrifices in the short run. However, a long-term plan is the best insurance against a changing and uncertain job market. While developing your plan, keep in mind what you would like to be doing and the wages you would need to earn. Don't forget to plan for the present as well as the future; knowing how to pay the bills is just as important as planning for five years from now.

Make your job search more effective

  • Make a schedule.
  • Plan time to work on your job search, take care of other
    business and spend time with your family and friends.

Prepare for job interviews
Preparing for interviews reduces the stress of looking for work. Practice answering questions about your experience and the
skills you have. Think of things you want to say and imagine how they might sound to the interviewer.

Spread the word
Tell your neighbors, friends, in-laws, anyone, you know that you're looking for employment. The more people who know you're looking, the better your chances of finding work.

Expand your job search
Go beyond checking the classified ad. Do some detective work to find jobs that are not advertised. Call and visit employers you would like to work for. Sign up for mailing lists for jobs that may open up. Even when you have a good lead on one job, keep looking for other options.

Use the Internet
The Internet can be a valuable tool in helping design your resume and learning about employment opportunities. Present your experience in the best light It is easy to forget you have a broad range of skills. Make a list of all the skills you have used in previous jobs. Emphasize that you are adaptable and flexible.

Be persistent
Interviewers don't always let you know what is happening during the hiring process. Ask if you can call them back at a specific time to inquire about their decision. If someone doesn't call you back, call them. Be persistent, not pushy.

Keep in touch with former co-workers
Former co-workers sometimes hear of jobs they're not interested in, but you might be. Go job searching with a friend who's looking for work, too. This will lower the stress of the job search and help keep spirits up.

Tips on filling out applications
Employers look for applications that are complete, easy to read and filled out correctly. When filling out an application:

  • Read the whole application and all instructions
    before writing.
  • Make sure you're on the correct line before you write.
  • Make sure you have enough space to finish what you are writing.
  • Fill in every space. If something doesn't apply to you, write "NA" (not applicable).
  • If they ask for skills and qualifications, write a basic list, don't just say “see resume.”
  • When answering questions, write a few sentences, adding that your resume is more detailed.
  • Carry both pens and pencils with you to fill out forms.
  • Ask for two copies of the application form. Fill one out in pencil. Make a final copy in ink to turn in or bring in a filled out sample with you as a reference.
  • Make it easy for the person reading the application to find information.

Adapted from Serving Workers in Transition AFL-FIO Human Resources Development Institute

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