Getting laid off “was the best thing that ever happened to me.”

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by Ed Weirauch, Career Transition Coach

Getting laid off “was the best thing that ever happened to me.”

Did you ever hear someone say something like this, or in response to your own job loss, offer that response? Upon hearing this, you may have thought to yourself “yeah, right.” How could a job loss be the best thing that could happen?

For many people, the loss of a job spurs them on to set new career goals or finally ‘gives them permission’ to leave a job that they may have felt stuck in but needed an extra or dramatic push to finally look for something else. When a severance package is part of a departure, many of us can have the peace of mind (temporarily at least) to think about our next job and then develop a strategy to achieve our goals.

This peace of mind is really the “essence” of the phrase “best thing that could have happened.” For many people, that severance package provides the finances needed to actively pursue training and other new opportunities.

That’s how Carol Deputy (pictured above) felt when her 16-year-job as an executive administrative assistant with Columbia Gas in Wilmington ended many years ago. “Of course the experience at the time was very stressful,” Carol recalls. “You’re leaving behind familiarity, people that you worked with, your benefits. But you also may not realize yet that you’re headed toward something that you’ll like even more.”

Carol had already been taking courses at Delaware State University to earn her Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work. Today she says that severance “funded my next role in life.”

In 2001, she joined Cancer Care Connection, a non-profit agency that employs social workers as Cancer Resource Coaches® who respond to telephone callers with any non-medical (psycho-social) issue or question related to cancer.

“A fire was lit within me from the moment I took this job,” Carol says today. “In my role, I can help the person who calls to regain a sense of control, manage their stress and get them information that meets a pressing need. I think to myself, ‘what better way to spend my day?’”

Carol went on to earn her Master’s Degree in Social Work and is now one of only a few Licensed Clinical Social Workers in Delaware with a specialty in cancer issues. So truly, her administrative assistant job ending did turn out to be the best thing that could have happened to her.

But the message here is that this didn’t “just happen.” Carol already had a plan in the works.

Severances should be looked upon as a means to an end, a way to finance your new beginning rather than surprise or “found money.” As a Career Transition Coach, I also think it’s key to always have ideas for your next position in the back of your mind. What might excite you if you encounter a detour in the road? That’s the reality of today’s economy and if/when that day comes, you’ll want to be in a position to make the best thing happen for you.

Job Hunt and Career Change Guide: ‘Parachute’ is Still the Bible

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by Ed Weirauch, Career Transition Coach

I thought about limiting this blog to What Color Is Your Parachute, A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters & Career Changers – get it, read it, do it. End of blog.

But that doesn’t do justice to this outstanding resource that was first published in 1970 (hard to believe)! The 2014 edition makes plenty of references to LinkedIn, social media in general, and Twitter in particular — so “Parachute” is definitely still current and timely. More importantly, if you fully embrace it, this book has the power to have lasting impact.

Author Richard N. Bolles (and surely his team of experts) covers every aspect of a job search from just plain changing employers to a more dramatic change of careers paths entirely. He starts off setting the tone for today’s job market by sharing “eight forces we are up against.” Listing them here could be discouraging but I’ll share a few just for a reality check:

  • Globally, we’re in a conservative mindset with “concerns about deficits rather than jobs and governments opting for austerity rather than growth.”
  • Length of the average job hunt has increased dramatically.
  • Employers are holding out for the dream employee.
  • Many search methods that worked before 2008 no longer do.

On a more positive note comes Chapter Three: There Are Seven Million Vacancies This Month. So if there are so many job opportunities out there, why aren’t more people getting them? I suspect its because they haven’t read What Color Is Your Parachute?

In the first half of the book, Bolles provides readers with a host of job search strategies starting with the Internet and in particular, Google searches. Use Google searches to learn about companies, hiring trends, necessary experience for many job roles, the list is endless and likely overwhelming. Narrow your search to start and the quantity and quality of information you find will likely be more on-target.

Bolles points out that you should expect to be the source of potential employers’ Google searches as well. That’s what he means when he says “Google is your new resumé”. So clean up your social media sites while you’re on a job search and fill in information that will help you. Post your job search progress on social media sites and of course use LinkedIn as much as possible. At least you are in control here, Bolles points out, you have the ability to edit, add, and delete information to help you make public your best profile.

Bolles then offers 16 tips about job interviews and another six secrets of salary negotiation. Who doesn’t want to learn these secrets?

Then comes the book’s second half – intended to spark thought that’s a lot different from scurrying around for the right resumé, LinkedIn site, contacts, leads and job search tips. Chapter title: You Need to Understand More Fully Who You Are. What do you really want to do with your life? What fulfills you? What motivates you? Who do you want to work with? In the past (before 2008), many of us may have rolled our eyes at these questions and thought, “maybe when I retire…”

But I agree with Bolles, if the work that you doesn’t excite you, even a little bit, you may be the next worker who is restructured out of a job. If you don’t like what you’re doing and don’t enjoy it, that will show, at times not obviously but certainly in subtle ways. Then if/when your employer looks to cut costs, work smarter but leaner, or go in a different direction, unhappy workers are likely to fall. If you love what you’re doing, you’re more likely to be a positive, contributing team member.

Getting to that better spot takes a lot of self evaluation and determination. Bolles offers an in-depth approach that guides you through this process and takes you to a better understanding of yourself and therefore the kinds of professions and jobs that would turn you on and ultimately make you a more valuable employee. One thought: an objective second person can help keep you focused through this process because its not easy. Keep an eye out for a close friend, former manager, or a career coach to play that role. A book, no matter how proven and practical, won’t answer you back.

Personally, this “self-thought/evaluation” had its greatest impact on me many years ago when I was between jobs. I had the time to pursue the “Parachute” steps and guess what? In a few weeks I got a great job offering challenging and (really) fun work with some of the greatest people I have ever known, with a good salary that improved. Looking back, Parachute landed me the best job I ever had.

Images courtesy of

Is Headhunter a Bad Word?

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by Andrea Abernethy, Career Transition Coach

One day this week I groggily stopped at the local coffee shop to purchase my necessary, early morning caffeine fix. While standing in line I ran into an old high school friend. We exchanged pleasantries and started catching up on where we are both working.

He proceeded to tell me about a new position that he had landed and has been happily working in for the last two years. I explained that I have been working as a Career Transition Coach for Barton Career Advisors and that I too enjoy my work very much for various reasons, which will be alluded to in this article. After learning about my vocation of choice my “old” friend (I’m using that term loosely) asked “so is headhunter is a bad word for you?”

I wanted to say “yes, headhunter is a really bad word for me because that’s not what I do!” — but I maintained my professionalism and explained a few things to this guy. So, allow me to share what I said about the roles of the following professionals: headhunter, recruiter, and career coach. Many are not aware of the differences between the three. Over time, these roles have evolved but their understanding by the general public have not kept up.  As a result, many people may have expectations that we as professionals in these fields may not meet.

A headhunter is a person who seeks employment for another person. Headhunters are hired by employers looking for a specific person to fill a position.  It’s mostly a slang term, in other words, you’ll probably never see a business card with the title “headhunter.”

A recruiter can work for the job seeker and/or an employer.  The recruiter’s role is to interview, evaluate, and assess you to decide if he/she should present you to an employer for an interview. Recruiters are paid by the company looking to hire. You should not expect to pay the recruiter.

The difference between a headhunter and a recruiter is in general, a headhunter is looking for a particular person, usually for a “high up” position.  A recruiter works with a wider array of prospects and can be looking for people at many levels.

The Career Coach, which is what I do, helps individuals to provide direction in their career exploration, helping to develop top notch resumés, marketing client documents to employers, helping clients improve networking skills, and providing support in many other aspects of the job search. In a nut shell, the Career Coach helps the job seeker present themselves as effectively as possible to potential employers.

In coaching clients to network effectively, career coaches like me can connect a client to a company looking to hire.  Quite naturally, we’re in touch with lots of companies so it could be that we’ll connect clients with job openings.

In years past, outplacement coaches were often thought to be actual job finders. But today, the best person to find your next job is you – and as career coaches, our goal is to build up and equip you, the job seeker, to be the very best you can be, especially in this highly competitive job market.

Relationships Key to Business, Including Outplacement

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by Rich Kolodgie, Managing Partner

“People like to do business with people they like.” So said Dale Carnegie, or at least one of his certified instructors/business coaches. This week I’d like to take a little off that statement so I can emphasize the part that says “people like to do business with people.”

Relationships are key to any business if it is to be profitable, positive, and effective. And this is definitely the case with the outplacement world. For employers with a goal of providing quality service to their departing staff members, relationships will surely mean the difference between people transitioning smoothly and those who may feel they are left hanging.

When an employer has a business relationship with its outplacement partner, both parties have the opportunity to really understand the nuances or fine points of the workers or larger workforce involved. The employer can convey the strengths and potential needs of their staff to the outplacement officers so that when the actual services are provided, they can be tailored to specific and unique needs.

‘One size fits all’ shouldn’t be a strategy. One set of staff members may be highly educated, another heavy on long tenures. Cultures of course vary as well as expectations and certainly outplacement budgets. These are all aspects that can be worked into a customized outplacement plan when the two parties have pursued a relationship of mutual understanding.

Let’s say your company is a large financial organization with hundreds of employees. Your outplacement needs could be very different from a manufacturing company with a handful of production facilities, for example. If both these sets of transitioning employees got the same outplacement service, I suspect you might hear these reactions:

  • “I’m just a number…”
  • “Some of the advice is good but I keep feeling I”m in the wrong place…”
  • “They had no idea what we need…”

In fact, some of the employers we work with at Barton Career Advisors will engage us before they are certain a staff reduction is definite. They take early steps to investigate and then get to know our philosophy and perspectives so that when the time comes, they feel confident in their investment. Not only that, but the relationship employers build with us enables them to refer their employees knowing the level of service both the employer and the out-going staff members will receive.

On-going relationships are also important for big companies that aren’t necessary expecting a large scale staff reduction but acknowledge that inevitably, challenges and resulting staff changes will develop. Even periodic changes of just a few people a year can be tough so why not be pro-active about developing a relationship so that when these difficult times occur, you have a service ready to go.

Furthermore, working relationships allow the outplacement staff to learn the client corporation’s culture, expectations and/or ways of working. That’s tremendously helpful when a client comes whose personality or working style just wasn’t a fit. Among other advantages, having this background enables the career transition team to move quickly to a future orientation rather than dwelling on the details of why a staff member didn’t work out.

And speaking of the actual transitioning client, a personal relationship can mean the difference between a prolonged and frustrating job search and an experience where the person not only lands a good job, but experiences some personal growth as well. That’s when the actual one-to-one coaching is so valuable. Allow me to draw two brief pictures (with words) that past blogs have touched on already.

A job searcher spends the morning online, examining job boards and corporate websites, posting resumes, and e-mailing contacts. The afternoon is spent out meeting people at networking events, informational interviews, and maybe even cold calls.

This job seeker does all of the above but in addition, he/she meets once a week with a career transition coach. We believe even the most confident person needs that human relationship to get feedback, encouragement, other ideas or even just a good listener.

Which one of these do you think will more effectively:

  • Stay disciplined tackling the job search challenge
  • Try new approaches
  • Maintain their confidence
  • Overcome the inevitable rejections
  • Land a new job and still be sane?

Technology is taking us places we never expected. Yet relationships are really what strengthens peoples’ ability to provide outstanding service and succeed for themselves, their companies, and their colleagues. Microwave ovens cook meals on their own and someday we might have cars that drive themselves but people and relationships can never be replaced in the equation that produces great business results.

So remember, success doesn’t result from a set of compatible computers as much as it flourishes from the positive relationships of people… especially if they like each other.