To a large extent, most professionals’ self-esteem is tied up in their success at work so how do you recover when you suddenly find yourself without a job? Especially at such a critical time of year?
A strong, confident, self-assured client of mine who heads up a global product and marketing team called me yesterday and told me he was made redundant (yes, 2 weeks before Christmas!) and asked me to coach and mentor him to successfully find a new role. He was absolutely devastated and was very emotional – this is the denial phase. I knew all too well he would go through the blame phase soon after, then likely the angry phase and finally the acceptance phase. While listening to him, I couldn’t help but start the clock in my head. In my 15 years of experience in recruitment, training and coaching, I have found that a professional’s confidence will dramatically decrease between 3 and 6 months out of work and then after the 6-month mark, will experience another sharp drop.
And with the drop-in confidence comes the decreasing chances of finding another role with a commensurate salary.
Below was my advice to this client:
Set up a project plan to re-enter the market
Looking for a new job should be no different to executing a crucial project at work, so I encouraged him to do the same for his job search. This would include required activities, timelines, priorities, and potential road blocks. This puts the job search cleanly back into his control and familiar territory.
Take 4 weeks off either end of the project
Take no more than 4 weeks off before you jump straight back on the horse. The main reason for this is that any longer can mean a lack of confidence kicks in and too long out of the market can mean a loss of sharpness and in this rapidly changing market, a lack of understanding about what the ever-changing market needs. Once you have secured a new role, negotiate to take 4 weeks or more off before you start.
Apply for roles which are at the right level where you fit the criteria
Aiming too high or too low at this stage of his life may accelerate the demise of his confidence, given the chances of rejection is much higher. Take big risks and aim high when you have the security of a job already because confidence is inherently high and rejection rarely penetrates you.
Journal about your strengths and what you have been proud of
Although shocked, my client has 90% of his confidence at this point in time and is feeling really competent. I’ve asked him to jot some points down about his achievements and what he is great at because it’s amazing how quickly we remember what we are bad at and all of our failures when our confidence is lacking. Self-doubt can really derail this process so re-reading a journal note which was written when you were feeling your best can help this process.
Get your dialogue straight and practice it
My client was caught by surprise and he was hurt by his employer but I’ve suggested he completely re-frame the situation and to do this quickly. Spin it in a positive light and share with people the attractive pay out, how he had outgrown the role and how this should be viewed as a cross road which he is excited by. I’m not saying do not share his feelings with close friends but this is a small market so the message needs to be positive and consistent.
Even though my client was very senior, I strongly suggested he attend the out-placement service which was offered. He had not interviewed in over 15 years and my sense was that he needed to tighten up his CV/interview skills. Ideally, as a senior professional, you can negotiate to spend this allocated money on a career coach rather than a group wide out placement facility.
Whether you have an amazing network or not, being in control and on the front foot when it comes to your career may ensure that you maintain your self esteem when searching for a new position.
From a personal perspective, my confidence is absolutely tied up in my business. If Parity is doing well, then I am feeling great! This saddens me as my success at work should not define who I am as a person – so why can’t I seem to separate this? I am working through this myself at the moment but given this client is also a candidate, friend, confidant and mentor, it has brought the subject to the forefront of my mind. In following these 6 points of advice, I do hope that anybody who is in this situation or knows of somebody in this situation is able to take something away from this and view their situation in a positive light.
Victoria Butt is the Managing Director and Founder of Parity Consulting, recruitment experts in Product, Marketing, Communications and Digital – creating parity by investing in all relationships. An avid shark diver and lover of wine, professionally Victoria is passionate about female leadership, inclusion and diversity in the workplace and empowering women, in particular women looking to return to work after children.
For a confidential discussion, Victoria can be contacted via email on firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone on +61 402 418 326.
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