While I can’t say that I didn’t see this layoff coming, I didn’t think it would happen as soon as it did. I was laid off October 31, 2015, from a job in the restaurant industry where I was the V.P. of Human Resources for more than 16 years. What I didn’t realize until losing my job was the feeling that it defined me to some degree and was part of my identity, and now that it was gone, there was actually a feeling of emptiness. What I found most challenging was going from a very demanding job 24/7 to suddenly having no priorities, nothing that I have to do. I went from not enough time in a day to nothing but time!
In my case it’s a blessing in disguise and an opportunity to focus on finding my dream job. It has actually given me the opportunity for reflection, to take a hard look at—and evaluate—my career accomplishments. It has given me the time to reflect on what I want to do next. You don’t have the luxury of thinking about those things when you’re consumed by and committed to your demanding job. When I do find my next senior-level HR position there are some lessons that I’ve learned from being on the other side of the hiring process:
- Now that I have nothing but time, I’ve been updating my skills and attending some webinars that I never had the time to do while employed. Most hiring managers see red flags when there is an extended gap on a resume; I urge them to explore the reasons for those gaps. Extended gaps are definitely something you always explore with an applicant, but it is important to understand what transpired during those gaps. Someone who has spent that time trying to refresh old skills and stay current or gain new skills is demonstrating drive and dedication and would likely be the type of employee who is a motivated self-starter, a problem solver. Who isn’t looking for that kind of employee?
- This job-search experience is a full-time job with hours of revising resumes, searching job boards, applying to positions online, attending networking events, and connecting with various recruiters and colleagues. With all this work you may or may not get a call acknowledging the receipt of your application. Are you overqualified, do you make too much money, is your title scaring potential employers away? I urge you not to overlook candidates for those reasons. Get creative. If you see someone who has skills that would benefit your company, don’t shortchange your organization by dismissing them automatically because you think you can’t afford them. Maybe the person who made too much money would be willing to negotiate for a lower salary with more time off, other benefits, or possibly they would work as a consultant. Maybe, with a little bit of negotiation, that overqualified employee could bring something to the table that is very valuable to the organization.
- Another hurdle in my job search has been filling out applications through ATS systems. Many of these systems are lengthy and complex, asking “nice to have questions” instead of required information. Not to mention that the process is impersonal and takes the human factor out. When that new opportunity presents itself, I do plan on reviewing the company’s ATS to ensure it is user friendly and only asking for information required upon first contact. There is an excellent article published by SHRM titled “STUDY: Most Job Seekers Abandon Online Job Applications. This study claims that 60% or more job seekers quit in the middle of these applications due to the length and complexity and because they feel their time is important. The end result is that companies are losing out on potentially great candidates because of their systems.
What I have learned through this process is a sense of humility. It’s exhausting, but nothing in life comes without hard work and dedication. You must have a positive attitude and the confidence that the right opportunity is just around the corner. I am a firm believer that when one door closes another one opens.
I’ve also found out just how important your network is—and not just LinkedIn connections or other online networks. I worked in California but have lived in Arizona for the past 15 years, commuting every other week. Doesn’t sound like such a bad thing, but I essentially have no network in the area where I am now searching for a job. I have more than 25 years of senior-level HR experience and welcome the opportunity to expand my network and explore opportunities here in Arizona.
To those of you who might be in this same situation, I hope you will take a breath—a moment to reflect on your past, present, and future. Work on special projects while you have this time, expand your knowledge, take a few courses, and, most important, don’t stress out on the small stuff. Use this time to do positive things and determine what you want the rest of your life to look like. The sky is the limit!
Katrina Messier is a Senior-Level Human Resources Professional. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or through her LinkedIn profile at http://bit.ly/1Sa8Ur0. She is open to full-time employment opportunities or consulting and also would not rule out working remotely or telecommuting.