Career Transition

How to Bounce Back After Multiple Layoffs

Take these key steps to get yourself rehired

Dealing with one job loss is bad enough, but media professionals have found themselves downsized once, twice, sometimes even three times. Repeated blows to the income, and in some cases the self-esteem, could be enough to convince anyone that she’ll never again be able to get a job and leave on her own terms (like back in the old days).

But there is hope. If you’ve found yourself doing the job-hunt shuffle one too many times, read on for a few ways to get through it and get back out there.

1. Move On

“You’ve got to stay in the game,” says Garret Kramer, mental health coach and author of The Path of No Resistance. “Those people who recognize that will flourish and actually grow from that experience.”

Kramer believes that staying in the game, or simply doing what you need to do to get to the next step in your life, will keep you out of the “low place” of depression and anger over losing your job again. In other words, you have to let your mind naturally dispose of the negative thoughts that can hold you back.

“The human mind will self-correct all on its own, back to clarity,” continues Kramer. “It’s going to be obvious from a higher state of mind what you’re supposed to do next.”

2. Get Out There

And one of the things that you can do next is prepare yourself for your next gig. This can entail anything from taking classes to taking on freelance assignments. “Developing new skills can be a positive distraction during a difficult time and may enhance your networks through faculty and school colleagues,” says Dr. Tracey Wilen-Daugenti, managing director of the Apollo Research Institute and author of the upcoming book Employed for Life.

“Target certifications and skills that will help you expand your employment options and add to your experience.”

If you’ve already mastered your writing and editing skills, for example, this may be the time to look into taking an InDesign or social media class or learn the latest version of Photoshop. You never know when new skills may come in handy.

“I would say to network, keep in touch with all contacts, and try to freelance as that floated me for awhile,” says James Bradley*, a PR specialist who has lost three jobs since 2008. “[The] first [lost job] was due to the economy… second was a sales job… and I was terrible at sales. Third, I had taken over for someone on maternity leave; then she came back and they really couldn’t afford to keep us both.”

After battling the ups and downs of getting and losing so many jobs he has once again managed to find full-time work. “It was quite difficult on my self esteem,” he continues. “It was tough.” But to keep your head above water he also recommended staying active on LinkedIn and other social networks.

3. Revamp Your Resume

Now that you have a resume that reflects a number of short-term jobs, you may think that any HR director would immediately banish it to the bottom of the applicant pile. Thankfully, that just isn’t how it works.

“These days, it’s entirely possible that an employee has two or three short-term jobs at the top of his resume as a result of mergers, acquisitions, reductions in force or budget cuts,” says Sally Haver, careers editor for the online magazine The Connector. “[You] can address the choppy chronology either in the cover letter or in one sentence per job.”

For example:

ABC International, May-December, 2015
Fashion Editor
(ABC International was acquired in December by XYZ Corp. and my job was eliminated.)

DEF, Inc., 20013-2015
Style Editor
(DEF, Inc. downsized the editorial department in 2015.)

Charles Purdy, managing editor at Adobe and author of Urban Etiquette, agrees with the idea of being forthcoming about your work history on your resume. “Recruiters get turned off by resumes that seem to be hiding something,” he says. “You don’t have to be ashamed about being laid off or having some short-term assignments.”

4. Aim Your Next Dart

Many career experts agree that sometimes it’s best to be mindful about the kind of job you apply for next, rather than just submitting a resume to any job that may pay the bills.

“If you are attracted to startup firms, then you should understand that these types of organizations are more likely to downsize because of how they are funded,” says Wilen-Daugenti. “You might be better off targeting a more stable category of positions, including non-profit, government, education or healthcare situations.”

The key is to transfer the skills that you already have and make them applicable to the industries that do have jobs available. “If you’re a journalist who was recently laid off, consider applying for an internal communications position at a hospital or marketing position at an IT firm,” says Kathy Kane, chief human resources officer for Emergency Medical Associates. “Your writing skills and ability to quickly digest and distill complex information will be very helpful for these companies.”

It’s also important to note that, once you get the interview with a new firm, it’s best not to dwell too much on the short-term jobs that are on your resume. “You don’t have to belabor the topic in interviews or even address it,” says Allison O’Kelly, founder/CEO of Mom Corps. “Keep the conversation focused on the breadth and depth of your expertise and what you’ve been able to take away from each of your professional experiences.”

5. Drop Your Baggage at the Door

Like anyone who’s been unwillingly dismissed from a relationship one too many times, you may feel a bit ill at ease once you do land a new job, fearful that the unemployment ax will drop once again at any moment. This can impact your work performance and simply make your life miserable.

“Easing anxiety about being laid off again can be a challenge, but making yourself indispensable to your new employer will help you feel more in control of your career,” says Kane. She recommends taking on activities that are outside your typical set of responsibilities and finding a mentor. “The more connected and integral you are to the organization, the more secure you’ll feel in your new job.”

Haver also recommends scheduling monthly meetings with your boss or supervisor to ascertain that you’re on the right track. “You can ask if there are areas he/she would like you to spend a greater percentage of time on or skills that you should be acquiring. This will show your supervisor that you want things to work out well for both you and the company.”

But we all know that life is unpredictable and there’s always the possibility of being let go again, even though you’re doing everything right. In those cases, it helps to be smart and have a plan. “If you have done your homework and you are valuable and the company wants you, then all you can do is keep your eyes and ears open, look for the proverbial handwriting on the wall, and listen to rumors on the grapevine,” says Donald J. Marotto, senior career consultant for the IMPACT Group.

“If the ax does fall again, either see it falling and get out of harm’s way, or explain to your new prospective employer that despite your best efforts [things just didn’t work out.] This shows loyalty, determination, leadership, work ethic and most of all, character.”

*Name has been changed.

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