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When your boss delivers the terrible news, “your position is being phased out in (x) days (or months)”, it comes as a shock to your system. You try to compose yourself and remain professional but your mind immediately begins to race about your future. You are concerned with losing your income and your medical benefits. Few things create more anxiety and instability in your life. However, you still have to be composed to prepare. In addition to making sure you have a current copy of the employee handbook here are 5 steps to take to make your transition as smooth as possible:   

1. Immediately Jot Down Notes Of Things You Remember From The Meeting

Your mind and pulse are racing and details of the conversation may be difficult to recall. Take out a notepad or use your phone or computer’s notepad and write down information details about the conversation. If you can’t write out complete sentences to document the discussion write down bullet points you can refer back to when you’re in an emotional space where you can collect your thoughts and begin developing your plan for your next move.

You won’t have the presence of mind to ask all of the questions that are important in the moment. Don’t let that concern you, write them down as they come to you so you don’t forget. Things such as:

- Who was involved in making the decision?
- Are other positions available within the company that you can pursue?
- Will you be allowed time during working hours to job search and interview?
- Are they willing to give you a positive reference?
- What services are available to you in your job search?

Send your list of questions to your boss in an email so you have a record of it. The idea is not to create a paper trail for litigation or hostile environment but to document the information so there is no misinterpretation of your questions or the responses.

2. Update your resumé and LinkedIn profile

Immediately update your resumé and synchronize it with your LinkedIn profile. Go to your LinkedIn profile’s home page then click “jobs”. You’ll see job suggestions from LinkedIn that you can apply to directly from your profile. Read the job description and see LinkedIn’s suggested job searches and posted jobs based on your experience. LinkedIn also tells you the top skills required for the position and how you rank versus other potential applicants. This is keyword matching. Look at the skills required by the position and include them in your profile, if applicable, to increase your ranking against other candidates. Complete the “career interests” section to let recruiters know how flexible you are in your job search preferences.

Your resumé should be a dynamic document updated for each position you apply to. Don’t send out the same generic resumé for each position. Tailor your resumé’s summary of qualifications, areas of expertise, skills and employment history sections to include the keywords listed in the job description. Do this for every position you apply for whether using LinkedIn, Indeed, Zip Recruiter, Glassdoor, company websites or any other job site.

3. Welcome Positive Reinforcement and Support

It’s easy to be consumed with negative emotions. It can manifest itself in your treatment of co-workers and reticence to perform your duties. Actively seek assistance from co-workers about open positions and recommendations for people who may be able to assist in your job search. There may be meetings that you’re not included in but don’t let that deter you from performing your job. Be a professional and continue giving attention to your duties. There may be functions or activities you can pass off to co-workers to free up more time to dedicate to your job search. Be careful about passing off everything and not being professional as you may need a reference, especially if you have the opportunity to transfer internally to another department.

Remember those that are there to offer their assistance and support in your job search and thank them for their assistance no matter the outcome. You never know how or where your paths may cross again professionally, particularly if you’re in a small or well-connected industry.   

4. Know What Is Negotiable As Part Of A Separation Package

Severance packages are not required by law but some companies offer them to employees. If you make a counteroffer to a package it’s possible they can reject it and withdraw the offer. Some companies have employment contracts that outline the conditions of severance. For upper level managers there may be extended benefits and salary as well as professional assistance in finding your next job. Severance packages may be offered when you’re told that your services will no longer be required, at the final (exit) meeting or they can arrive after separation in the mail.

If you receive an offer that’s too low or otherwise unacceptable refer to your employee handbook for a review of the company’s policies about termination and severance. In most cases severance packages are not a legal requirement for employers so they can usually dictate the terms. If there is a provision in the employee handbook or you have an employment contract with a severance agreement you may consider consulting an attorney to review the contracts. There are additional requirements for companies with more than 100 employees and workers over 40. Carefully read over all severance documents to ensure you’re not relinquishing valuable rights such as non-disclosure or non-compete clauses or giving up your right to seek legal remedies, if warranted. If you are being asked to give up your rights you may be able to negotiate a higher payout and/or extended benefits. Make your request reasonable because it is unlikely there will be a negotiation with many iterations.    

5. Backup Your Personal Files and Non-Proprietary Work

Use a thumb drive, cloud storage or other means to secure your files. Non-proprietary work samples may be valuable to include with your resumé. Employers may request samples of your work or you may decide to take the initiative and provide it as evidence of your ability. Any personal files should be removed from the company’s devices prior to your separation. If you are uncertain about what content you want to use in your job search, ask your employer for their permission.

Finally

Though it may be difficult be professional and continue doing your job to the best of your ability. Treating your boss or co-worker harshly won’t benefit you in your job search. You’ll learn who your friends are as you go through the transition. People will come up and give you tips about positions and names of people you should connect with and offer to make introductions. Some will offer to circulate your resumé to their network of contacts. Keep the lines of communication open and don’t be ashamed to ask for help. We all need each other.

Finding and utilizing a mentor can be invaluable for professional and personal development and growth. Having a trusted advisor to guide you through the peaks and valleys that inevitably arise. It takes a designed methodical approach to identify, approach and attract a good mentor.

Start by writing down your short-term (one year or less) and long-term goals. Think about the career growth you want to achieve. Once you’ve written out your goals it’s time to begin looking for a suitable mentor to help guide you. Start with your network and begin building a list of people you’d like to contact. They should be people that are on the track that you want to pursue or have a successful background in their profession or role. Initiate contact with an email introducing yourself (if you don’t already know them). The email should be formal and briefly state your interest (why you need their help) and what about the person’s background you admire and would like to learn more about. If they’re still actively working they may be busy and not respond to your initial contact request for several days so be patient and give them adequate time to respond.   

Mentors can come from anywhere and at any point in your career. You can be a young professional just beginning your career, someone with several years of experience looking to move into management or a business leader looking for a mentor to help guide you in growing your business or becoming a better leader. If you’re an executive looking for guidance having a thorough knowledge of your business in all aspects is required to get the best guidance.

Cultivate the relationship without being too pushy. If they’re amenable to mentoring you, setup a schedule of communication. You need to stay in contact on a regular basis so they are abreast of your progress. They should be able to help you develop a plan for achieving your goals and hold you accountable for doing your part. Once you’ve established the relationship be sure to let them know periodically how much you value their support. Avoid having the relationship be only about you receiving guidance and not giving back. If you meet someone through professional (or personal) interactions that may have relationships or mutual interests with your mentor let them know and ask if they would like for you to arrange an introduction. Try to give as much (or more) as you receive. Remember they’re sacrificing their time to meet with you and help advise you along your journey. Showing appreciation is important but need not be expensive (especially for young professionals). Thank you or gift cards are appreciated. Also, something as simple as buying them a cup of tea.

It’s also important to let them know when you have successes based on guidance you’ve received from them. If you get a new position, acquired a new skill or nailed an interview or presentation. Whatever it is let them know and thank them for their help. As you succeed so do they vicariously because of their advice. If you have challenges or failures seek their advice on navigating them. It’s not just a matter of listening and following instructions. If you have ideas that may differ from theirs feel free to express them. You may have perspectives or insight they hadn’t considered. However, it’s important to approach everything with an open mind. As your career progresses the frequency with which you communicate may decrease. This doesn’t mean they’re less valuable only that you have enough acumen and savvy to rely more on your own learning(s) and instincts.

These relationships will develop and transition over time but always look for ways to stay curios, ambitious and growing. Always ask for things you do well and areas you need to improve to help you grow. If you find the time spent beneficial consider reaching back and finding a mentee of your own to guide in the future.
You have a goal of wanting to be an executive or start a company by a certain age. You’ve got the necessary experience, in your opinion, and prepare to apply to that coveted position. The great unknown is whether the employer agrees that you’re qualified.

A close and objective examination of your professional experience is necessary. Assess whether you have adequate management experience. How many years of experience do you have? Have you been a senior manager already in a smaller organization? Have you had P&L responsibility? These are all questions you need to answer to gauge whether a hiring manager could take a risk on you. These are important positions within a company, so there’s a higher standard and greater level of scrutiny.

Expect competition from inside the organization. Companies want to retain their best employees and promoting them into senior management positions is one of their best levers. They risk losing stars by bringing in someone from outside the organization.

As with any job search, relying on your network is the best way to enter the senior management ranks. It’s even more essential when trying to get your first executive position. The majority of these positions are filled through referrals. If the previous executive left the company voluntarily they may have recommended someone from the company’s ranks they’re familiar with. It’s even extremely difficult going through a recruiter.

How can you break through the door if you’re highly capable?

In addition to the obvious networking requirement here are things you can do to ready yourself further.

Look for opportunities to have leadership roles in organizations by seeking board memberships. Charitable or non-profits are good places to serve on a board. They are often looking for help and it’s a great way to learn leadership skills.

Mentors are beneficial throughout your life. Executive managers also have relationships with mentors who help guide their careers. Seek out mentors at any juncture of your career. Don’t assume they’re only for young professionals.

Get a video endorsement from an executive(s). The next best thing to them making a phone call on your behalf is to record a video talking about your abilities. They can talk about how long they’ve known you and in what capacity. Give specifics about your strengths including your qualities as a leader. A video from the C-Level executive goes a long way.

Meet with executive placement agencies to get a critique of your background and resumé and develop a plan to shore up any deficiencies in your experience, if necessary. If you work with an agency it’s important to remember that they are charged with finding opportunities for candidates, not for a specific job type.    

Having a clear picture of what you want is the first step in moving into executive management. Learning early on from mentors helps you navigate your career and make decisions based on the essential skills needed for advancement. Getting recommendations from executives is the best way in the door but utilizing recruiters is also valuable.

If you’re not qualified today don’t let that deter you from continuing on the path and getting prepared for the opportunity when it arises.

Maintaining a good work-life balance is difficult with the demands of today’s leaner companies. Growing the top and bottom lines with less human capital puts a greater strain on workers. Ever increasing competition within a company creates feelings of stress throughout an organization.

Young employees are trying to get noticed as they look to advance their careers and move up the ranks quickly. They have less patience if opportunities for advancement don’t present themselves within a 1 to 3 year window. If they can’t see the promotions they’re looking for, they are looking for the next job and headed for the exit.

Older employees have to compete to justify their existence. Their fear is being pushed out to make way for younger less expensive employees and the overcoming the perception of not being innovative and energetic. The result is hair dye, botox and other attempts to appear young and vibrant.

No matter which group you’re in, those fixated on their careers tend to spend a lot of time focused on work, so it’s important (and necessary) to have outlets to release stress. When we’re in the zone we want to stay there and exhaust all of the creative energy before losing the feeling. Often it’s the correct decision when we’re highly productive. When you have the option to step away for a few minutes it becomes an unhealthy habit if you always make the same decision: stay at your desk, head down, pound it out.

Here’s are 5 ways how trying to stay focused actually hurts your professional progress.

Being Plugged In To Those Closest - Too often being obsessed with work hurts those necessary relationships with family and friends. You spend less and less time with them personally or may communicate via text message or social media. These personal connections are important for learning about new opportunities in addition to the obvious nurturing, support and motivation provided.

Staying Informed - Ok, I’ll start with the disclaimer. There’s much to be said for turning off the television or avoiding reading all of the toxic media we’re bombarded with daily. However, there are many interesting events and topics that give us context to the world around us and keeps us informed and able to engage in discussions not related to our job or field. You don’t want to be the cure for insomnia because your knowledge is limited in scope.

Productivity - Stepping away from the computer screen periodically helps keep your mind sharp and allows time to recharge your batteries. Getting up and taking a walk or at a minimum just leaning back in your chair and freeing your thoughts from the task at hand is rejuvenating. Take a 3 to 5 minute break every 20 minutes to decompress and allow the intellectual space for creativity and innovation to thrive.

Setting An Example - Being obsessed with working and sacrificing family and other interests sets a bad example for those who may look up to you. Early on this single-mindedness can help advance your career but sustained neglect of anything outside of work can be a turn off to those considering following in your footsteps. While people certainly want to be successful in their career, they also enjoy living and enjoying other pursuits. If they see you consumed by work, they may be less interested in following the same path and choose another path.

Staying Curious - Escaping the monotony of your job allows you to observe (with interest) things that may bring creativity and innovation to you at work. Whether it’s music, arts, binge watching Modern Family or whatever your passion. Allowing yourself to become absorbed in something else can bring fresh perspectives to your work that you would never have considered. Healthy curiosity works.

As technology continues to be the driving force in an ever changing world, we are forced to find ways to compete and provide value and service. Stepping away from the desk helps find the creative balance needed to incorporate all of the resources available to us. There are inevitable roadblocks along the path but receiving input from the world around you helps find solutions. So the next time you’ve got 20 minutes to invest consider what’s best for you and your career before automatically deciding to keep grinding. Allow yourself access more of the options available to help achieve sustained success.

Successful self-advocating combines understanding the strategies involved with a field operations guide for how to actually implement it. There are a few specific steps that need to be taken to execute the strategies. Whether you’re currently looking for a new position or just planting seeds for future consideration the process is much the same. Here are 3 specific actions to take to market yourself:

1. Be Vocal - Don’t just use performance reviews as your opportunity to give yourself credit. Discuss projects you’re involved with and how they’re progressing. Solicit feedback from others about how you could improve and what they think is going well. Also, acknowledge others who contributed to the success of the project to show leadership and recognition. Don’t be afraid to give yourself credit for fear of appearing conceited. When opportunities for advancement arise your value needs to already be established. Your accomplishments, abilities and contributions should be known to others. It’s important to come across as confident and ready to lead.
2. Externally Contribute - Look at your network of contacts and cultivate those relationships. The communication needs to be direct contact. It’s about building personal connections, not just using group messaging. Meet face to face, if possible. If that’s not convenient try using video technology, such as skype, to communicate. The key is building a relationship through familiarity. Combining a face with a voice builds stronger bonds. Actively look for information you think would be of interest to them. Find out their professional aspirations and inquire what you can do to help them achieve them. Look for people within your network where you can connect them, if there’s someone at an organization that might be valuable. To receive help you have to have given help.     
3. Have a “Talk Ups” Folder - Create a folder on your computer where you keep all of the compliments and recognition from others. This can be emails, scanned documents, awards, certifications, special commendations etc... Having evidence of your achievements assists in career discussions and completing performance reviews. They’re often forgotten during the course of a year and very difficult to do from memory without notes. Make a list of accomplishments you keep updated at regular intervals (weekly or monthly). If you have a voicemail system that allows messages to be archived, save them and notate it to your accomplishments list. The list takes opinion out of the equation and your achievements are validated with supporting documentation.            

Exiting your comfort zone requires some change but it’s something you can certainly accomplish. Self-advocation makes finding new opportunities and building relationships far easier. Companies and recruiters gauge what you can do on what you’ve accomplished in the past. Keep records of your accomplishments and accolades. Include them in your resumé, discuss them during interviews, and add them to your social media (LinkedIn) profiles. Once you’ve had successful forays into self-advocating it’ll become easier and doors of opportunity start to open.

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