Starting Over: One Guy, Two Perspectives on Losing a Job and Finding a New One

Abstract 
A former job candidate turned executive recruiter takes you through the downs and ups of losing a job and finding a new one. Two different perspectives of the same journey make this a truly valuable tool for any job hunter.

 

The following is an excerpt from Ed Tazzia’s new e-book, Starting Over: One Guy, Two Perspectives on Losing a Job and Finding a New One 

A former job candidate turned executive recruiter takes you through the downs and ups of losing a job and finding a new one. Two different perspectives of the same journey make this a truly valuable tool for any job hunter.

 

Chapter One

I needed to buy some time on a major project.  I headed to my boss's office first thing in the morning.

It was a Thursday in January, right in the middle of the company's strategic planning season.  I was the Vice President of Marketing and we were due to forward an interim report the following day.  We just weren't going to make it.

The guys in the financial planning group had been overwhelmed with monthly projection demands and they just couldn't give us the information we needed to finish our report. Management wanted both and on the same timing.  Something had to give.

I had worked out an alternative schedule with finance and I wanted to get my boss to buy off on it.  That's why I headed for his office first thing.  Once he started his day, there was no way to break in.  His assistant smiled and said he had a minute.  Go right in.

Tom looked like Tom.  I jumped into what I had to say.  As usual, I just stood inside the doorway and laid out what I saw as the problem and what I had in mind as a solution.

He listened.  Then he said, "Close the door."

I assumed we were going to vent a little frustration.  We'd been dealing with a lot of it in the past few months.  Lots of changes were taking place and not everyone was seeing the situation as clearly as we were.  So, from time to time, we ranted and raved a bit behind closed doors, just to clear the air.  Then we would get on with our corporate lives.

That's what I thought was going to happen this time.  Instead Tom told me that the company had decided to go in a different direction and that I was not going to be a part of it.  I was being let go.

I had never been fired before.  That's how I thought of it.  Fired.  Not laid off.  Not downsized.  Not any of the other euphemisms that have been invented over the years as the number of corporate reorganizations has ballooned.  Fired.

I was surprised.  Not really shocked.  Just surprised.

Afterward I found myself wondering why the news hadn't just knocked me out.  I can still remember how I've felt when I've been passed over for a promotion I thought I deserved.  That was like getting physically punched in the stomach.  Why hadn't this affected me the same way?

I suppose one reason was that it was really time for me to leave.  I had known that for some time.  But inertia is a funny thing.  I liked my home, my wife was happy in her job, my oldest daughter liked her school and her friends, we liked the lady who came to the house to watch our youngest.  I didn't want to leave and I guess I knew that if I were to change jobs, we'd have to leave the area.

I had been listening to headhunters more carefully recently.  I'd even made a few calls and had a few meetings, but I hadn't been aggressive in looking for something new.

The last year at the company had been difficult.  Management had been cutting back on staff, but not on workload.  My people were regularly working until eight at night.  Weekends were considered a normal part of the work week.

I'd generally get in about 7:00 or 7:30 in the morning, work until 6:30 or 7:00 in the evening, have dinner with my family and then read reports for three hours at home. I read in front of the TV, so I could see my kids.

It wasn't a problem really.  I wasn't complaining.  After all, I was an officer of the company.  A vice president.  Had been for four and a half years.  At my level, the extra effort was expected.  I didn't quite see it the same way for my people though.   They deserved better.  A life.

The business was below plan.  Not so much because the business was bad, but because the plan was unrealistic.   Our fiscal year started on August 1 and by August 2 it was obvious that we were in trouble.  So we spent an inordinate amount of time replanning the year… all year long.  What could we cut?  Where could we squeeze out another case?  Did we really need that advertising or that new product research or that human being?  Headcount.  That was a constant subject of discussion.

We'd forecast our volume and expenses each month.  Then we'd look at shipments each day and emotions would rise or fall with the numbers.  Half way through the month we'd have to forecast the next month.  By the time the first month's actuals were in, the next month was committed to, and the third month's forecast was due.

People spent half their time explaining why they were off on their last forecast (with little information available to answer the question) and the other half of their time forecasting the next month (for which there was no new information either).

There was little or no time left to actually do anything to move the business ahead.  At least not during normal business hours.

Folks were exhausted.  But no one slacked off.  We had a great group of people.  They kept sprinting.  But the finish line just kept moving.  Somewhere though, we crossed the line from being a “lean and mean” team to a “strapped and strained” team.

Then, to save even more money, some of the hardest workers were "laid off".  Three layoffs in nine months... and we were very profitable.  Just not as profitable as the management had “planned” and had promised to headquarters.

It's one thing to let people go who are not pulling their weight.  Not everybody is a great fit in every situation.  But, the unwritten promise between American business and its employees had always been that if you work hard and deliver on your portion of the puzzle, we will take care of you.  Because we are a team.

Companies traditionally recognized that they needed loyalty.  Companies spent a great deal of time and money training and supporting their people so that those employees could do their jobs.  When companies lost a top performer, at any level, it hurt.  So companies sold loyalty.

That's how retirement packages were put together.  The longer you stayed, the more your nest egg built.  At the company where I started my career, your profit sharing package grew exponentially over time.  The last five years were much more valuable than the first five or the middle five.

But today, loyalty seems to be expected to only move in one direction.  So there I was. My boss and friend had just told me that my services were no longer required.  His boss, the President of the company, had decided to reorganize the company… again.  The third major reorganization in three years.  The second in six months. Tom was saying that he did not agree with the decision to reorganize nor with the decision to let me go.  But he could not say anymore.

God, I felt sorry for Tom.

I knew exactly how he felt.  Nine months earlier I had to let three of my people go.  A few months after that, two more.  People who were doing their jobs.  One person I had hired and who had become a good friend.  I didn't agree with those decisions either.  I found myself thinking, "I hope I can be as gracious about this as Marilyn was when I let her go."

I tried to let Tom off the hook.  "Hey," I said, "I understand and I appreciate your support in this.  It’s probably time for me to move on anyway."  I tried to let him off the hook, but from the expression on his face, it didn't look like it was working.

I asked him if I could tell my people.  He said no.  I was to clean out my desk and leave as soon as possible.  I shouldn't speak to anyone.

This was a new one.  In the other two "downsizings" we had offered our people a chance to say good bye to friends, take a couple of hours to clean out their desks, absorb just what was happening to them.  For some reason, management was not going to let that happen here.  That hurt.

My people were very important to me.  We were a team.  We took a lot of pride in what we had accomplished in the face of some difficult problems and very limited resources.  We had been through a lot together and if someone was going to tell them that I was leaving, I thought it should be me.  Apparently, the company didn't agree.

Tom then had to shift into "Human Resources Dismissal 101".  Human Resources.  I hadn't really thought about the name of that department before, but at the moment, I was feeling more like a chunk of iron ore than a human resource.

Tom had some papers I needed to read, some papers I needed to sign, some meetings I needed to schedule. 

Although all of us in management had had some training on how to handle the dismissal of an employee, Tom was not dealing with this well.  He kept saying that he did not agree with the decision and that he would be glad to act as a reference.  If there was anything he could do...

When I got up and walked down the hall to my office, I was certain that everybody knew.  It was like it was written on my forehead.  Ed Tazzia is a failure.  He's just been fired.  Stay away so you don’t catch what he has.

I walked quickly to my office and closed the door.  I needed to call my wife.  I needed a release.  Maybe I could catch her before she left for her day.  I called.  The sitter answered.  No Julie had already left. Was there anything wrong?  No, why should anything be wrong?  I'll talk to her later, thanks.  No sense telling the world you're a failure.  It would find out soon enough.

I grabbed a couple of things off my desk.  I don't even remember what.  And, I headed home.

***

On the ride home I thought about a lot of things.  I remembered other more pleasant rides home.  Like the time right after I'd been promoted and nobody else knew.  I rode home to tell the family.  Couldn't wait to see their faces.  I was bouncing off the walls with excitement.

Now I could wait.  I knew how Julie would react.  She'd be supportive.  She'd tell me I was too good for them anyway and this was a chance to make a move.  To take a step up.  I'd been thinking about it anyway, hadn't I?  Julie has always been my most ardent supporter.  She thinks more of me than I do of myself.  I knew she'd be fine.

But what would I say to the kids.  To Gennie really.  Samantha was only two, so I didn't think she would notice.  But, what do you say to an eleven year old?  Gee, your dad's a failure.  I've been fired.  I don't know what I'll be doing next, but don't worry.  We'll probably have to move because there aren't any jobs around here, but don't worry.  Work hard in school, get good grades, get a good job and everything will be alright?  Trust me, I know.  Or, I did know.  Or, I thought I knew.

I've always been very sure of myself.  I knew what I believed in.  What I considered right and wrong.  I had goals and objectives.  And had achieved most of them.  And, because of this certainty, I was very certain about how my kids should act.  What their values should be. 

Now I wasn't so sure.

What would I say to her?  How would she feel about me?  How could I give her direction for her life when I couldn't control my own?

Gennie had had some friends whose fathers had been laid off (somehow I could accept that they were laid off, but I felt like everyone would think of me as fired).  It hadn't seemed to phase her or her friends.  I knew this, but assumed it would somehow be different when it happened in our family.  I didn't know what I would say.

***

The sitter was surprised to see me when I showed up in the middle of the morning.  I gave her some excuse about a meeting or something and went directly to my den, closing the door behind me.

The first thing I did was to try to call my wife again.  She was a sales representative for a big packaged goods company and she was on the road.  No answer so I tried to leave a message for her to call me.  I knew she checked her messages regularly.

Unfortunately, this was clearly not my day.  I punched in the numbers, but the little computer voice refused to admit that her phone number even existed.  After about three tries, I called her office to see if they had the key to this thing.  I was not in the mood to be understanding of a phone company glitch.  They couldn't make it work either.  We agreed I would just leave word with them and hopefully Julie would call in.

Well she did.  A few moments later I got a call from her.  What was the problem?  If I was home in the middle of the morning, there had to be a problem.  I told her we didn't have to worry about who would stay with the kids when our business trips conflicted in early February.  I had been let go.

The call was brief.  Julie was calm.  Just as I knew she'd be.  Should she come home?  Her only concern at the moment was how I was dealing with this.  I said no.  I was fine.  No need to break up her day.  It turns out she didn't listen to me and started home immediately.  Just to see for herself how I was dealing with this.  I was glad she did.

After I hung up, I turned and looked out the window onto the lake.  This was our dream house.  Private lake.  A small boat.  Large Weeping Willow trees.  And an even larger mortgage.  We had just spent a fortune adding a new master bedroom with a fireplace, a gigantic master bath with a Jacuzzi, a dining room, and my favorite room...my den.

My den.  Dad's room.  A place for my books and my pipes.  It was paneled, had a comfortable leather easy chair, a classic desk, and a view of the lake.  It made me feel like Ward Cleaver.  Funny the values you develop way back in your childhood.

At that moment, all I could think was that I would have to give it up.  It would be someone else's room.  Not too many jobs for Vice Presidents of Marketing in consumer goods in Detroit.  We'd have to move.

My parents lived in the same house they brought me to when I was six weeks old.  They built it.  Added to it.  Embellished it.  They never moved.  When I was growing up, I can only think of one family on our block that moved and even then they only moved across town.  You knew the same kids all the way through grade school, all the way through high school.  In fact, I was the first one in our entire family to move out of the Detroit area and that was after college.

Now I was going to wrench my oldest child from her friends and her school and her dance classes, all because I was a flop.  I was beginning to feel pretty miserable.

Then my emotions changed a little.  I started to read the severance agreement the company had "offered.”  The offer was ‘take what we're giving and sign away your rights’ or leave it and get squat.

It was no different from the offer we made to the employees in the first two layoffs.  Our parent company had had to face some major layoffs in the past couple of years and they had obviously spent some considerable time with their lawyers to write an agreement that favored the company.

Hell, I understood their position.  Until a few hours ago, I was "them”.  I was only really bothered by two things.  First, the severance period seemed pretty short given my time with the company and my job level.  A vice presidency should count for something, I thought.  Second, some of the perks...my company car, airline clubs, and things like that were to disappear very quickly.  I thought of these as part of my compensation and I thought of compensation lasting for the length of the severance period.

For a little while I got angry.  Then I decided that I would just make a logical case to Bob, the Vice President of Administration.  He would see the error here.

After all, when I was in Tom’s office hadn’t we called Bob for clarification on the materials and hadn’t he said he was sorry this had happened?  Hadn’t he said he’d do whatever he could to help?  Just call him.  I decided to call him the very next morning to set up a meeting.  No problem.  I felt better.  At least a little.

* * *

I decided to contact the one person I knew who might have some insight into what had happened and what I might do to land on my feet.  He had been a personal counselor to the management team.  We’d been working on my development as an executive over the last several years.  He was the confidant of the President.  He’d know what was what.  I called him and invited him to lunch that very day.  He said yes.  Good thing.

It was about an hour ride to meet with him.  Just what I needed, another hour to myself in the quite of my car.  A chance to think, to wonder what had happened and how the wheels had come off so quickly.  Just a month or so earlier, I’d gotten a raise, a great review, stock options.  Now I was outside looking in.

Over lunch I told him what I thought had happened and he told me what he thought had happened.  The net of it was that I was out, but not because I was a bad citizen or a bad performer.  The management had just decided to make a change. Go another direction.  It happens sometimes, he explained.  I wanted to believe that, so I did.

I told him that John, the President, had offered to talk about things as soon as I wanted.  He suggested that I take up the offer.  He said that he believed that John still thought highly of me and that I would feel better about myself if I heard that from John.  I wanted to believe that, too, so I did.

Then, I asked him if he could put me in contact with some of the major league headhunters that I knew he knew.  He said no.

I was crushed.  We had been friends a long time.  He had been my advisor.  My mentor.  And, he knew more people in the industry than anyone else in my network.  A single word from him could have secured me a new job instantly.  I was sure of it.  And, now in my hour of need, he said no to my plea.  I must really be a pariah.

He explained that the market was saturated and that his contacts had simply told him not to bother passing on any new names.  The markets were getting skittish, the economy was getting mixed signals, and a whole lot of companies had made “downsizing” the management fad of the decade.

He offered to be a reference and asked me to keep in touch. He bought lunch.  We parted company.  I was feeling a little better about myself as a businessman.  Maybe I wasn’t a failure.  Maybe.

But, I was still out of work for the first time in my life and without any real good ideas about how to handle things.

Before I drove home, I called the outplacement service I had been offered as a part of my severance package.  We agreed that I would meet them first thing the next morning.

I headed home.

It was over an hour ride to get back home.  The thoughts were whizzing through my head.  Time to call some people back.  Time to call some old friends.  Time to get cracking on this new job thing.  The Vice President of Administration had told me that my full time job now was to find a job.  Right?

* * *

When I got home, Julie and I talked some more.  I told her about the lunch and that I probably wasn’t a complete failure in everyone’s eyes.  She gave me that look that means, “How can you even think those kinds of things?  Don’t be stupid.”

Initially, we decided not to tell the kids or the sitter.  No sense sending panic through the entire household.  I was panicked enough for everyone, thank you.

That night I met my buddy, Steve, and we went to a college basketball game.  We had season tickets.  I didn’t tell him what had happened that day.  Pride’s funny.  I’d known this guy for forever.  Went to high school together.  Roommates in college.  Introduced him to his wife.  Godfathers to each other’s daughters.  I didn’t say a word.  We just went to the game like we always did.

One of the folks from my office had tickets, too, and she came by to say how sorry she was.  I said thanks and asked how everyone was handling things.  The answer didn’t sound too good.  I told her I’d call and not to worry.   I was going to be fine.

After the game I told Steve and apologized for not telling him sooner.  I told him things would be fine.  He said he knew they would.  At least now when I finished dinner, I wouldn’t have to read for three hours.

* * *

I drove to the outplacement offices first thing the next morning.  On a good day, this would be about an hour commute.  Seventy-six miles a day.  At least it was expressway most of the way.  Well, what that meant was that there were no traffic lights.  It had nothing to do with being express.  A lot of cars were headed in the same direction I was.

Outplacement.  For people who have never had contact with this particular service, here’s my definition.  Outplacement is a way station for the former employee and a salve for the former employer.

In the old days, companies did not use outplacement services.  Depending on your job level and your company, if you were asked to leave, you were often given an office and a secretary.  We used to call it “special assignment with a phone.”  Your job was to get a new job and the company continued to pay you while you looked.

That way, when you called a prospective employer you could honestly say that you were still working for company X and when you received calls, your secretary would answer with your name, just like a real live businessperson.

The downside for the company was that you might be disruptive to the fellow employees you left behind.  The downside for the employee was that every day you saw people that you knew, who knew what you were doing, and that you had not “made the grade”.

As more and more companies started massive downsizing programs, the numbers of ex-employees overwhelmed the old system.  I suppose the risk of armed insurrection started to increase as more and more people who were recognized as solid performers had to be let go.  The ones who the companies retained had to be nervous enough about their jobs without being faced daily with former co-workers who might not be too tickled about their situations and the circumstances of their dismissal.

Enter outplacement.  Their pitch is that they can offer the former employees a humane transition into a new job.  The company can feel good that it has remained “loyal” to the end and they can save money, because the outplacement guys can do all this for less than the company could itself because they’re spreading the cost over a whole bunch of folks.

Whatever logic or rationalization my company used to justify outplacement to themselves, it was a savior to me.

* * *

I arrived to meet the owner of the company.  A heavyset, jovial man who seemed to honestly want to help.  He had this great office.  Lots of windows.  Great view.  Nicely decorated.

He briefly outlined what services he provided.  First and foremost was an office, but only if you got there early enough.  Lots of folks were out of work, so the offices were at a premium.  First come, first served.  Well that was no problem, I’d just be there waiting for the door to be opened.

The pecking order was simple.  The “A” offices had windows, a desk, two chairs that didn’t match, and a phone.  The “B” offices had no window, but at least had walls, a door, and of course a phone.  And, the “C” offices weren’t really offices at all, sort of cubicles, those moveable half walls that never seem to block out the noise from the other conversations in the room.

Everything was very sterile.  I asked why.  Why, for example, weren’t offices assigned?  Why weren’t things “finished”?  Plants.  Pictures.  Something to make the place a little more comfortable.  This was already going to be a tough time without dreading the place you had to go every day.  The answer the owner gave was simple, too.

“We don’t want anyone to get too comfortable here,” he said.  “We want people to get jobs and leave.”

God, how could that ever be a problem?  Could anyone get so comfortable at outplacement that they stopped looking?  Not me, boy.

But, apparently there were people like that.  He told me a story about one fellow that showed up one of his first days with one of those two wheel delivery dollies, just piled with boxes.  He had pictures of his family, files, plants.  He was moving in for the long haul.  Bad idea.

* * *

We continued to talk about what I was going through and how he and the staff were going to help me.  I remember him saying that anyone could get a job.  Even a job that paid six figures.  Just look out the windows of the very building we were in.  In the warm weather months, you would see guys cleaning the windows of this high-rise.  I could probably get that job and get paid a lot of money.   I told him there could never be that much money, but he’d made his point. 

In addition to offices, or at least a desk and a phone, the company offered clerical services.  There were people there to answer the phones, type, copy, fax.  They also had some personal computers which were also available on a first come, first served basis.  There was a limited amount of research material about companies, but the public library was just across the street. 

The primary service offered by this and most other outplacement firms was personal counseling.  The staff would help you think about what had just happened to you, help you deal with it, and then help you attack the job search.

They would work with you on an assessment of your skills, strengths and weaknesses, as well as your desires for your next job.  Then they’d help you write a resume and cover letters.  Work with you on how to make phone calls.  And, even train you to interview better, generally using mock interviews and video so you could see just how big a boob you can be and then to help you improve.

All of the staff were former human resources professionals.  They had all spent a lot of time hiring and firing people and knew what was happening to me.  Probably better than I did. 

After meeting with the owner, I found an open office.  It was a Friday and things were generally slower as many “clients” of the outplacement firm took long weekends or worked out of their homes.

One of the guys came in to welcome me.  He introduced himself and said, “So when did you get canned.”  I thought, “That’s particularly sensitive.”

Before I could answer, he dove into how he’d, “Gotten it,” on Halloween and that was four months ago.  “Trick or treat.”  This guy was really pissed off.  I decided to find other new friends in my new playground.  This guy was going to bring me down saying good morning.  Turns out, I didn’t have to worry; he got a job the next week and was gone.  Hope he gets over that anger.

My own counselor was out that first day.  He was on sales calls.  I had a vision of those sales calls.  “I understand you are about to dump a large number of loyal, unsuspecting, hard working people and send their lives into the crapper.  Perhaps we can help.”   I pictured a vulture.

We talked about that later and he had a very different view.  He told me that in his career as a personnel manager and executive he had had to let hundreds of people go.  Now he was in a position to help hundreds of people find jobs. He didn’t work for the company, despite the fact that they were the ones paying his salary.  He was working for the former employees.   And, he was feeling a lot better about himself.

* * *

The way I’m put together, once I decide to do something, I want to get on with it.  Get a plan and go.  Make the decision to buy a car?  Then get on with it.  Decided to buy a house?  Look at a couple and buy.  None of this shopping around stuff.

I also knew how I was going to deal with being out of work.  If I had a job in about three months, no problem.  But after that, the panic would start in earnest.  Financial panic.  As the severance package started to drain, I knew I would not handle things well.  I didn’t want to hear about the average number of months for a search.  Or, one month for every $10,000 in salary.

I wanted to get going.  I needed to get going.  So I started to make calls.  Friends mostly.  “Just wanted to let you know that I’ve been let go.  Just wanted to let you know that I’ve parted company with the company.  Just wanted to let you know that if you call me at the office, I won’t be there.” 

Funny.  Most everyone seemed to know already, even though it had only been about twenty-four hours.  They all seemed very upset.  How could the company do such a thing?  What did this mean?  What was going to happen next?  It just wasn’t fair. 

The folks I called at my old company thanked me for the time we had worked together.  They said they had really enjoyed it and learned a lot.  I said I had, too. They were all very concerned about me and my family.  How were we doing?  Are Julie and the girls okay?  How are they taking it?  They wanted to know how they could help.

After several of these calls and hearing the same sentiment, I felt a lot better about myself.  Clearly, not everyone agreed with management’s decision.  Maybe I wasn’t so bad after all.

I keep talking about this feeling of failure and these self-doubts.  People who read this might think, “God, what a wimp.  They probably should have dumped this clown long ago.  Get a life you weenie.”

The fact is, I’m a very good manager, a very good executive.  A top performer in college.  Hired by the top packaged goods firm in the world.  Rapid promotion.  Many successes.  My confidence has always been a major asset to me.  I’ve always been respected by my bosses and their bosses, my peers, and my people.

But, I’ll tell you.  All those years of praise and promotion and glowing personnel reviews don’t mean a thing the day your boss says, “We don’t need you anymore.”

It’s like an old boss of mine used to say.  “One oh shit, wipes out a whole ton of attaboys.”

Is it paranoia?  They say it’s not paranoia if they’re really chasing you.  And, I had pretty solid evidence that I was being chased.  I had just had an outstanding personnel review from my boss three months earlier.  I’d gotten a raise and a big bonus.  Now I was outside looking in.

If you’ve always been at the top of your class, the high performer, the guy on the way up, then the fall is that much further and the landing that much harder.  At least it was for me.  Man, you doubt everything.

Don’t tell me it has happened to thousands of other professionals, who are now happy as clams.  Don’t tell me it’s going to get better.   I hadn’t been through this before and no one has been through things in just the same way it was happening to me.  My case is different.

I am a product of the values of my parents.  And, they are a product of their parents...and the Depression.  Work hard, keep your nose clean, and good things will happen.  Nose to the grindstone.  That’s how you get ahead.  So, when you lose your job, it must have been you who has done something wrong.  There must be some flaw in you.  And, when you lose your job, all the most terrible things will happen.  You lose your home, everything.

Now, I’m a pretty smart guy and I knew that if I looked at these terrible things logically, they were not going to happen.  I would find a good job.  My family would be fine.  I would be happy.  Maybe happier than I was before.

But, when you first lose your job, logic has no place in your mind.

One of the people I spoke to the first day was Marilyn.  She was the Director I had had to let go the previous spring.  I told her about the meeting with Tom and how I’d wanted to be as classy as she had been with me.

The day I had given her her walking papers, I was a wreck.  Didn’t sleep at all the night before.  Couldn’t look her in the eye when I told her.  Felt like an absolute schmuck.

But, at the moment I gave her the news she had said, “If you’ve lost a minute of sleep worrying about me, Ed, it’s your own fault.  I’m going to be fine.  This will just allow me to do something I’ve always wanted to do and have a little extra jingle in my jeans from the severance check."

She reminded me of that when I called her.  She had done well.  Shortly after leaving the company, she had joined a consulting firm as a Vice President with a great future.  She had moved to Atlanta, where she and her husband had always wanted to live, and she was happier than she'd been in years.

We had a good talk.  She offered to be a reference as a former subordinate and I thanked her.  She'd keep her eyes open and she had a few names for me to call.  My network was starting to grow.

***

That first weekend, I had one thing I had to do.  I had to accept a job offer.  At least I thought I would be accepting a job offer.  It would be the shortest unemployment period on record.  I would sock away my entire severance check and have a great head start on the kids' college tuition.

As I said, while I hadn't been very aggressive in looking for a new job, I had had some conversations.  On Sunday morning, I met with the President of a small advertising agency who had discussed my joining the firm as his heir apparent with a comfortable salary and a piece of the business.

It was ideal for me.  I liked the business, the few people I'd met, and the long term opportunity it represented.  I also liked not having to be out of work for more than a week.

Well, we met.  Unfortunately, between meeting number two and meeting number three, the agency’s owners had gotten cold feet.  I was just too expensive for them.  Yes, they needed the talent, the experience, and the credentials I would provide.  And no, they had no other candidates.  But, they just couldn't make it happen.  Not with the market the way it was and nervous clients with nervous budgets.

Driving home I felt whipped.  My first rollercoaster ride. 

If I’d only realized how many more I would have before it was over.  But this was new for me.  I had had four interviews in my professional life up until then.  I accepted the first one, turned down the second, and accepted the fourth.  I'd only been turned down once for a job and it wasn't one that I wanted much at the time.  This was a new and not very pleasant experience.  Rejection.  Not what I needed.

***

Recruiter’s View

You’ve heard it all before.  But, just in case it didn’t sink in, getting a new job may be the most important job you’ll ever have. 

Everybody recognizes that the market is tough today for those who are looking for a new job.  Even in the best of markets, finding the right job and doing it efficiently takes work.  No matter how good you are.  No matter what your track record. It is almost a given that finding your next job will take longer than you think.

The one essential rule is that you have to treat the job of getting a job like a marketing campaign with all the discipline you would use in any business you’ve ever run or any marketing plan you’ve ever executed. 

First thing to remember is to put the last job behind you.  For a lot of us who have been downsized or rightsized or reorganized, the moment when we were told was like a punch in the gut.  If you’re like me your father worked for the same company for years.  The rules of the game were, “Work hard, keep your nose clean and good things will happen.”  So if you were “let go” you must have been somehow flawed.

You need to work through those feelings and get them behind you.  My guess is that nearly everybody you will meet during your job search has been through the same ringer or personally knows someone who has.  They know firsthand that losing a job no longer means that you are damaged goods.  The fact is that businesses have let a lot of very talented people get away in the name of short-term goals, so stop thinking about it.  It’s done. 

Now is your chance to make the next move a positive one.  But, if there is anger or bitterness or even sadness and shame lingering, do not make the first phone call. Do not take that first interview.

As a recruiter, I’ve seen both ends of the spectrum.  Some candidates are so bitter and angry that they will never get presented to one of my clients.  No one needs to introduce that sort of negativity into their business. 

On the other extreme, I’ve had sixty-two year old company presidents break down in tears because they had lost their job.  This may be a new world and showing emotions may no longer be taboo, but no one wants a CEO in that sort of emotional state.

So take some time.  Get some help.  Work through whatever you need to work through.  But do it before you start talking to recruiters or potential employers.

* * *

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