07 Sep 2020 19:17 IST

How do you begin again after losing a job?

Setting expectations right and reaching out to your dependable work friends can help during a downturn

We are collectively going through a difficult time. The whole world is moving around with face masks and hand sanitizers. Businesses are falling apart and as a consequence, job losses are mounting. We know organisations go through booms and depressions. Boom times witness frenetic hiring and depressions cause lay-offs. This column is focused on what the job seekers who are out of work due to Covid can do to help themselves.

Here are some recommendations for those looking for a job during a crisis:


Leverage the “gig” opportunities around

Focus on the “shared economy” or the “gig workplace” many organisations are looking to hire. In mature job markets like US, uberisation of the workforce is a fairly well-established practice. This is fast catching up in India, and several other countries in our part of the world. Project-based organisations leverage this extensively besides firms that are addressing their requirements for seasonal demands. Many of the otherwise talented employees can look for opportunities. There are many portals that are available to tap into. Some of the well-known portals for IT professionals include Kaggle, UpWorks, and similar ones.

Most organisations using these “just-in-time” project needs also provide reasonable insurance coverage and other benefits almost on par with their full-time employees.


Reach out the Steve Jobs way

This may sound too simplistic. However, many looking for jobs do not put it to use enough. Some reach out to close friends, and some others to their LinkedIn contacts. I would like to retell a real story here and one that is from Steve Jobs himself.

As a high school student, Jobs was looking for some spare parts for a device he was building. He called Bill Hewlett of Hewlett-Packard for spare parts. Guess what? Steve Jobs not only got the spare parts, but more — a job with HP. Many of us are too shy to ask for help, particularly strangers. All we need to do is the right research to find people who share the same field, and probably likely to help. The chances are that they will be more than happy to help. You can watch Steve Jobs speaking about his experience here.


Sending in your resume is not the only way to get a job

Many of us tend to follow the traditional approach to getting a job — mailing the resume and hoping for an interview call. There is, of course, more that you can do than following the traditional approach as is. And this can be fairly simple and productive too. This involves reaching out to a few people in companies you believe your skills would be useful in and setting up a few informal meetings with them.

Of course, some may ask what is the objective of this meeting. Without sounding desperate, while being honest, you could say you are looking for guidance and just 30 minutes of their time. I bet that nearly 50 per cent of those you reach out will oblige for this half an hour engagement. These meetings will perhaps conclude with you seeking guidance on chartering the next course of your career. This has proven to have stellar effect on one’s chances of landing a job much sooner than otherwise. This must be tried to be believed!


Don’t look for the perfect job or compensation

Even during good times, it is worth remembering that one must always be prepared for “one job up, one job down, one job to the left and one job to the right.” This simply means that reorganisations and restructuring will be a way of life for most companies and therefore we should be both willing and equipped to be flexible.

Let me cite a case in point here. A very capable former colleague of mine was laid off and was looking for a job. I referred him to several search consultants. Guess what was the feedback I received from each one of these search consultants? They unanimously  had one thing to say that my former colleague was hell bent on not only seeking the same salary he was drawing before being laid off, but actually insisted on an increase over his last compensation. Even after I shared this feedback promptly with him, he did not change his mind. It took him a lot longer before he eventually settled for a lower job with a decent compensation. Prioritise your need of the hour — it could be job security, role, money, and so on. Have a healthy measure of realistic attitude if you are looking for a job to respond immediately.


Be honest with your future employer during the interviews

Another important thing to bear in mind is not to hide the fact that you were laid off. Most employers understand that it is not always about personal performance but business conditions necessitating terminations. This is again better understood in Western societies than in our own. Way back in 1998, I represented my company and participated in a job fair in San Jose. We were looking at hiring some technology folks keen on returning to India and joining our company in our our newly set up embedded-software division. Many foreign nationals were comfortable saying they just got laid off and were looking for a job.

This is still a taboo in India, and will perhaps take time to change. In any case, your future employer is going to assess your suitability for the job, even if you were laid off. Just that plain honesty helps an extra bit.


Connecting to your network

Yet another important thing to remember in our job searching process is staying in touch with juniors as much as with past work friends and seniors. Our juniors and former direct reports can be a very useful source of reference and contact. Obviously, it helps a lot more if we had invested in their career and growth when we worked with them and built a strong relationship.

These are truly trying times. And our relationship capital will matter more than our skills and competencies which are necessary for table-stakes. All of us can seek out emotional comfort or be a source of emotional support for those who need it.