Friday, September 24, 2010

Advice for the RIF'd

One of the most important questions I ask unemployed candidates is “what happened?”. (There are more sophisticated and/or subtle ways to approach this issue, but I prefer the direct approach). Most of the time candidates will try to put a positive spin on “what happened”. If I ask enough questions I can generally get to the truth. But that’s a subject for another time and another blog.

For the past two or three years one of the most frequent answers to the “what happened” question, is “reduction in force”, aka RIF, or its cousins “my position was eliminated” or “my department (duties/responsibilities, territory, division, company) were taken over by whoever, whatever, etc.” I still check the “spin meter” when I get one these responses. But, most of the time I find that the candidate is telling the truth. It does beg the question as to why were they RIF’d and someone else was not. But that is also a subject for another time and another blog.

Today’s subject is “Advice for the RIF’d”. What should you do when it happens to you? I’ll not attempt to cover all the bases and potential issues, but I do want to point out SEVEN of the most important things you should do if you get RIF’d.

Number One: Be Nice. Don’t get mad, don’t burn a bridge. Be Nice.

Number Two: Negotiate a severance arrangement. Be nice, but ask for some sort of salary/benefit continuation. In most cases, there may be a company policy on severance or “a package” will be offered when you get RIF’d. Be nice, be reasonable, but if the severance seems a little light, ask for more. And if nothing is offered, be nice, but be persistent in asking for some consideration.

Number Three: Be nice, but don’t sign anything until you’ve had a chance to think it over for at least 24 hours. And depending on your position in the organization and the issues on the table (i.e. severance pay, stock options, non-compete agreements), you would do well to have an attorney look over any documents you’re being asked to sign.

Number Four: Ask your boss for a letter of recommendation regarding your performance and confirmation that your departure was the unfortunate result of a RIF. You may run into company policies against writing letters of recommendation, but you should still press your employer for written confirmation that your departure was part of a RIF.

Number Five: Take it personally. Be nice, but take it personally. Losing a job is about as personal as it gets, whether it’s your fault or not. Pretending that it’s not “personal” only makes it worse, especially if your spouse takes it personally, and they will. It’s ok to be angry, it’s not ok act angry. Be nice.

Number Six: Take a breather before starting your job search. Every situation is different, but at minimum give it 48 hours before you start reaching out to people. A week or two is even better.

Number Seven: Before you start firing resumes all over the planet, work your professional network. And work it over the phone or in person. Email is a wonderful tool, but not for this. (And if a headhunter is part of your network, give them a call.) And remember, Be Nice.

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