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So, what do you say when you've lost your job?

Call it what you want – layoffs, downsizing, getting dismissed or fired, receiving your walking papers or pink slip -- losing your job hurts. The good news is that you are not alone!  In today’s ever-changing economic landscape, it’s actually quite rare to encounter someone who hasn’t experienced a layoff or who doesn’t have a close friend or family member who has. But it doesn’t make the dreadful question any easier to answer: “What do you do?”

So, what do you say to people when you’ve lost your job?

First, take the time to think through your message before hitting the market.  You can craft a message that will position yourself in a positive light. Keep these five tips  in mind as you prepare your message.

  • Be Brief: You should try to provide a short and concise response -- about 30 seconds is ideal. Do not create a 30-minute epilogue about how your former company let you go.
  • Be Positive and Confident:  Understandably, you may not have the most positive things to say about your former employer and while feeling these strong emotions are justified, try to keep them in check. Stay positive and display confidence about your future and the opportunities that lie ahead.
  • Don’t Forget your Body Language. Keep in mind that we communicate not only with words but also through our body language. Even though the words coming out of your mouth may be upbeat, the negative feelings you have could be written all over your face. Recognize and understand those feelings, so they don’t infect your job search.
  • Don’t Lie. Acknowledge the situation and if it was an uncomfortable exit from the organization, practice a positive, energetic message focused on the future and what’s next for you. It’s not necessary to give all the details of your departure and generalizing your message can be effective.
  • Highlight That You Were Not the Only One. – If there were more than one of you affected by a reorganization or downsizing – use this to your advantage. It suggests to your future employer that it wasn’t your performance or behavior but rather the downsizing impacted multiple employees and was out of your control.

Suggested words to use:

In the Days after Being Let Go: "Actually, I just learned that my position was eliminated as part of a company reorganization. So, I'm starting to look for a new job. I'm just at the beginning of this process and need time to focus and create a plan. Can I talk with you later next week? You might have some great ideas that I can tap into.”

Transferring Skills or Changing Careers:"My position was eliminated as part of a company reorganization. I've had a chance to realize this was an opportunity for me to explore (different career), which has been a strong interest for some time, as I have experience in (skill), (skill) and (skill)."

Don’t Lie: “After 7 years with an industry leading technological company, I am now seeking a new opportunity to expand my skills and take on a new challenge.  I am seeking an executive level IT role in the St. Louis area.

Highlight That You Were Not the Only One: “My position was cut after the company that I was working for was acquired by another company. There were multiple positions in the Denver office affected, actually well over 30 of us lost our jobs due to duplication of roles. I am very excited for a new opportunity as a contractor with a local manufacturing company

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Shawna Simcik

Shawna Simcik, MA, CMP is genuinely passionate about utilizing innovative resources and market knowledge to drive organizational, career and individual excellence. As a founding partner at ICC Inc., she firmly believes that the success of a business lives and dies by its people. Acting as an extension to your internal resources, ICC provides people strategies for business results in the areas of Talent Management Consulting, Organizational Effectiveness and Compassionate Outplacement services.

Reach her/follow her/learn more at shawna@innovateicc.com @shawna_icc innovateicc.com or 855-865-4400.

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