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Posted: September 22, 2009

The top 5 biggest problems of laid-off executives

The good news: they're entirely avoidable and definitely fixable

John Heckers

I have come to the conclusion that executives who lose their jobs instantly develop a number of conditions that could seriously hamper their chances of ever getting hired again. The good news is that these bothersome symptoms are entirely avoidable and definitely fixable. Here are a few:

1). Executive delusional disorder. The same executives who used to gripe about the number of useless résumés they received immediately start to mess with their résumés, even though they know that this piece of paper is going to do absolutely nothing toward getting them employed. Get a clue! Don't send résumés! Get off your duff and get out there and do something useful. Network!

2). Executive anxiety disorder. The same guy who took a month to return calls now gets upset if someone takes more than 10 minutes to return his. Why should executives who still have jobs treat him any differently than he treated unemployed executives who called him when he still had a job? Two things: executives aren't going to treat you any differently than you treated people when the shoe was on the other foot; and people aren't going to say "How high?" when you say "Jump" anymore. Live with it.

3). Executive paranoia. I see executives who have hundreds of thousands of dollars in the bank say "I have to preserve my money" when they get laid off. They refuse to buy some new suits, update their hairstyle and glasses, get a transition coach, see a financial planner, etc. They're terrified to spend money to make any changes. Employers are going to pick this up and (rightly) refuse to hire them.

4). Executive megalomania. Too many executives expect instant employment. They also expect everyone to drop everything to take care of them. Potential employers aren't going to appreciate the attitude that heaven deposited you on their doorstep. This kind of common executive arrogance will keep you unemployed for a very long time -- and should. "Humility" is the most important new word executives in today's economy need to learn.

5). Executive obsessive-compulsive disorder. Executives call their network - 30 times a month. They annoy their coaches and everyone else by sending an email and calling five minutes later to ask why the email hasn't been answered. They obsess over the fact that they interviewed yesterday and still haven't heard anything. They send letters that start with deal-killers such as "I have yet to receive...." and so on.

Recognize yourself? Try these fixes:

1). Network. If you don't have about 350-plus people in your network, you don't have a network. Get help to get one. Now. Pay for it if necessary (and it probably will be).

2). Be nice and treat people with respect. This is a good thing to do even when (especially when) employed. It is a new and interesting concept for some executives. Start it now.

3). Spend money. Hoarding will only keep you unemployed longer. Get some new suits. Pay your bills. Pay for professional help as soon as laid off (especially a financial planner and transition coach). Get a good haircut.

4). Be realistic. You're going to be out for a little while. Live with it. Nothing happens overnight. Be realistic about finances. You probably have plenty of assets. Don't act like you're about to be one of the homeless.

5). Chill. Executives who drip with anger, frustration and desperation aren't going to get jobs. The stench of fear in my conference room after a meeting of unemployed executives is palpable. Grow up! Entrepreneurs go out and find money for themselves every day. You can, too.

Some executives see unemployment as an opportunity to grow, explore new options and be happier in life. These people are a delight to work with and find themselves working much sooner than the fearful and desperate people who are the typical unemployed executive. See life as they do, and you'll be re-employed much sooner. And you'll be a much better human being.

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John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC was an Executive, Relationships, Life and Spiritual Coach in Denver with 30 years of experience  helping people with their lives, relationships and careers.

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Readers Respond

It is extremely hard on people who get laid off from a high paying job that they excelled at. Any jobs that they find out there are not going to fulfill them financially or mentally. What you need to do is look into buying a business. Right now is the perfect time to buy a small to mid size business. This economy has left a whole lot of businesses out there selling for less than their worth. Now is the time for people who want the most out of life to grasp on and take the plunge. Anyone interested in the buying of a business should check out . It is a great blog full of must have knowledge for anyone thinking about taking the plunge. It’s frequented by quite a few experts in various aspects of the field that can help you with any questions you might have or perspective you might need. Buying a business very well could be the most important decision you ever make in your life. You have to make sure you buy the right business the right way. By Frank Fitton on 2010 03 09
Hi Jon, this is John Heckers, the blogger. I understand how you feel and share some of your frustration with the childish and foolish ways that many executives respond to a bit of inconvenience in their lives. However, I might point out that executive layoffs effect all of us, as they are the money-spenders. So don't rejoice too much when the honcho making $6M a year and laid you off falls to the same axe. Unfortunately, laying off executives simply prolongs the recession, as they tend to panic and hoard. By John Heckers on 2009 09 30
Hello Joh, Given the way most folks have been getting hosed with little more than two weeks pay (if that much!) and 0 benefits I have no sympathy for those who are getting laid off with much more than they deserve. Why should an executive receive any more lay off benefits than the people he or she has shoved out the door? It amazes me that senior management thinks nothing of treating people as so much human toilet paper yet expect they should be treated better. Do I speak from bitter experience? Yes! Am I sick and tired of all the moaning and groaning about overpaid and usually inept managers getting the gold mine and the rest of us getting the shaft? Yes! Thanks for listening and letting me vent, Jon By Jon on 2009 09 30

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