Orville Pierson’s Blog

Surviving a Mass Layoff

Sometimes it’s like a tsunami. Layoffs sweep through an industry and a lot of people in a lot of companies are swept out of jobs.

You may remember when it happened in the steel industry in the 1980’s. I do. I was one of the many people providing career transition services in that one. In the end, much of our steel production was swept offshore, and tens of thousands of jobs were swept away.

The layoffs and ensuing changes were massive. Bethlehem Steel, one of the top employers of the 20th century, ceased to exist. Another storied industrial giant, U.S. Steel, released thousands of employees and also disappeared, replaced by a repositioned company, USX.

But this kind of tsunami doesn’t kill people. And you don’t need to let it kill your career either. If you’re willing to make the effort, you can and will get re-employed in a good new position, even if the industry where you’re accustomed to working is not doing so well. You might decide to start a new career, and it might even be better than your last one. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Two things are essential. You need to understand the career transition game, top to bottom. Completely. No kidding. And you will need to put in a lot of hours at a difficult and sometimes unpleasant job called job hunting.

If you’re willing to do that, I know that you will get re-employed in a job you like. How do I know?  I’ve been doing this for over 30 years. Lee Hecht Harrison, the company where I work, has been doing it even longer. Over the years, LHH has assisted over a million people as they went through it. We know how the career transition game works. It’s not that complicated.

After a massive layoff in a single industry, the job market in that industry is flooded with candidates and short on jobs. That does not mean there are no opportunities, since massive change always creates opportunities. But it does mean that you will need to be better than the average job hunter in the areas of career change and industry change, because you may need to do one of those.

Here are two places you can get started.

Reading. I’ve written two books on job hunting. But I’m not the only career author. There are – no kidding – thousands of books on the topic. Please do examine the author’s credentials before using a book. Read several books, just as you would when undertaking any important project in an area where your experience is limited. And don’t rely solely on information on the Internet. It’s fragmented and you don’t always know who wrote it. Or why.

Talking. Talk to other job hunters – but not about how bad the job market is or how difficult unemployment is. Those conversations don’t make things any better. Why not start a conversation about how to be really effective in job hunting in a tough market?  See if you can find a job search networking group that you like. Or you could start a Job Search Work Team.

You will also need to make sure your finances are under control, since you may have limited income for a while. And you may need to work on getting your emotions under control because you have important work to do.

You’re going to get a great new job with a great new employer. Millions have done it before you, some in ordinary times, some in tsunamis. They got jobs. You will too, if you work on it.

Steel industry employees found new jobs and careers. And, in case you didn’t notice, U.S. Steel staged a comeback.

So can you. And a lot faster.

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