Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Specialists, generalists and navigating the path to career advancement 6: understanding and surmounting unexpected challenges 2

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on May 5, 2014

This is my sixth installment to a series on the changing nature of specialist and generalist career path options, and both as their choice impacts on job search and the immediate here-and-now of employment and employability, and on longer term career advancement opportunity (see my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 359 and following for Parts 1-5.)

I have been writing in this series, and certainly in Part 5 of it, about preparing for the deleteriously unexpected in jobs and careers and with a goal of limiting its happening, and about more easily and effectively responding to it if the unexpected does happen. Then I ended Part 5 by posing what many would see as the one fundamental question:

• And what can you do to more effectively find your way back into the actively employed workforce if you are laid off?

And I added that I would begin addressing that at the moment that you arrive at work, most frequently on a Friday, and find a note on your computer keyboard – which I add probably no longer responds to your usual login. I do so here.

Sometimes the writing is clearly on the wall that this is likely, and even very directly from the occurrence of other earlier rounds of layoffs. But sometimes a layoff does in fact come without any real warning at all. I have even seen employers withhold crucial information about a business and its solvency from their employees while trying to keep it going and in good standing with their suppliers and customers – until they have no choice but to act. So I assume here that you arrive at work to find this note without any warning or expectation as to what might come. And in this context it does not matter whether in retrospect, you might see that you already had at least some warning signs of possible layoffs to come that you just did not recognize for what they were.

You have to meet with your manager – your soon to be former manager or perhaps with someone from Human Resources, or you have an immediate appointment with a third party specialist who has been brought in under contract to manage the process of easing you and others out the door. What do you do now?

• This is a situation that is incredibly stressful, but it is also one with long-term consequences. So even if you feel fairly numb when this first arises you are still facing and beginning to deal with a great deal of emotion. But you have to be calm and objective and analytical in what you do and in what you ask for and agree to.
• This means thinking this through in advance even if that means doing so more in the abstract, and as thoroughly as possible, so you can have a basic check list that you can follow when and if it becomes needed. Or alternatively this means finding and thinking through other’s checklists for how to deal with this type of career crisis, and once again, in advance of your needing this and proactively as a basic part of your career planning. I tend to recommend that approach when I coach others on jobs and careers planning, and the value of gaining insight from people who have gone through this and who have worked with others who have.

I begin this discussion here with a basic starter list of issues where you need to know the details before you agree to anything, if you are to ask for and agree to the right things and in the right ways.

• Are you being laid off through a downsizing and under terms where your employer does not claim cause from your actions or performance, or are you being dismissed under terms where your employer is claiming grounds for dismissal against you?
• If this is a “no fault layoff or downsizing” then you will not have to deal with or explain any claimed cause when and as you seek out a next job. And that can significantly impact on what types and levels of benefits you are entitled to and for how long too.
• If your employer is claiming that they are dismissing you with cause, you are probably going to need an attorney, and one who practices in the area of employment and employee rights law.
• What is being offered you? This is an open ended question that can include cash or other monetarily valued settlement payment, salary continuation for some agreed to period of time, and/or better terms on investment plans that you have participated in while employed there, among other options. This might very well include outplacement service and if so you need to know where you would receive this help and how current the professionals are who offer it and how appropriate their experience and their contacts are for people in your industry and at your job level. I have seen laid-off employees offered what charitably could be considered horrible, completely out of date career and reemployment coaching from people who are uselessly out of date with the jobs markets and with job search tools and resources that are currently available and in use by everyone else looking. Know what you are being offered.
• Know what you are being asked to sign and legally agree to. If you are pressured to simply get it over with and sign everything right away pull back and say that it is important to you that you fully understand what you sign before you do so. You do in most places and under most circumstances have a right to have any agreements or documents that you are asked to sign, reviewed by an attorney. These are, after all, legal contracts. And if you are told that you will lose certain rights if you do not sign right away that is in many cases wrong and even illegal and it should definitely be seen as a warning sign of problems to come.
• This includes knowing what you do and do not admit to or acknowledge as reason for your dismissal.
• This includes knowing precisely what you are being offered, from leaving this place of employment through layoff or dismissal, and for what you are actually being offered in writing to help you while looking. Health insurance coverage is only one of the important issues here, and even that has its complexities, where you need to know what type of coverage you will have and for who and for what and for how long and at what out of pocket costs to you – including both monthly premiums and also copays and other out of pocket expenses if you use this coverage. What is in writing and signed to, takes precedent over anything expressed verbally during this meeting.
• This means knowing if some or all of what you are being offered is being offered as incentive to sign and agree to new non-disclosure or non-compete contracts. And if so, you need to know and understand precisely what would happen if you do or do not sign them.
• The more you are asked, or told to sign and the more complex it is, and the more pressure you are placed under to sign quickly, the more important it is that you seek out professional help. This does not mean any and every dismissed employee needs a lawyer, but if you do not understand what you are being offered and under what terms, and with clear certainty, you at least need the time to read everything over and think it through. And you do need to know your general rights in this and in advance, as part of your basic career planning tool kit.

I am going to continue this narrative in a next series installment, but as a final note here and for this posting I add that I have stated in the last few series installments that I would “look into the new generalist role in employment and careers development.” I will more formally do so, but add here that a big part of being that new generalist is to develop and maintain the tools you need for dealing with the unexpected, as I am discussing here. And along with knowing better and more clearly how to navigate the scenarios I write of in this posting, this also means knowing better where to look next when pursuing a next job and next career step. I will complete my discussion of this meeting and of this last day of work with this employer in my next series installment and then proceed from there into what comes next. And with that, issues of specialist and generalist skills will come back to the front of my discussion.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and at the first directory page and second, continuation page to this Guide.

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