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When you thought it wasn’t personal

A reader recently wrote to me with a unique situation. They landed an impressive contract position. Everything was going along great for eleven months until one day, they were let go. The company laid off a large number of people all at the same time. After soliciting feedback, the reader was given a good review and sent on their way.

It wasn’t personal. Or, was it? Just a few days after being let go, their contract job appeared online as an open position. It was the same job at the same company. Then, a friend of the reader was hired at the same company. They asked what had happened. They were told the reader was let go due to poor performance issues.

How could this be? The reader had never been given any negative feedback. They were told it wasn’t about them.

After this incident, the reader has had multiple job interviews. This has left them with a difficult question. “What should I say in future job interviews if someone asks ‘Why did you leave the company?’ How do I honestly answer that without bad mouthing anyone?”

Reader, let me say first, I am so sorry this happened to you. Being let go from a company is difficult enough. Receiving conflicting messages about it later is even worse.

When you interview, it’s very important to be honest. It’s also important to be as accurate as possible. The problem here is that the company may not have been honest with you. If there was a performance issue as you have heard, it’s possible that your manager avoided their duties by not giving you direct and constructive feedback.

The problem is, you don’t really know the truth. What you’ve heard is third hand information at best. It’s tough to know how much of what you were told is a rumor and how much is reality. For example, did the feedback come from your boss or from an old coworker who likes to gossip?

In a case like this, it can be tough to know what to say in an interview. But, the best course of action may be to go with the company line. You were part of a random company layoff. It wasn’t personal. Your performance ratings were good. It’s what is documented in your employee file.

Unfortunately, when someone leaves a company, others have a tendency to talk. Often, they may try to guess the reasons someone left. This gossip can spread misinformation.

Even if the rumor is true, how would you validate it? And how would it benefit you to do so? It would not be helpful to provide unproven, negative information to a future employer. It would also not be helpful to explain a long story of events about your departure and the rumors that followed.

Stick with what you were officially told and move on to a more exciting and fulfilling opportunity with a manager who appreciates your skills and talents. Best of luck in your job search!

Angela Copeland is a Career Coach and Founder of Copeland Coaching and can be reached at CopelandCoaching.com or on Twitter at @CopelandCoach.

133 | Surviving Unplanned Career Change – Michelle Hynes, Portland, Oregon

Episode 133 is live! This week, we talk with Michelle Hynes in Portland, Oregon.

Michelle is a coach and consultant with deep roots in mission-focused organizations. She has a passionate interest in how people navigate planned and unplanned change.  Michelle helps to ease transitions, nurture growth, and create supportive structures for teams.

On today’s episode, Michelle shares her tips on surviving unplanned career change, from reaching out to friends for help to job seeking to talking about what happened.

Listen and learn more! You can play the podcast here, or download it on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher.

To learn more about Michelle, visit her website at http://www.michellehynes.com/. Here are links to the additional resources Michelle mentions in the episode.

Thanks to everyone for listening! And, thank you to those who sent me questions. You can send your questions to Angela@CopelandCoaching.com. You can also send me questions via Twitter. I’m @CopelandCoach. And, on Facebook, I am Copeland Coaching.

Don’t forget to help me out. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts and leave me a review!

Overcoming legal issues in your past

Questions around past legal trouble has come up multiple times recently, so it’s worth addressing. A reader writes, “I’m a job seeker with a felony record, and a college degree. I can’t expunge the record, and I’m not sure what to do. Where should I begin?”

First, I’m sorry to hear that this is a common issue being faced in the work world. It can be difficult both from the employee and employer perspective. One common scenario is someone who made a mistake at a young age who has learned from the experience, has grown up, and has moved on. Unfortunately, their past legal record has not.

In the competitive job market we’re in, even if those past issues should be in the past, they may still impact your ability to land gainful employment. People hire people, and people have biases. Given this challenging reality, here are a few tips if you find yourself in this situation.

First, check to be sure there’s no possible way to clear up your record. Then, begin to work on your job search strategy.  Much like someone just starting their career, you will need to prove yourself to a future employer. And, one very good way to do that is through relationship building.

Start out with a list of potential employers. Consider targeting employers that are relatively small, so you may be able to connect with the owner, executives, or hiring managers more easily. Look for opportunities to network within these companies, and within your target industries. You want to get to know decision makers.

Consider volunteering your time in the community. Work on projects that demonstrate leadership, and personal growth. Include these accomplishments on your resume. They will help to build a positive brand, and show the person you are now.

The overall goal is this: Rather than be another number who applies online, you want to be someone the company already knows and trusts. If they know you, when they have a job available, they may even call you before the job is posted. You want to be someone they know can get the job done.

And, when asked about your past, be honest, but brief. Share as much information as the company needs, and if they ask more questions, answer them honestly. Then, explain how you have learned, grown, and moved on. The most important thing is that your future employer trusts you, and by being open and honest, you are more likely to build that trust.

This situation is a difficult one, but it’s not impossible. Remember that every job seeker has something in their past that worries them about getting a new job. It may be their age, their lack of a college degree, or something else. Rarely does anyone have a perfect background. I realize that this is more difficult than the other examples, but relationship building with decision makers can make it much easier. It make take more time and more effort, but it’s worth it in the end.

Angela Copeland is CEO and founder of Copeland Coaching and can be reached at CopelandCoaching.com or on Twitter at @CopelandCoach.

Starting Over: When Corporate Goes Kaput

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This week’s newsletter comes from a Career Corner Column I wrote in 2014. Multiple businesses had just gone through rounds of layoffs. Friends were impacted, and families felt the pain that’s caused when corporations restructure. I’ve seen more and more of this popping up again in 2016, so I wanted to share this with you.

For many employees, the story is all too familiar. You wake up one day and go to work, just like it was any other. You wear the same clothes, drive the same route, and eat at the same place for lunch. Things seem fine at first, but something starts to feel a little out of whack.

You’re taken into a large room with your entire department or a small room with just your team. Then and there, you learn that the company has decided to take a new direction. And, the worst part – your job has been eliminated.

So many thoughts go through your head. You’ve been at this job for years. You have children, and a mortgage to pay. You don’t even remember where you put the last copy of your resume. You wonder where to begin.

This is an unfortunate situation many folks have faced this year. After you’ve had a few days to think things over, you may come to the conclusion that things had been a little strained at your company for a while. Maybe money had been tight in your department, or the culture overall has been stressed. And maybe at the end of this crazy tornado, there’s an opportunity to rebuild your career into something bigger and stronger than it was before.

Start off by perfecting your elevator pitch. What would you say if you were given 30 seconds with your next potential employer? What would you do if you could start your career all over again? Practice your pitch until you can clearly articulate who you are, what type of job you’re looking for, and the relevant experience you have.

Find your latest resume, and update it to reflect your recent accomplishments. Clearly state your career goals near the top in an “objective” section. Be sure to highlight any new training you have participated in, technical skills you’ve acquired, or any community leadership roles you’ve held.

The next step is networking. Start by ordering new business cards. Even though you may no longer have a full-time job, you need a way to give your contact information to those you meet. Your business card can be as simple as your name, email address and phone number. The last thing you want to do at a networking event is explain to a total stranger why you can no longer distribute your corporate business card. Be prepared, so you can avoid this situation altogether.

When you make new contacts, follow up by sending an email and connecting with them on LinkedIn. Look for opportunities to reconnect over lunch, coffee or happy hour. Many folks are willing to lend a hand, even if they don’t know you well. They may have been in the same boat before too.

Setup informational interviews with contacts at companies you’re interested in. They’re an opportunity for you to network with someone new one-on-one for 30 minutes, and ask questions about their job and company’s culture.

Remember that although this is a difficult time, it’s temporary. Get started by reaching out to your existing support system of family, friends and community groups. But, it’s important to move quickly. The faster you start, the easier it will be to transition into your new (and hopefully even better) company and career.

I hope these tips have helped you. Visit CopelandCoaching.com to find more tips to improve your job search. If I can be of assistance to you, don’t hesitate to reach out to me here.

Also, be sure to subscribe to my Copeland Coaching Podcast on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher where I discuss career advice every Tuesday! If you’ve already heard the podcast and enjoy it, please consider leaving a review in Apple Podcasts or Stitcher.

Happy hunting!

Angela Copeland
@CopelandCoach

 

Put Yourself First

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Loyalty can feel like a lost art. It’s often hard to know where alliances lie and who really has your back. Sadly, this can be especially true in the workplace.

Over the years, I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon. Even when we know things are going badly, we want to hang in there for the good of the company. In theory, it’s good to be committed. It’s great. But, in practice, this doesn’t always make sense in today’s job market.

Company layoffs are no longer an uncommon way for an organization to save money. Even the best employees risk being cut after years of service. It’s a sad, but true fact. Pair that with people changing jobs every four years or so and the job market is entirely different than it was just twenty years ago.

I very often encounter hard working employees I’m concerned about. They’re the kind of people who put in more time than they’re required to. They take work home at night and on the weekends. The may even take business calls on their personal time.

This same hard working group also often chooses to stay at a job despite the signs that it’s time to go. Perhaps their colleagues were recently let go. Or, maybe the company is restructuring a little too often. The organization is losing money, and the executives are showing signs that they’re nervous. But, the hard workers are committed. They want to stick it out. And, besides, they have a seemingly stable job. “Why would anyone leave a good job?” they wonder.

The problem is – if there are signs that things are going south, there’s a good chance they really will eventually go that way. Sadly for the committed worker, this means that they may eventually lose their job. They could be the victim of a layoff.

It can take months to find a new job. And, sadly, future employers could easily assume that these dedicated workers were not part of a big layout. They might assume the employees were let go for cause, but isn’t disclosing that information.

The bottom line is this. Business is business. Companies know that. It’s why they don’t hesitate to cut employees when they need to save money. Businesses are loyal to the business first. And, in this same way, the hard working employees should take care of themselves. I’m not talking about jumping ship for no reason, but if you know things are wrong, don’t ignore it. Listen to yourself.

If you do, you could end up without a job. Being unemployed, or in a situation where you hate your work, takes away your options. It forces you to take a job quickly, that you may or may not really like. At times, it can even be the start of a vicious cycle of moving from bad job to bad job.

Remember, you are the CEO of your own career. In the same way the business must protect their future, you must protect yours.

Angela Copeland is CEO and founder of Copeland Coaching and can be reached at CopelandCoaching.com or on Twitter at @CopelandCoach.

Conquering Rumors at Work

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It seems that every week there’s another rumor. Some big corporation is going to lay off its employees. A company’s going to relocate to another city. A department is going to be restructured.

Whatever rumor you’re hearing, it can make you nervous. It can even keep you up at night. You may wonder how long it will take to find another job – or worse, if you’ll find one at all. What if you have to move? What if you can’t sell your house? Most of all, you may worry about how the situation could impact your family’s future.

If you find yourself in this boat, you’re not alone. Whether or not a layoff ever occurs, the thought can be daunting. The best thing you can do is be prepared. In fact, this even goes for when there are no rumors at all. It’s better to start early than late.

First, ensure that you have a personal household budget established. If worst ever came to worst, you’d want to know just how much you could scale back. Separate fixed expenses, like your mortgage, from variable expenses, like fancy dinners out. Consider cutting back now, in order to build up a cushion in the event that something did happen.

Next, start cleaning up your resume. Be sure that it contains all the pertinent facts about your job, and your special accomplishments. A good place to look for these is in your annual performance evaluation. Many employees are given measurable goals each year. These are great to show on your resume.

Update your LinkedIn profile and ensure that social media sites like Facebook are locked down. The last thing you want to do right now is send a negative or inappropriate message about who you are.

Begin networking. Go to social events. Spend time with friends. Seek out professional organizations. Whatever you enjoy most, put time into building your network. And keep backup copies of your contacts’ phone and email addresses handy in case you need them. Many jobs are found through networking rather than through Internet job sites.

Start applying for jobs. It can take months to find a new job, especially if you’re in a unique field or if you’re highly compensated. It’s better to start now when you don’t need a job than when you have no choice.

Finally, check to ensure you have at least one interview-ready look. If you were called tomorrow for the perfect job, would you have something to wear to the interview? You don’t need a wardrobe overall; one simple black suit and polished black shoes will do.

Layoff rumors can make anyone nervous, but the worst thing you can do is not be prepared. Whether or not you’re hearing rumors at your work, it’s always a good idea to be ready for anything. Today’s economy is tough, and the job market is more competitive than ever. Following these steps will keep you covered and will help you to conquer any rumors you’re hearing.

I hope these tips have helped you. Visit CopelandCoaching.com to find more tips to improve your job search. If I can be of assistance to you, don’t hesitate to reach out to me here.

Also, be sure to subscribe to my Copeland Coaching Podcast on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher where I discuss career advice every Tuesday! If you’ve already heard the podcast and enjoy it, please consider leaving a review in Apple Podcasts or Stitcher.

Happy hunting!

Angela Copeland
@CopelandCoach