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The Career Coach: Coping With Layoffs

Don't be ashamed of losing your job. Chuck Jones, Glen Keane and Steve Jobs were all out on the street once. Just regroup and take it as an opportunity to move up. Sometimes getting laid off gives you a chance to move up. If summer brings an involuntary vacation from work due to a layoff or downsizing, there are a few ways to get in shape and cope.

pam.gif Pamela Kleibrink Thompson

If summer brings an involuntary vacation from work due to a layoff or downsizing, there are a few ways to get in shape and cope.

Before you leave:

Before you exit the company, gather some samples of your work. You should have been working on your portfolio all along and putting recent work in there but if you haven't been, this is the time to collect any recent work you are proud of and get it in your portfolio or on your reel. If you have been working on a project that is not due to be released for some time, get the shots that you worked on onto your reel. If the company doesn't want work shown early to the public, respect that and keep that work out of your reel and portfolio. Ask for a letter from the company indicating what your position was and your role on the project.

Take advantage of your break:

Don't be ashamed of losing your job. Chuck Jones, Glen Keane and Steve Jobs were all out on the street once. Just regroup and take it as an opportunity to move up. Sometimes getting laid off gives you a chance to move up. Think about applying for a job in a category the last company never wanted to promote you to.

Give yourself a chance to grieve over losing your job, if you need to. But don't let your self-esteem suffer. Being laid off or fired is not a crime. Just realize that the skills you have to offer are no longer pertinent to the company. It doesn't mean you are bad or your work was bad, just that the company doesn't need your skills anymore at this time. (I've had so many jobs that I now do career coaching since I have become an expert at changing careers.)

Don't start looking for work immediately. You need to be refreshed to start looking for a job so take a two-week vacation to get away from your normal stomping grounds. The place you go doesn't have to be exotic or expensive. Another reason for getting away is that a vacation will give you a different perspective. During your vacation, your assignment is to daydream. Make a list of what you liked about your last job and what you didn't like. What do you want on your next job? What kind of company do you want to work for?

Take stock of your attributes. What do you like doing at work? What do you like doing outside of work? Evaluate what you want to do. If you have always dreamed about developing your own show, building a Website, or writing a children's book "when you have the time," guess what--you've got the time! You don't want to do anything other than get another job? OK.

Examine your skill set. Make a list of all the skills you've learned and the things you've accomplished. This list will be useful in composing your resume. If you have trouble making your list and thinking positively about yourself, get some friends to help you.

Prepare yourself:

If you feel you are lacking in skills, take some courses. Whether it's learning how to use new software, finishing a degree, working on life drawing or learning about design, the classes you take can also help you expand your network. Perhaps someone in the class knows about a job. Even if you don't hear of any jobs, you will be improving your skills and that will make you more attractive and interesting to new employers.

Network. Go to all those functions and meetings you never had time for when you were working. Don't spend all your time at home worrying about where the next paycheck is coming from. Call your friends you haven't seen in ages because you have been so swamped with work. Invite them to get out of the office and take them to lunch. You can check out their company and see if it's the kind of environment you would like. Ask your friends if they have any leads and be willing to share information with them as well. If you meet with anyone, be sure to send thank you notes.

Visit Websites like Animation World Network (www.awn.com) regularly and read trades like Animation Magazine. Visit company Websites. If you don't own a computer you may gain access to the Web through local libraries and colleges. Libraries also often subscribe to many trade publications like Variety and Hollywood Reporter. Most jobs aren't advertised but news articles offer clues for work. Look at announcements about new company launches, people changing jobs, or special projects.

Do some research to find the employers that offer the kind of work you want to do. Target employers that offer that kind of work. This research will help prepare you for interviews.

Organize your portfolio and clean out old work. If you have used work as an excuse for not spending time on life drawing, now is the time to visit the zoo. Try to capture the personalities of the people or animals you see.

Customize your resume and portfolio to target the job you want. You may want to customize your portfolio for each company you target. Your cover letter, resume, portfolio, demo reel and shot list are your marketing materials. Make sure you put your best work up front on your reel and you'll have to alter your demo reel breakdown list accordingly. Remember to include your name, phone number and email address on everything.

Take massive action:

When your resume, portfolio, demo reel and shot list are ready, make lots of copies and lots of calls. When calling potential employers keep conversations brief and to the point. Find out if they are hiring in your category and whom to address a package to. Each call should last no longer than a minute or two. Spend at least two hours a day making contacts/calls and get those packages in the mail. Follow up in 3 to 6 weeks. It takes work to find work. Even if you have never experienced a layoff before or been out of work, you'll find these tips will help you get through the down times and back in action at a job you want.

Having held every job in the entertainment industry and weathered many layoffs, Pamela Kleibrink Thompson is uniquely qualified as a career coach, independent recruiter and management consultant. She frequently speaks about careers at colleges and universities.

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