With Unemployment at Record Lows, Layoffs Are Apparently Still a Thing

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Nobody expects mass layoffs when the economy looks decent and unemployment is low — but they happen anyway. Companies restructure, target markets don’t perform as expected, and sometimes corporate leaders just fail to, well, lead.

Unfortunately, the effects of these decisions trickle down to the workforce, where those in the trenches feel the problems most keenly.

Despite huge tax breaks that promised to spur industry and prevent such events, large companies like AT&T, Comcast, Kimberly Clark, Lord & Taylor, and Walmart all announced layoffs in late 2017/early 2018 that would affect hundreds or thousands of employees. Many workers who have been with these employers for a long time are now left confused and unsure of how to find new and meaningful work.

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Those who haven’t looked for a job in the last ten years or so may experience some culture shock as they hit the market. As technology changes processes that have been in place for decades and younger employees enter hiring manager roles, the ways that jobs get posted and people get hired are also shifting.

“Almost everything about a job search has changed in the last decade,” says Penny Locey, vice president of consultancy Keystone Associates. “For example, the expected form and content of a resume has changed. It is now more ‘personal brand’ and accomplishment-oriented than a description of duties.”

Locey also notes that the way people find jobs today is more heavily dependent on networking than it used to be.

“While it was always true that people were likely to find their new job through someone they knew, now there is a culture of networking that means that a much larger percentage of candidates who apply come into the process with some form of personal referral,” she explains. “In addition, job seekers have to utilize LinkedIn or will not be found by recruiters or internal HR. The least effective way to find a job now is to just apply online. It does work 10-15 percent of the time — studies vary — so applicants should certainly do it, but it should never be someone’s only search method.”

Fortunately, we live in an age in which we have constant access to boundless information on nearly any topic right at our fingertips. Sites such as Recruiter.com or LinkedIn can be extremely valuable to those who find themselves displaced and unemployed.

“There is a lot of great information online or in the community that can assist people in getting updated advice if they are not using an outplacement service, their state career center, or a private career counselor,” Locey says.

In the meantime, temporary work through a staffing agency may be a stopgap solution that also leads to something more permanent.

“Temporary, contract, or interim positions are being used by companies more than ever to fill needs quickly, and to ‘try before we buy’ — both for candidates to try out companies, and for companies to try out workers,” Locey says. “These roles are a great way for workers to get back to work, and [they] are especially strong vehicles for people who are not naturally good networkers or interviewees to show what they can do.”

Aside from providing an income and filling in resume gaps, temporary work can also give workers the chance to showcase their skills in new contexts.

“It can be a way to demonstrate your ability to work in another company for long-term employees of one company; a different industry, if it is closely related enough for the recruiter to see the connection; or a different scale company, making you more desirable to that type of employer later,” Locey says.

6. Ways to Start Networking Today

Given that networking is key to finding new positions — especially positions that haven’t been advertised yet — Locey offers the following tips for those who aren’t quite sure how to go about networking themselves into new roles:

1. Join Industry-Specific Groups and Attend Their Meetings

You can find such groups by looking online, checking out startup incubators in your area, or even through sites like Meetup.

2. Check Out Your Alumni Organization or the Local Colleges/Universities

“If a local school focuses on an area like high tech, biotech, or healthcare, [it might] sponsor events to showcase research, activity, [or] programs,” Locey says. These events could be great ways to find new employment opportunities.

3. Attend a Community Networking Group

Locey notes that since the 2008 recession, many towns, churches/temples, libraries, and freestanding job-search groups have formed and held regular meetings.

“Check your local business news outlets and chamber of commerce for information about networking, presentations, and informational meetings/events,” she recommends.

4. Mine Your Personal Network

This includes your family members, community members, former coworkers, and friends.

“We often forget that even if our friends are not in our profession, they may know someone who is,” Locey says. “For example, I recently worked with a client who had forgotten that his sister’s husband worked in a high-level firm that was on his target list!”

5. Leverage Outplacement Services

“If you have been laid off, and your company provided outplacement services through a firm, take advantage of what they offer,” Locey says.

This may seem obvious, but many laid-off employees fail to use the outplacement services offered to them. That’s a shame, as outplacement firms can help with everything from resume writing and online applications to interview coaching and networking assistance.

6. Visit a State-Run Career Center

If your company did not provide outplacement services, your local government might be able to step in and help. There are many government-sponsored One-Stop Centers  throughout the US. Find out if one resides in your vicinity.

By Jason McDowell