How to Bounce Back After a Layoff, with 
Sherri Thomas

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Transcript

Mac Prichard:

Hi, this is Mac from Mac’s List. Before we start the show, I wanted to let you know about my new book, Land Your Dream Job Anywhere. I’ve been helping job seekers find meaningful, well-paying work since 2001, and now I’ve put all my best advice into one easy-to-use guide.

My book shows you how to make your resume stand out in a stack of applications, where you can find the hidden jobs that never get posted, and what you need to do to ace your next job interview. Get the first chapter now for free. Visit MacsList.org/anywhere. 

This is Find Your Dream Job; the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life. I’m Mac Prichard, your host and publisher of Mac’s List. I’m joined by my co-hosts, Ben Forstag, Becky Thomas, and Jessica Black from the Mac’s List Team.

This week we’re talking about how to bounce back after a layoff.  Losing a job is tough. And getting laid off unexpectedly is even harder. Our guest expert this week is Sherri Thomas. She says how we react to a lay off makes a big difference in how quickly get we our next job and the kind of job we get. Sherri and I talk in the second half of the show.

The day after you leave your office after a layoff you will have lots of questions, especially about health insurance, unemployment benefits, and other matters. Ben has found a list of 49 frequently asked questions after a termination. He tells us more in a moment.

As you prepare for a job interview, you discover you have questions about the ethical behavior of the employer. Should you bring this up in your interview? That’s our listener question of the week. It comes from J.L. in Chicago, Illinois. Becky offers her advice shortly.

First, as always, let’s check in with the Mac’s List team. Now some of us here, including me, have been laid off and I’m curious, you all, what have you found has been the best step that you took or perhaps have seen others take to bounce back after a layoff?

Becky Thomas:

I’ll jump in and start.

Mac Prichard:

Becky, good for you.

Becky Thomas:

Yeah, I was actually laid off the job I had before I came to Mac’s List so it’s pretty recent for me. I think the best thing for me that I did immediately after my  layoff, because it was as total surprise, and so the first thing that I did was sort of connect with all of the colleagues and clients that I had been working with to just explain to them that I was no longer with that company, and “thank you for all of the work that we did together and please stay in touch” and we connected on LinkedIn and all that good stuff. Just so that I made sure that all those folks knew where I was at and that I was grateful for our work together. That really served me well, sort of moving forward.

Mac Prichard:

What kind of benefits did you see from doing that?

Becky Thomas:

You know, just having those connections, those folks were definitely in my corner and sort of let me know what opportunities were out there right away. So I already had immediate new job leads. And to just sort of clear the air and let them know that I was laid off and there was no…like, I wasn’t stealing from the company or anything nefarious.

Jessica Black:

Yeah, I think that that’s a really important point because I think that there is…even though you felt fine, there’s sort of like a weird air, where other people don’t know if you’re going to be okay so they don’t say anything. They’re not sure if they should bring it up, so there’s just this awkward thing. So you taking the initiative to clear the air and to have those conversations, I think, is really excellent so you can own your story.

Becky Thomas:

Which Sherri talks about later, so yeah, it’s good, you know. You get to say where you’re at and what the situation is from your perspective.

Jessica Black:

Yeah, I think that’s really important.

Becky Thomas:

Yeah.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, I like that a lot because…

Becky Thomas:

And I also checked in with my former employer just to let them know that I was doing that, because I didn’t want there to be any weirdness.

Mac Prichard:

Good.

Jessica Black:

Yeah.

Becky Thomas:

So that was good too.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, I’m curious, did you do that communication after you left your employer or did you do it during your transition, maybe your last couple of weeks?

Becky Thomas:

Yeah, there was no transition.

Mac Prichard:

Okay.

Becky Thomas:

So I did it like the day after.

Mac Prichard:

Oh gosh.

Becky Thomas:

Yeah.

Mac Prichard:

That’s an abrupt change.

Becky Thomas:

Yeah, it was.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, okay.

Becky Thomas:

So yeah, I’m glad I had the wherewithal to do that.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah. Good. How about you, Jessica?

Jessica Black:

Yeah, same kind of thing along the lines of the connection based relationships style model. So I was mentioning to you all just before we recorded this, that some of my…I haven’t been formally laid off because I’ve never been in a company that was large enough to have formal layoffs, but it was contract work that I had signed on to do, you know, a year of work with them, and then it was technically a layoff once that year was over. So even though I knew going into it that it was going to end, I know I’ve said this many times, I’m an eternal optimist, and so I always think that everything’s going to be fine, and it’s all going to work out. That either the contract will continue in some way or something like that.

But I’ve always worked on building those relationships during my time and as you all know, I’m very involved outside of my work place. So having those connections on both sides has always really helped me be able to both, just gain a lot of experience and showcase what I’m able to do, but then also when I am in a situation where I’m looking for a job, I can talk about that with the connections I’ve made and have a lot of people who know the type of worker that I am and can vouch for me.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, for me, I think the best thing I’ve done when laid off, was volunteer. And I know you do a lot of volunteer work…

Jessica Black:

I do.

Mac Prichard:

…in the community. So when I’ve been in between jobs, volunteering has helped me so much, actually in a number of ways. One is it fills the gap on the resume.

Jessica Black:

Right.

Mac Prichard:

Two, it keeps me out of house, and connecting with other people, and that’s just good for your state of mind.

Jessica Black:

It’s great. I’ve done that a lot too.

Mac Prichard:

And the third thing is it allows you to create a portfolio of your work. You’ve got some samples that you can share, and so when people ask you what you’ve been doing, sometimes they just assume it’s a paid gig. I’m always clear about when asked, that it was a volunteer position. I’ve almost never been asked.

Jessica Black:

Yeah, and it still counts as experience. You know, if you are working and demonstrating skills, whether or not it’s in your related industry, there’s still experience that you’re taking on. Yeah, I think it still counts.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah. Absolutely. How about you, Ben?

Ben Forstag:

So I’ve got something embarrassing to admit…

Mac Prichard:

I don’t think this is embarrassing news.

Ben Forstag:

I’ve never actually been laid off. I mean, I’ve quit jobs. I’ve left jobs.

Mac Prichard:

Apple polisher.

Ben Forstag:

I’ve transferred to other departments, but I’m kind of in the same boat as Jessica. I’ve never worked for an organization that had structured layoffs, or where they’ve had to cut back on staff. So I’ve never been in that situation. But I have been unemployed so I know that kind of fear and anxiety that’s there. I think the most useful thing for me is just taking a time out and getting your mind in order, because unlike Jessica, I am a pessimist when it comes to these things. It’s like too quickly for me, I’m like, “I’m never going to find another job, I’m going to end up on the streets.” So you know, that kind of thing.

Mac Prichard:

And those are all common reactions.

Ben Forstag:

Yeah, and they’re completely illogical reactions.

Mac Prichard:

But the emotions are still very real.

Ben Forstag:

Yeah, yeah, but it’s the lizard brain that’s telling you that. So for me, I always need to take that step back and say, “I’m not starting from zero here. I’m not trying to rebuild a career from scratch. I’ve got a lot of assets in terms of experience, and education, and networks behind me.”  I need to get my mind in the right place and then I’ve got a good starting point to work from here.

Jessica Black:

I think a break is a really huge asset in that as well as…you know you do really have to. You’ve been working like crazy and you sometimes just need even a weekend to just kind of allow yourself to not think about it. Then you come back fresh and then you have that clear mindset. A lot of people just jump in, and they’re like, “I can’t take any time off” so then they just stress themselves out and work themselves even more into a bone. I think that the break is really necessary.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, I know we’ve talked about the importance of that break in previous episodes. I remember an interview with Marcia Warner about how to cope with a job loss and she recommended exactly what you’re suggesting.

Jessica Black:

Yeah. I think it’s huge.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah. Well good, well thank you all, and thank you for sharing those stories.

Let’s turn to you, Ben, because every week you’re out there, looking in the nooks and crannies of the internet for resources, tools, books, and websites that our listeners can use. What have you found for us this week?

Ben Forstag:

So this week I want to share a resource I found on the website, thebalance.com, and it’s an FAQ about termination from employment. These are frequently asked questions that people have around their departure from an organization, whether that’s a layoff, or a firing, or they quit, or anything else. And I thought this was good because so often, when you get that news that you’re going to be laid off, or you’re being fired, or you’re leaving for whatever reason, there’s a lot of emotions going on. Sometimes the employer will be telling you all of this information or they’ll hand you a book of information, saying “Here’s all the stuff you need to know to get your Cobra, or get your 401K transfer”, or whatever it is. But you’re too emotional to process or even hear it at that point. So this is just  a list of forty or so questions that people have around termination from jobs.

So it’s simple things from like, “Am I eligible for unemployment?” or, “How does my stipend or my severance package affect my unemployment?” “What do I do after termination in terms of legal recourse if I felt like I was fired unfairly?” Or even just simple legal definitions about the different types of termination, whether you were fired vs. laid off, what those actually mean, and the consequences those things have, both for your job search in the future and for things like benefits for unemployment.

So I thought this was a really nice primer, and if you’re unfortunately in the situation where you have some questions about what’s available to you and what’s not, I urge you to check it out. Again, it comes from thebalance.com , and it’s called FAQ’s About Termination from Employment. And as always, we’ll have the url in the shownotes.

Mac Prichard:

Well thank you Ben. and if you’ve got a suggestion for Ben, please write him, we would love to share your idea on the show. Ben’s address is easy to remember, it’s ben@macslist.org.

Now let’s turn to you our listeners, and Becky joins us to answer one of your questions. So Becky, what’s in the mailbag this week?

Becky Thomas:

So this week we have a question from J.L., in Chicago, Illinois. She says,

“If you have concerns regarding a company’s ethics, would you raise those concerns during an interview? If so, how would you word the question?

This is maybe a slightly tricky question, J.L. It kind of depends on the situation that you’re in. But I think you’re on the right track here. It’s definitely important to know about a company’s ethics when you’re interviewing for a job. You definitely want to be comfortable supporting this company through your work.

So like I said, it sort of depends on the situation, and what ethical issues are concerning you. So if there’s been a ton of news about this company’s ethics, big ethics violations or something, the interviewer may be expecting those questions, or may even address this issue with you, sort of talk to you about it. But if you have done some deep, dark, internet research and dug up some questions in your research that is concerning to you, but maybe not so out there publicly, they may not be expecting that question, and may be sort of blind sided if you just bring it up. Like, “So here’s this issue, what’s the deal?”

So I was thinking about this a little bit before we got on the show. I was thinking you could try, in the interview, as you’re sort of chatting, to try to draw out some information from the person that’s interviewing you by talking about yourself and using those ‘I’ statements. People talk about communication styles so try using an ‘I’ statement. “Here’s a little bit about me, I value these ethical values. This is how I operate.” And then give the interviewer an opening to talk about that. Maybe say, “Based on what I’ve talked to you about my professional ethics, do you think I would be a good fit with the company culture? Tell me a little bit more about that.”

That would be probably the tactic that I would try. But good luck, that’s a tricky one.

Mac Prichard:

That is a tricky one, and it’s hard to tell from the question how much information is out there, or what issues are specifically concerning.

Becky Thomas:

Do you agree that if it’s like a big, buzzy news item about that company, that you should just address it head on?

Jessica Black:

Oh yeah, definitely.

Becky Thomas:

You think so?

Jessica Black:

Especially, like you said, they’ll probably be expecting it. I think that is really good because, you know, we talk about this on this podcast and other parts of our website, that doing your research is really crucial and to be aware of what’s going on in that company is really important. Then especially, it sounds like J.L. is really concerned with ethics and needs to have her values aligned with a company. Which, I am the same way, and so I completely understand and respect. And so especially in that case, where there’s evidence pointing in that direction, you can’t always…I personally, do trust the media, but you can’t always just trust that. There’s two sides to every story so you need to be your own reporter and be your own researcher and gather that information as well. And there may have been faulty information given to that news report, or that sort of thing that doesn’t necessarily mean, it’s not the end all, be all of that.

And also to see how they react when you talk about that as well, of the news, whatever, thing in the news it was. I think that will show you a lot about what the company…how they value themselves and who they are, how they respond to that. If they are trying to cover it up, or change the subject really fast, that might give you flag and make you feel like there really is something weird going on. But if they’re really transparent and they say, “Yes, we did have a run in with x, y, and z. We’ve learned a lot from that and we’re moving forward to make changes and be better.” Then that might give you some areas that you’re feeling a lot better about that.

It just I think, opens the lines of communications, especially again, J.L., if you’re feeling that this is really important to you, which, I encourage you to continue along that path and make sure that your values are in line with your employer.

Mac Prichard:

Ben, do you have a thought on this?

Ben Forstag:

Yeah, actually I think this is kind of a win win situation for her. So bringing up a topic like this could be difficult. I think increasingly organizations are becoming hyper vigilant about their brand out there. In fact, when you look at hiring, one of the big trends out there, i, employers, they’re not trying to sell you on particulars of a job, they’re trying to sell you on their brand. Look at Nike or GE’s careers page and it’s all about how amazing Nike is as a company, but very little about what you’re actually going to be doing at Nike.

So saying, “I happened to see a report on the news a few weeks ago about your company,” and bring that up. I think first, the company’s probably going to be, know about it ahead of time, and having people who are also aware of what the brand is out there in the public consciousness is important.

Now the other thing I would say here is that you can really treat this as an opportunity. So you could present this as a “I know you’ve got this challenge out there, because your company has a reputation of being x, y, and z, so how I can help you in this new role to overcome that challenge?” Whether that’s improved customer service, or redefining our brand, or fixing our business processes. I think you can use that as a way to bring up a challenge the employer might have, and then position yourself as a person who can help them overcome that challenge.

Becky Thomas:

But they have to be open to that.

Ben Forstag:

Yeah, they have to be open to it.

Becky Thomas:

That’s what you have to figure out, I think, at the interview.

Ben Forstag:

Exactly. What I would say is, the win win situation here is if they’re not open to it, they’re just slimeballs, and you don’t want to work for them anyway. So you don’t have to worry about scaring them off.

Becky Thomas:

True.

Mac Prichard:

Right. But what I’m hearing all three of you say is J.L. is right to explore this, not to rule out an interview based on perhaps some news stories. We don’t know where her information is coming from. But to find ways to talk to the hiring manager about these issues. I can certainly sympathize. I identify with this question because before starting my own public relations firm, ten years ago, I worked as a spokesperson for public agencies and elected officials. And I got hired because those places, or those people, had problems with how they were perceived by the public. They weren’t ethical problems; the people or agencies weren’t in trouble with the law, but there were perceptions that they weren’t listening, they weren’t connected to the community, that they were indifferent. So some jobs I took, some I didn’t. The ones I took were ones with employers who said, “Yes I recognize I have a problem, and I need your help in fixing it.” Which goes back to your point Becky.

Becky Thomas:

Yeah.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, and I too, like you Jessica, I’m an optimist. I trust the media, but I also recognize there are always a couple sides to every story.

Jessica Black:

There’s always more information out there, and it’s best to arm yourself with all of it.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah.

Ben Forstag:

Yeah, I’ve been in a similar situation, and this wasn’t the media, per se, but when I was about to go to an interview in an organization, Googling their name brought up a bunch of people who were unhappy with the organization for whatever reason. My approach was, I actually didn’t try to dig too deep on whether this is true or not. I just said, “Hey, you guys have a problem with how people are perceiving you on social media, and on the internet. Like, I type in your name, and it’s all bad. We need to do something about this.” And that was essentially my sales pitch.

Becky Thomas:

You come in with suggestions and they’re like, “Oh great, he can help us. We’re ready to make this positive change.” You’re positioning yourself for a win.

Mac Prichard:

Okay.

Jessica Black:

But I think it’s really important, J.L., to trust your gut on this. Obviously there’s a reason why you are wanting to bring up this ethics question in interviews, and I think that if you quell that and push it down you’ll just still have that rattling around in the back of your head, and I think it’s better just to get it out there. And there are ways, like Becky mentioned before, to do it in a really easy and informative way. So that you are not accusing anyone, it’s just a conversation and you’re just getting information about it, so, I encourage you to do that.

Becky Thomas:

Yeah, totally. Thanks guys. Good luck, J.L.

Mac Prichard:

Well thanks Becky,and if you’ve got a question for Becky, please email her.Her address is becky@macslist.org. And you can call our listener line. That number is area code,  716-JOB-TALK. Or Tweet it at us, and our Twitter account is, @macs_list  

If we use your question on the show, we’ll send you a copy of Land Your Dream Job Anywhere,

We’ll be back in a moment, and when we return, I’ll talk with this week’s guest expert, Sherri Thomas, about how to bounce back after a layoff.

Most people struggle with job hunting. The reason is simple; most of us learns the nuts and bolts of looking for work by trial and error. That’s why I produce this podcast, to help you master the skills you need to find a great job. It’s also why I wrote my new book, Land Your Dream Job Anywhere. For fifteen years at Mac’s List, I’ve helped people in Portland, Oregon find meaningful, well-paying, and rewarding jobs that they love. Now I’ve put all of my job hunting secrets in one book that can help you no matter where you live.

You’ll learn how to get clear about your career goals, find hidden jobs that never get posted, and ace your next job interview. For more information, and to download the first chapter for free, visit Mac’sList.org/anywhere.

Now let’s turn to this week’s guest expert, Sherri Thomas.

Sherri Thomas is founder and the resident expert of Career Coaching 360. She helps professionals think differently and proactively about careers.

She is the author of two books, “The Bounce Back – Personal Stories of Bouncing Back Higher and Faster from a Layoff, Re-Org or Career Setback,”and Career Smart – 5 Steps to a Powerful Personal Brand”. Sherri is also a Huffington Post columnist and keynote speaker. And her career advice has been featured in the Wall St Journal,  TIME Magazine, and other publications. She joins us today from Phoenix, Arizona. Sherri, thanks for being on the show.

Sherri Thomas:

Hi, welcome. Thanks, I’m happy to be here, Mac.

Mac Prichard:

Well it’s a pleasure to have you. Our topic this week is not so pleasurable. It’s about how to bounce back after a layoff. You and I were chatting a little bit before the interview, and we’ve both had this experience, being laid off from work. I’ve actually had it three times. And you’ve been laid off yourself, haven’t you, Sherri?

Sherri Thomas:

Yeah, I was just going to say, I’m sorry to hear that because I’ve certainly been there and lived through it.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, can you tell us about your experience and some of the lessons you’ve learned?

Sherri Thomas:

Yeah, it was earlier in my career when I was laid off. And in fact I was laid off three times. I talk about it in my book, The Bounce Back, and I refer to it as the Three Bang Layoff, and it was a painful time. It was, as you know, it’s devastating when you think that you’re a go getter, a dynamo, you’re loyal to the company, you’re dedicated, you’re devoted, all of that, and all of a sudden you lose your job. And it’s not just your job, you lose your paycheck, you lose the vision of yourself that you created, you lose your identity. It’s quite devastating.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, I certainly had that experience myself when I was let go. One of the lessons I learned was just how important it is to get good at job hunting and with an eye for managing my career for the long term because layoffs, they can sometimes feel like they’re coming out of nowhere, can’t they?

Sherri Thomas:

Yeah, yeah. I think that one of the keys is..because you have all this negative chatter going on inside your brain. You’re probably pretty mad, you’re confused, you’re a little bit embarrassed, all of that. I think that one of the keys things is that you’ve got to be able to work through some of the emotions before you can make a transformation into a new career.

Part of my challenge is I thought that I was handling it okay. I thought I could kind of dust it under the rug and I would think, “I’m just going to update my resume, make a few phone calls, I’ll be hired in a couple weeks.” And that wasn’t happening and I realized that, it’s kind of the same thing as when you say to somebody, maybe you pass them in a hall and you say, “Hi Mac, how are you doing?” Then you say, “I’m fine.” But I can tell that behind that smile, there’s something off. And so when we go through a layoff and we’re networking or we’re talking to hiring managers in an interview, they can pick that up. They can sense that we’re off, there’s something that’s not quite right.

So one of the key things I think is really, really important is to work on your mindset, and you’ve got to be able to address those negative emotions that are coming up. Whether you pound a pillow, or you sit in your car in the garage and you scream, or, I don’t know, go out into the forest by yourself. Whatever it is, but I think you need to really just deal with it.

Mac Prichard:

And, I mean, you mentioned pounding pillows, and going out to the forest, but what are some strategies you’ve seen people use to fix that mindset? What’s been effective with the people you’ve worked with?

Sherri Thomas:

Yeah, yeah. Well what I encourage my clients to do is, one of the exercises is to take a sheet of paper, and draw a column…draw a line down the middle so you have two columns. And on the left column, write down what he or she should have done better. And on the right column, write what I should have done better. And in the left column, usually it can be a manager, or it can be, I don’t know, maybe a customer. It’s all those conversations that we are playing in our heads over and over, and over and over. Thinking about what should we have said, or what should we have done?

Think about what they should have done. So an example is, one of the times that I was laid off, I did this very same exercise, and it was the president of the company. And I wrote down…well, it took me like twenty seconds to write down ten things that I thought he should have done better. You know, he should have been in the office more, he should have given me more training, he should have given me more guidance. You know, things like that, and then take a day or two, and then think about, “Okay, what should you have done better?” And then I realized, oh I should have asked for training. I should have asked for his advice, I should have asked for a template, I should have asked what are his expectations.

And I encourage my clients to do that exercise, not as a way to berate ourselves, or beat ourselves up, more in a way, let’s learn. You know, we did as best as we could in that situation, we did as best as we could at that time, so let’s be gentle with ourselves. Let’s not place blame on that situation at all. or any kind of judgement. But instead let’s just think about…through a learning lens, what could we have done a little bit better. And so once I was able to do that, I was really able to take those things that I could have, or should have done better, into my next job, and to my next job after that, and after that. And I learned to get the confidence to be able to say, “Hey, I’m not an expert in this yet, I’ve only been in this role for thirty days, or sixty days, or whatever it is. I need a little bit of training.” Just to have those open conversations and to really ask my manager, “What are your expectations? How can I exceed your expectations?”

Mac Prichard:

One of the points you make on your blog, which I liked a lot is that none of us have a free pass in our career today. We’ve got to think about the needs of our employers and we just can’t sit back and wait to be told things, or expect that our careers will just continue uninterrupted. And we’ve got to take advantage of opportunities to learn and being laid off is a painful way to learn that lesson, but I think your point is a good one. It’s very valuable opportunity too.

Sherri Thomas:

Yeah, another thing I really want to share with your audience is, don’t let somebody hold you back from what you’re meant to be doing. You know, layoffs, re-orgs, mergers, happen all the time now. It’s just part of the norm, and it’s like we’re all out there playing musical chairs and hopefully we have a chair when the music stops. But that’s not always the case, so my point is, I don’t want anyone to think that they don’t have any value just because an organization ran out of funding. You know part of being successful today and part of not having a free pass to jet up the corporate ladder is that you’ve got to be able to handle these hiccups, these minor, minor setbacks. I mean, when you look at your life in the scope of, hopefully we’re going to live to be ninety years old, or eighty years old, the fact that a company ran out of funding and let us go, I mean that is a tiny, tiny, tiny blip on our lifespan. So don’t let that one weak period taint you. Don’t let running into that particular manager for one year of your life, or four months of your life, don’t let that person have the power to derail you from using your special gifts and talents in a way that you’re meant to.

Mac Prichard:

So we’ve got to learn how to let go and overcome that mindset that you talked about earlier, Sherri. How should people talk about a layoff when they’re ready to get back into the job market and start talking to employers again?

Sherri Thomas:

Great question. I love this question, and this is one that I probably get asked the most. You do want to be a little bit strategic so make sure that you really think about this. Write it down, you know, write down your answer over and over, edit it, make sure you say it out loud several times so that you sound confident. There is a recipe that I want you to use, and so when somebody says “Why are you here applying for this job?”, or, “What happened in your last job?”, it doesn’t matter what they ask, here’s how I want you to answer. I want you to first of all, be grateful for your last position, so I want you to find something that you can authentically be grateful for. I want you to say something like, “You know, I loved the last company that I worked for.” Or, “I really enjoyed working for my last manager. She was a great mentor for me.” Or you can talk about the work itself, how much you love it.

Then I want you to say something…I want you to talk about a result that you had. Talk about the impact that you made in that organization. So I want you to be able to say something, “I was given the opportunity to manage a large marketing campaign and we gained four percent market share for the company.” Or, “I was able to lead a team, and we landed a new IT tool and we saved the company five hundred thousand dollars over the first two years.” I want you to say something very succinct and quantify the impact that you made in terms of dollars, or numbers, or percentages.

Then I want you to be up front and I want you to just own your story. I want you to say, “Unfortunately the company was bought out and my job was eliminated.” That’s it. That’s all you have to say. You don’t have to go into it. You don’t have to go in and explain it. People get it. Or you can say, “Unfortunately a new manager…there was a re-org in the organization and I was presented with a new manager and it just really wasn’t a good fit.”

Mac Prichard:

So express gratitude, talk about an accomplishment or result, and share the facts of what happened. What I don’t hear you talking about, Sherri, is complaining about the employer, or talking about layoffs, the number of people who were let go. I think we’ve all been in meetings where we’ve heard people do that,either interviewing job candidates or maybe in informational interviews. Why is that not such a great idea, to talk about those kinds of details?

Sherri Thomas:

Because the interviewer is sitting right there knowing that if they hire you that you’re going to talk bad about them. So I did lose my job earlier in my career, three times. But the thing is, I got hired more times than I lost my job. So I’m very good at getting hired even if I’ve been laid off. So I think part of the reason why hiring managers would always look past the fact that I was laid off is because, number one, I owned my story. Number two, I said it in a really positive way, and number three is I always asked great questions in my interview. I always asked really good questions. I think that those three things, once you get really good at those, you practice saying those and you can be very authentic, I think hiring managers are very drawn to those types of candidates.

And one reason is because a lot of candidates come into an interview and they portray that everything’s just great in their life and their career has been totally perfect. And the reality is, there is nobody who has had a perfect career. Okay, maybe there was one person in six billion. But I mean.

Mac Prichard:

Maybe one.

Sherri Thomas:

Maybe one. And so right away the hiring manager is a little skeptical. Just thinking, “mmm, this person’s not being up front.” So when you are able to be upfront and own that, “I was in a great job and I loved it for this reason and you know what, sadly my job was eliminated because of a merger, and now I’m looking for my next organization where I can hit the ground running.” When you put it in a positive story and you frame it that way, I think hiring managers are very drawn to you.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, I like that a lot. I’m reminded of an experience I had when I was out of work, after a layoff. I met with someone in an informational interview, and he said, “We think our careers are going to be forty-five degree angles, we don’t see the peaks and valleys that come along with creating that forty-five degree angle.” And he said, “Right now you’re in a valley but you’ve had peaks and you’re going to have many more. So don’t let this discourage you.”

Sherri Thomas:

Oh that’s beautiful.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah.

Sherri Thomas:

How did you feel when he said that?

Mac Prichard:

It was very empowering because I was discouraged and I had done some impressive things in my career. It was about fifteen years after college and I didn’t think I was going to have the kind of setbacks I did. So to hear from someone who was about fifteen or twenty years along who had a very responsible job, he was the regional public affairs manager for a Fortune 100 company, to get that kind of feedback was very supportive and empowering.

Sherri Thomas:

Aw, that’s beautiful.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah.

Sherri Thomas:

And now do you look back at that experience and do you think that maybe it happened for a reason?

Mac Prichard:

I think it did. I keep that story and try to share it with others too because that wasn’t the only reverse in my career. I’ve had some other ups and downs in the years that followed. But knowing that it is part of a process and we’re playing a long game here, for thirty-five to forty years in the workplace helps me keep perspective.

Sherri Thomas:

Yeah.

Mac Prichard:

Well Sherri this has been great. Now tell us, what’s coming up next for you?

Sherri Thomas:

I did want to tell you that, for your listeners, I’ve just recently actually put up on my website, a free video training series. And it’s called Fifteen Clever Ways To Get More Job Offers. And I just put everything I know into these three videos, and put it on my website. I don’t know how much longer I’m going to keep it up on my website, but it’s certainly there now for your listeners. They can sign up and download it today.

Mac Prichard:

Well great. We’ll be sure to include a link to that in the shownotes, and I know people can also find you on your website, and that url is, careercoaching360.com.

Sherri, thanks for being on the show today.

Sherri Thomas:

Thank you, Mac. It was a real pleasure.

Mac Prichard:

You’re welcome. Take care.

And we’re back in the Mac’s List studio. After my conversation with Sherri, what did you all think? Any initial thoughts?

Jessica Black:

She was just great to listen to. It was a really fun interview to listen to, and again, you mentioned this at the beginning, it’s not a fun topic, but her perspective on it was really great to have. And to be able to have some resources to be able to…I think going through a layoff is a very traumatic experience for a lot of people and feels like the end of the world, and that you can’t come back from that. And she really gives some good resources for being able to do that, and to be able to, I hate using the word, taking control back, but kind of that, bringing yourself back, and bringing the confidence back into yourself. Of being able to talk about it with grace and with clarity, that you can share that with other people…with prospective employers. And then with other people as well. I liked that she mentioned that it’s okay to talk about it in that vulnerable way of, “I loved my job and I didn’t want to get laid off but I did, and here’s what happened. Here’s what I learned from it.” I think it’s just really great to give people the okay to feel that, and to say that that’s okay.

Becky Thomas:

Yeah, I totally agree, Jessica. It’s definitely that when you’re preparing for your next job interview after being laid off, you’re like, “How am I going to talk about this?” There’s some stigma around it. I really liked what she said about rehearsing what you’re going to say and just getting clear about it and not dwelling on that too much. Just being like, “Well this is what happened, and here’s where I’m at.”

Jessica Black:

That you don’t have to go into all the details, that you can just say, “I loved my job and I was laid off, and it’s very unfortunate, but here’s what I want to do beyond that.”

Becky Thomas:

Yeah, exactly, just being a one or two sentence thing. Because she’s right, people get it, people have been there.

Jessica Black:

Absolutely. It happens.

Becky Thomas:

And you don’t have to make it as big of a deal. But I get that emotional piece too. It’s tough.

Jessica Black:

Of course.

Ben Forstag:

I think the key here is even if you didn’t love your last job, you don’t need to go into a whole lot of detail. I mean, it’s again, everyone’s gone through it, or most people have, most people get it. But we all tend to catastrophize it, when it happens to us, because it is like an intense feeling, I’ve been there. I know that fear and that anxiety and that upset. But when we’re talking to hiring managers, or networking contacts, or anyone else out there, most people know that this is a part of life and it’s probably an increasing part of life as we have a more and more fluid economy. For lack of a better term.

Jessica Black:

Yeah, exactly.

Becky Thomas:

I also liked what she said about right after you’re laid off, writing down what you could have done better as well as what your manager could have done better. Because that sort of self analysis is valuable as you’re thinking through, “Okay, what do I really want to be doing for my next job?” You have a little bit of time and you can do a little bit of self searching to be better and ready for your next job. I like that piece of advice.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, and you touched on this, Jessica, that perspective that she offered. Let’s keep in mind, this is painful, it’s hard and it hurts, but…

Jessica Black:

But we’re going to move on from it.

Mac Prichard:

Right. In the long run, we’ll be working for a long time and this is important but in the big scheme of things it’s not all that important.

Jessica Black:

Right.

Mac Prichard:

I also loved her suggestion about just expressing gratitude when you talk about what happened, and what you liked about a job. Because almost every job has something that we enjoy even the ones that didn’t work out, or we didn’t particularly care for.

Jessica Black:

Right, and we learn something from it, at least.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah.

Ben Forstag:

That reminds me of a strategy we’ve talked about in the past, of the positive, negative, positive, response to questions. When you’re talking about painful, difficult, or touchy subjects, like you start with a positive. You know, “I really liked this job because x, y, and z.” You hit the negative very quickly, “I left this job because of whatever reason”, and then immediately go back to a positive. So that you’re answering the question and giving some context, but also what the hiring manager is going to remember is the last thing they heard. Which is the positive and it really makes you look better as a candidate, as a professional, and you’re not burning any bridges there.

Jessica Black:

In Toastmasters, we call it a compliment sandwich.

Becky Thomas:

Oooh, I like that.

Mac Prichard:

Very nice. Well thank you all, and thank you, Sherri.

Thank you, our listeners, for downloading today’s episode of Find Your Dream Job.

If you like what you hear, please sign-up for our free weekly newsletter. In every issue, we’ll give you the key points of that week’s show. We also include links to all the resources mentioned, and you get a transcript of the full episode.  Now, if you subscribe to the newsletter now, we’ll send you our new guide. It’s called, The Top Career Podcasts of 2017. Discover all the podcasts that can help you find a great job and build the career you want. Get your free newsletter and career podcast guide today. Go to macslist.org/podcast.

Join us next Wednesday when our special guest will be Rob Biesenbach. He’ll explain how to tell your life story in a job interview.

Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job!

Losing a job is always tough, but getting laid off unexpectedly is even harder. It’s emotionally devastating when all of the sudden you lose your job, your paycheck, and the vision you had of yourself, all in one fell swoop.

Career coach and guest expert, Sherri Thomas, shares her tips on how to bounce back from such professional setbacks.

Sherri recommends:

  1. Take some time to heal. Process and quiet the negative chatter in your brain before looking for a new job. Feelings of confusion and embarrassment will be noticed by hiring managers, so work through your emotions before embarking on your next job search.
  2. Identify areas for improvement. Try writing down what you and your previous manager could have done better. This exercise may highlight opportunities for professional growth.
  3. Emphasize the positives. If you are wondering how you should address your departure in conversations, Sherri recommends this recipe: share something you are grateful for from your last position, talk about an impact you made at the organization in quantifiable terms, and then own your story and relay it in a positive way.

This Week’s Guest

Sherri Thomas is Founder and Career Strategist of Career Coaching 360. She helps professionals think differently and proactively about careers. She is the author of two books, The Bounce Back: Personal Stories of Bouncing Back Higher and Faster from a Layoff, Re-org, or Career Setback and Career Smart: 5 Steps to a Powerful Personal Brand.

Sherri is also a Huffington Post columnist and keynote speaker. Her career advice has been featured in the WSJ, Time, and other publications. Sherri is offering Mac’s List listeners her video series, 15 Clever Ways to Get More Job Offers free.

Resources from this Episode