How to Take Charge of Your Career After a Layoff, with Simone Morris

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Find Your Dream Job, Episode 266:

How to Take Charge of Your Career After a Layoff, with Simone Morris

Airdate: October 21, 2020

Mac Prichard:

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 your host, Mac Prichard. I’m also the founder of Mac’s List. It’s a job board in the Pacific Northwest that helps you find a fulfilling career.

Every Wednesday, I talk to a different expert about the tools you need to get the work you want.

Find Your Dream Job is brought to you by Top Resume. Top Resume has helped more than 400,000 professionals land more interviews and get hired faster.

Get a free review of your resume today. Go to macslist.org/topresume.

It’s never easy to lose a job unexpectedly.  But our guest today says a layoff offers opportunities, too.

Simone Morris is here with me this week to talk about how to take charge of your career after a layoff.

She is a speaker, author, and coach and Simone helps job seekers with career planning, partnerships, and branding. She also hosts a terrific podcast, The  Power of Owning Your Career.

Simone joins us today from Norwalk, Connecticut.

Well, Simone, here’s where I want to start, if you’ve been laid off, you’re probably worried about paying your bills, not about advancing your career; shouldn’t you just focus on getting a job? Any job?

Simone Morris:

I think getting laid off is an opportunity to take a time out and really check in with yourself to see if you were happy in the job that you had before, and now is an opportunity to create a new chapter, to create a new career narrative, if you will. I wouldn’t suggest just jumping into any job, just to have a job, because down the line you’ll find that, in terms of fulfillment, you may be challenged with just any job.

Mac Prichard:

What do you say to someone who might be feeling a lot of economic pressure because of bills that are stacking up and they watch the clock ticking?

Simone Morris:

I’d say to them, get creative. Get creative in terms of using a gig platform, if you will, like Upwork, Fiverr, or something like that. Where they are still in control of the opportunities they go after. Really hone in on what the key capabilities that you possess are and then position yourself for some gig work just to make ends meet by getting some dollars in through a Fiverr or an Upwork platform.

Mac Prichard:

Let’s talk about taking charge of your career, what does that look like? What do you mean by that, Simone?

Simone Morris:

I mean, when we lose our jobs, it’s not a good feeling. So, there’s some hurt with losing your job. Especially if you didn’t expect to lose your job. So, there’s a part of the time that is required that is around healing. To heal from the rejection or any stigma around losing your job, but then to really move forward and take control. Get into the driver’s seat is what I like to say. I tell my clients all the time, “Get in the driver’s seat,” using the car analogy if you will, “And drive the car.”

Don’t wait for applicant tracking systems to recognize your brilliance and to reward you with a job. Get in the driver’s seat and direct the car to where you want to go. That’s what I mean.

Mac Prichard:

I want to talk more about that but I’m thinking about the hurt people may feel, and they may think, “Well, I just need a break. I’m going to take the summer off.” Or perhaps the holidays are coming up and they think, “I’ll get to this after Thanksgiving and New Year.” Do you think it’s a good idea to take a break after you’ve been laid off?

Simone Morris:

I absolutely do. I’m one of those people who have taken a sabbatical from work just to take a timeout to allow myself to think. What can happen is, you’re so busy with all the things happening in life that you’re running really fast and you don’t get the opportunity to take a break, and so, I say to my clients and other people that a break is a gift. It’s a gift to reevaluate and determine what’s next, so don’t just dive right into another job and be miserable a couple of months down the line. Appreciate the gift of time, smell the roses, think about what makes you happy, what you want to do next, and then plan to move forward.

Mac Prichard:

How long of a break do you recommend?

Simone Morris:

As much as you think that you need. Listen to your body, listen to your heart, listen to how you feel. If you’re able to navigate with gig warp that helps you economically to where you can extend it to 3 months, that’s great. If it needs to be one month, that’s fine. I just recommend taking some time to think and plan.

Mac Prichard:

What about if you’ve been furloughed, Simone? It’s not a formal layoff, there’s a possibility you’ll be called back; what do you recommend people do during that period? Should they start a job search or should they wait for the call?

Simone Morris:

Well, I am all about being in the driver’s seat, so I tell clients, “Don’t wait.” Whatever it is that you want to do, and I think it’s the same thing that I said about being laid off, if you’re furloughed, it’s kind of like a gift again. A gift to stop and think, “Am I really happy with my position that I’m furloughed from, and what if I don’t get called back? What can I do? What’s going to be my plan?”

You can really use the time to rejuvenate, to even feel good about your current position that you go back to. It’s a break to be recognized and celebrated, and to allow yourself some thinking and planning time, either to go back to the opportunity or to plan what’s next for you in your career.

Mac Prichard:

Well, let’s talk more about getting in that driver’s seat and taking charge of your career. What’s the first step that you recommend to your clients?

Simone Morris:

I recommend to clients to recognize that they deserve to be in the driver’s seat and that means unloading…if there’s hurt from career wounds that you are carrying around like baggage, to unload that, and to recognize that you are responsible for your career. Let me say that again: you are responsible for your career.

Do not have a hands-off approach to your career, waiting for others to move you along in your career. I speak confidently about that because I’ve been there and I’ve done that, and I know it doesn’t work because you’re not always happy about the results.

In order to get happy about the results, you need to be in the driver’s seat and directing where you’re going, in that car.

Mac Prichard:

What does someone who is responsible for their own career do differently?

Simone Morris:

They are proactive. They are proactive about building relationships. In terms of getting out there, they are not saying, “I am laid off,” or, “I am furloughed and I cannot do any networking because the circumstances don’t call for networking.” You always have to build career relationships. So, they are proactive about seeking out people who will help them to advance in their careers.

They are also proactive about and innovative about ideas for career success. So, they create a lane if there is no lane. They get creative and think of ideas, whether it’s writing, whether it’s, as I said, the gig work. Whatever it is you do, you get creative about creating opportunities to build your brand and to advance in your career.

Mac Prichard:

You mentioned telling other people that you’re looking for work and not talking about being laid off. Sometimes, Simone, people feel shame or embarrassment after a layoff. How do you recommend dealing with those feelings?

Simone Morris:

Yeah, it’s tough and I’ve been there because I’ve been laid off myself before, and I remember going to an outplacement firm and a feeling, that stigma that you’re talking about, Mac, and also, in networking scenarios, saying that you’re looking for work. I think you just have to acknowledge it is what it is and you didn’t do anything wrong. It is what it is, you are where you are, and I think if you try to hide it, it’s harder for you, so sort of put it out into the world.

“Hey, I’m at a crossroads. I’m at a new chapter in my career.” And you can use language like that or you can say, “I’m no longer with that company.” Or, “We parted ways and I’m looking for my next opportunity.” So, if you own it and still know that you’re responsible for your career, then you can work through the feelings of the stigma, and I also recommend therapy to people.

If there are career wounds that are keeping you stalled, then maybe you need to talk to a mental health professional to work through that, so that you can release it and move forward.

Mac Prichard:

In your experience, when you give an explanation like that, like, “We parted ways. I’m looking for a new opportunity,” how do people who hear that react?

Simone Morris:

I think it depends on who you’re talking to. Let’s realize that everybody’s not going to be welcoming or that everybody’s not going to be non-judgmental. You are going to come across people who are like, “Oh.” Or have some sort of negative reaction to the fact that you have been laid off or furloughed, et cetera, but then there are going to be those brilliant people or those people demonstrating empathy who are like, “You know what, what can I do to help? How can I help you land your next opportunity?” And I like to talk about the LinkedIn platform because I have seen some people post about where they are in their job search process, and that they could use some help, and I have seen people help them to land their next opportunity.

Own the fact that you are where you are and you are going to navigate what’s next.

Mac Prichard:

You laid out some great ideas for steps that people can take when they’re in that driver’s seat and taking charge of their career. What do you say to someone who says, “Well, that’s terrific, Simone, but I don’t know how to do those things?” How do people learn those skills?

Simone Morris:

Well, let me ask the question: do you know how to drive? How do you learn how to drive?

When I was learning how to drive, I went to a driving school and I had an instructor to help me learn how to drive. Incidentally, I also learned how to drive stick before I got my first car, or manual, if you will, and I had a friend at work who taught me how to drive on lunchtime. What’s the point of my story?

If you don’t know how to do it, find people who know how to do it and get them to help you. It could be in the form of a career coach, it could be in the form of relationships that you build, partnerships where people will help you. You can do some virtual coffee chats and find out, informational interviews with people, “How did you get to where you are and build up your confidence?”

Another thing I tell my clients is to go and volunteer. If you are feeling low in confidence in an area and you’re feeling like you don’t have the experience in an area, find an organization in your industry to volunteer for and volunteer for a highly visible role. Volunteer for a leadership role and build your confidence in that space, and, by the way, while you’re at it, build relationships.

Mac Prichard:

I want to pause and when we come back, Simone, after the break, I want to talk more about taking control of the situation, and I also want to touch on a point that I know is important to you about figuring out what is possible in your next chapter after a layoff.

Stay with us. When we come back, Simone Morris will continue to share her advice on how to take charge of your career after a layoff.

You not only need to take charge of your career. You’ve got to take charge of your resume, too.

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Now, let’s get back to the show.

We’re back in the Mac’s List studio. I’m talking with Simone Morris.

She’s a speaker, author, and coach. And she joins us today from Norwalk, Connecticut.

Now, Simone, before the break, we were talking about taking charge of your career after a layoff. You talked about the importance of being in the driver’s seat and going to driver’s ed school if you don’t know how to do some of the terrific ideas that you’ve shared.

I also know you’ve talked about control and being in charge; tell us more about this. Because it’s not just about learning skills and taking action. There’s more to this, isn’t there?

Simone Morris:

There is and I’ve got to tell you, Mac, the first thing that popped into my mind when you said what you just said was Janet Jackson and I’m remembering her dance moves. I’m not doing them now but I’m remembering her taking control of her career. And there’s an attitude and mindset that goes with being in the driver’s seat. You really have to recognize that you deserve…this is your career, this is your life. You deserve to be hands-on, calling the shots in your career, so that at the end of the game, you can know that your hands were all over your career, and there’s a better sense of fulfillment when you are heavily involved in your career.

Mac Prichard:

Give us examples, Simone, of concrete steps you can take to exert that control and take charge?

Simone Morris:

Well, the first thing that you can do is to do affirmations. If your confidence is not there and you need to build yourself up, that you deserve to be in the driver’s seat, then do some affirmation work each day to say to yourself, “I deserve to be in the driver’s seat. I deserve to be in the driver’s seat. I deserve to be in the driver’s seat. My career is my responsibility. My career is my responsibility.”

Do some affirmations to where you start to believe that your career is your responsibility and then take some action where you are calling the shots. Take action. And if you are in a job or you’ve left a job, get some feedback on why it is, or opportunities for you to work on. Find out from your last employer, your last boss, if you will, be brave, reach out, and get some feedback on what you can work on, because this time, this layoff time, can be used to build skills as well.

Mac Prichard:

What kind of feedback should you look for when you approach former supervisors, former colleagues? Do you have recommended questions you can ask?

Simone Morris:

Sure, well, first thing I will say is get your confidence up and get to a good place mentally. So, feel good about the conversation before reaching out. If you have some sort of negative feeling about it, don’t reach out until you are ready, let me say that first. Be in a good space before you reach out and then reach out from an open standpoint of, “I’m looking for some feedback to really understand how I can move forward in my career. I want to know if there are opportunity areas for me to work on, and I want to use this time wisely, so can you tell me what areas you feel that I need to work on?”

If you can get access to old employee records or performance reviews, try to do that. You can even reach out to people on LinkedIn and say, “I’m working on building up my profile. I’m working on building up recommendations.” If someone is hesitant to give you a recommendation, you can say, “Hey, you know, that’s fine, would it be okay, or would you be willing,” let me use that language instead, “Would you be willing to give me some feedback so that I can work on my professional development plan in terms of capabilities that I want to build during this time.”

Mac Prichard:

Do you have a recommendation for the number of those kinds of conversations you should have? 3, 5, or more?

Simone Morris:

As many as makes you feel comfortable. I wouldn’t do one. I like the range that you’re talking about, the 3 – 5 range but I wouldn’t do one because you want to get a good amount of data to work with. If you get one person, that’s just one person’s opinion. So, aim, like you said, in the 3 to 5 range, or if you’re not getting what you think you want to get, then get more.

Mac Prichard:

What do you do with this feedback, Simone?

Simone Morris:

Well, you digest it, you process it, and you look for themes in the feedback, and you look for opportunity areas in the feedback. If there’s something around your leadership style, then you want to unpack that a little bit and understand the data, and then you want to make a plan of what you want to do with that data. “Okay, well, maybe I need to take some leadership training, maybe I want to read some books on leadership, maybe I want to do some volunteer work around leadership, maybe I want to go back to an organization like Toastmasters and build up on the leadership track.”

Mac Prichard:

We’ve been talking about feedback that might address areas where perhaps your performance wasn’t great but you’ll also hear about your strengths when you have these conversations, too, won’t you?

Simone Morris:

Yes, yes, indeed, and so celebrate those strengths, celebrate that feedback, and know that that was then and this is now, and you are in the driver’s seat, so you get to determine what’s next.

Mac Prichard:

In addition to taking action, I know that you also encourage people to think about their next chapter and what they might do differently in that next opportunity. Tell us more about that, Simone.

Simone Morris:

Yeah, you know, if you…it’s more of a from-to; it’s an opportunity to evaluate where you’re coming from and where you want to go to. So, you can do a from-to diagram where you’re saying, “In my last career chapter, these are the things that I liked, these are the things that I did not like. Let’s pick up on the things that I disliked, here is my list of dislikes. Where do I want to go to?” Coming from, if I dislike doing this sort of work or I dislike the culture that I was working in, maybe I want to look for companies with cultures that feel more inclusive to me. Maybe I want to choose my manager in a different way. I want to be more rigorous in the interview process. So, I want to show up in the driver’s seat during the interview and that means that I am not just there to be interviewed.

I am doing some interviewing of my own, so just as you are being sussed out as a candidate, suss out the manager to find out if they are a good fit for what you want to go to.

Mac Prichard:

Do you have a favorite question that you encourage clients to ask in interviews, to do exactly that, to suss out managers about what might be in store for you if you work there?

Simone Morris:

Yeah, questions around culture are very important. “What is the culture like in the organization? What is your leadership style like? How do you promote your direct reports? How will you partner with me for career success?”

Mac Prichard:

You mentioned reaching out to former colleagues and supervisors to get that feedback a moment ago. What about other people in your network? How can they help you, Simone, when you’re taking charge of your career?

Simone Morris:

I think the first thing you have to say to yourself is, you have to evaluate your A.S.K muscles. Evaluate your willingness to ask for help. A lot of times we don’t get the help we need because we’re not willing to ask for help. So, once you build up that muscle, get clear on what it is that you need help with and what you want to ask for, and then start reaching out to people.

Understand that everybody is not going to be willing to help you and it’s not always because they don’t want to; many people are time challenged and they are leery of getting on the phone for one more networking conversation, so you want to be very clear that, “I’d love to have ten to fifteen minutes of your time. If you can’t do that, would you be willing to do an email exchange where I send you my questions in an email and get your feedback?”

Mac Prichard:

I’ve never heard that acronym before, the A.S.K muscle. I like that a lot.

When you’re helping your clients with weight training for that A.S.K muscle, are there favorite tips that you pass on to help them get good at that?

Simone Morris:

I tell them to do it. The Nike, just do it. Because the more that you refrain from asking, the less likely you are to get what you want, and so you have to come to terms with rejection. I once heard the saying, “No means next opportunity.” So, really shifting your perspective for getting the nos, and when you get the nos, heal from the nos. Take the lesson from the nos. I think that’s the project manager in me saying, find out the lessons learned from the opportunity and then take those lessons forward in going for your next opportunity.

Mac Prichard:

Well, Simone, we’ve talked about the importance of being kind to yourself after a layoff and taking control of the situation, being clear about what you want. I know another point that is important to you in this situation is to pay attention to your personal brand when taking charge of your career. Tell us more about that. Why does that matter?

Simone Morris:

Because you want people to know what you stand for, you want your brand to be visible. I have to tell you, as I reflect back to my decades in corporate America, I did not work my brand as much as I should have. And I realized that after I left corporate America because people saw me synonymously with the company that I worked for and not as the Simone Morris brand. So, I had to work very hard to build up my brand where it’s credible, recognizable.

When you think about brands like Starbucks, what are they known for? When you think about McDonald’s, what are they known for? That is what your career brand should be like. It should be credible, recognizable, consistent and we need to do the work to make sure that our brands exist for the long haul.

Mac Prichard:

What’s the most important step someone can take to improve their personal brand?

Simone Morris:

Take stock of what the personal brand is, take stock of the data that you have received from what we’ve talked about earlier Mac, which is around surveying others that you have worked with or your network, and finding out your strengths and opportunity areas, and then taking that data and doing something with it. You can, for example, leverage your expertise to start building up your thought leadership, and that could look like articles on the LinkedIn platform or industry articles. If you are in human resources, perhaps the SHRM organization. Maybe you can write for the blog, maybe you can be a guest speaker at a chapter meeting.

Use the data that you have found out and create a plan, but tie it back to your personal brand. And I tell clients, if you’re afraid about bragging about your personal brand, there is a book called, “The Art of Bragging.” And that’s a book that listeners can check out.

Mac Prichard:

Well, terrific. It’s been a great conversation, Simone. Now, tell us, what’s next for you?

Simone Morris:

What’s next for me is really focusing on building up a cadre of inclusive leaders. I’m focused on teaching people how to build their inclusive leadership muscles, I have a boot camp course that I am rolling out, as well as a membership community that is again, focused on building more inclusive leaders around the world.

Mac Prichard:

I know listeners can learn more about your boot camp, your services, and your two podcasts by going to connectwithsimone.com.

Now, Simone, given all the great advice you’ve shared today, what’s the one thing you want a listener to remember about how to take charge of your career after a layoff?

Simone Morris:

Your career is your responsibility. Your career is your responsibility. Be in the driver’s seat.

Mac Prichard:

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Next week, our guest will be Cynthia Pong. She’s a feminist career strategist, speaker, and author.

Are you ready to not only change jobs but switch careers?

Cynthia says that before you get started, you need to get clear about why you want to pivot. And you also need to make sure that your decision aligns with your personal and professional goals.

Please join us when Cynthia and I talk about if a career change really makes sense for you and how to do it.

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

All too often, we see layoffs as a problem instead of an opportunity. Yes, you likely need a steady income, but if you take any job you can find, you’re going to be unhappy down the road. How can you spend the layoff time productively? Find Your Dream Job guest Simone Morris says you start by getting in the driver’s seat of your career. Find gig work to put food on the table and then get serious about figuring out who you are, what you want, and where you want to be. Simone says you need to be proactive in developing relationships, learning new skills, and building your personal brand.

About Our Guest:

Simone Morris is a speaker, author, and coach. She helps job seekers with career planning, partnerships, and branding.

Resources in This Episode: