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How to come out better after a Corporate RIF

Being part of a RIF (Reduction in Force) is a horrible feeling. We place so much value on what we do for a living. It doesn't matter how big or small the part you play, for many of us, it identifies who we are.

Below are some simple steps to help you come out better on the other side of a RIF or layoff or termination. Your feelings are valid, but your skills and experiences are going to help pull you through with strength and confidence.

Whether you loved your job, tolerated it or hated it, there are a plethora of emotions tied to being let go from something in which you have invested so much time and energy.

Shock, sadness, anger, shame, fear, anxiety are some of the more common emotions, and it's completely normal to have these feelings.

You may find yourself reflecting on every. single. thing. you could have done better. You may be angry that the other guy is still there. You may feel that it's not fair. You may even pretend to "go to work" every day following the RIF because you don't want to burden your spouse with worry (people actually do this), or you are ashamed.

The fact of the matter is that a reduction in force is usually just a corporation's way to trim the fat in order to stay afloat. It is not personal and it can be just as difficult for those handing out the furlough notices as it is to those receiving said notices. In all honestly, nobody is really "safe".

There are two ways to navigate a RIF:

  1. Sit in your emotions and stew. Let time pass you by as you wait for something to happen; or

  2. Take stock of the skills you have learned over the years and put them to use. Now.

If you fall victim to a corporate RIF, give yourself some time to grieve and go through your emotions. But don't sit there long. Consider this an opportunity to design your own professional future.

Instead of reflecting on things you could have done better (hopefully, an ongoing process in life!), reflect on all the skills you have learned over the past few years.

Maybe you have worked for this company your entire life. You haven't written a resume in decades and you believe that you don't have the skills to do anything else. You couldn't be more mistaken.

  1. Take stock of your value

You may need to reflect more on your successes and contributions than someone who had only worked for the company for 5 years, but you will have more successes, you will have contributed more, and you will have gained more skills.

Begin writing all you have done - in no particular order.

  • What skills do you have?

  • What applications are you versed in?

  • Did you manage people? If so, how big was your team?

  • What did you deliver?

  • What three things are you most proud of during your tenure?

    • Be able to articulate those three moments

    • Understand what you needed to overcome to see these three things come to fruition

    • Know the value of your contributions

Don't minimize yourself or your contributions. Toot your own horn.

2. Understand what you really want to do.

  • What is going to motivate you to get up in the morning?

  • What kind of job do you want?

  • Note that which is important to you in your professional life:

    • Money

    • Self-Employment

    • Title

    • Time with family

    • Management

    • Company culture

    • Travel

    • Career growth

Once you know what you want to do professionally, look at the skills and experiences you already have that would help you get to where you want to be.

3. Research

Whether you want to work in a big corporation, a start-up or begin your own business, do the research. Find companies that interest you. Leverage your network of friends, colleagues, business associates, acquaintances. Ask for help.

4. Update your resume

Easier said than done. We tend to sit in security when we have a job and don't really think of updating our resumes. But we should always have it updated, even if it's in raw form.

If you are unsure how to write a proper resume, applicable in the 21st century, there are companies that can do this for you and it's worth the money. If you have dedicated your entire life to one company, the candidate-vetting process has changed significantly since you last needed to do this. Corporations use software for keyword searches; everything is digital and application-based.

Consider this unexpected event as a gift of opportunity to do what you want to do, using the skills and experience you already have!

If you are feeling challenged with any of this, hire a Career Coach. S/He can turn your feelings of shock, sadness, anger, shame, fear and anxiety into confidence, motivation, and excitement.

The greatest opportunities are on the other side of change.

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