[Delivery Status Notification Failure] First Things to Do When the “Pink Slip” is for You

There are certain steps you should do when you leave a job, and Sam (not his real name) knew them all. He just didn’t follow them.

I thought it was odd when my mid-monthly Life Back West mailer bounced from his work address, but it would not be the first time that an e-mail bounced from a valid address. Odder was the call two week later from a manager from his firm looking for some advice, the type of advice you’d normally get from your Head of Human Resources. When my e-mail suggesting we connect for our every six months or so coffee noodle bounced, I knew to call him on his cell phone.

Sam had been fired off as part of a 30% reduction in company headcount, dispensable now that the firm was shrinking to save cash. Modest severance in hand, he went home, part embarrassed, part angry. 90 days later he’d managed to scare up three interviews but had not told anyone else that he’d been laid off.

Why is this important to you?

Just about anyone who works in any fair size corporation will be laid off, reorganized out, and be fired from a job during their lifetime. I know one guy who has been laid off six times. It happens, and it happens often enough that you should know what to do before it happens, and what to do after it happens.

And while I’m not talking about the emotional part of losing your job, that part is important too. What I am talking about is the “logistical” and resource side of the equation – the stuff that will help you get reemployed.

What do you do?

The first thing to understand, and as I’ve written before , one of the most valuable possessions you have is your personal network. Akin to a combination to a bank vault, your network – particularly if you’ve nurtured it – is priceless.

Next jobs statistically come through networks, far above anything other source of opportunity.

The first thing you do before you lose your job is make sure you’ve got the contact information for everyone you know in several places. Don’t count on having the time to pull down info from your contact file from your office computer – you likely won’t have that luxury of time.

For everyone you know you should have their e-mail address, work or mobile phone numbers, and mailing address if you’re a little obsessive compulsive.

Keep a copy of the list (it could be an Outlook file, a Mac Address Book file, an Excel spreadsheet, etc.) at work, and keep a duplicate copy someplace else. Google docs , with their ability to keep files via a web based interface is one option, as is mailing a copy of the file to your personal e-mail address (or even better, Google mail so you can access it anywhere). Update the list weekly, both on your local (work) computer and your remote (personal) file.

So what happens when you’re let go?

If you can negotiate it, have a message put on your e-mail that says “Mike Smith is now longer with ABC Company. Should you need to reach him on a personal matter, his personal e-mail address is MikeSmith@gmail.com. If you need help with company business, please contact XYC@ABC.com or call them at 415-123-4567.

If you’re on a negotiating roll and can wrangle it, have the same message put on your voice-mail.

Tell your spouse/partner and family what’s going on. No sense having someone call and inadvertently break the news (which happens a lot).

What’s next?

You make a calculation on when you’re going to engage your network. If you think you might land someplace in 2-3 weeks you wait until that happens and send out an e-mail (the type that you send individually to a few key people or perhaps even call them, and send a second note blind cc’ed to folks) that says something like:

I’d like to let you know that I’ve taken a position with AAA Company effective today. My new work contact information is (phone, e-mail address, and physical work address). My personal e-mail address is still the same, and mobile phone continues to be 415-888-1234.

You might also add a line which is something like “Let me know if you’re in the neighborhood and I’d enjoy catching up or coffee or lunch.”

What if you’re not going to land someplace within 2-3 weeks?

If you’ve waited 2-3 weeks to find a job – and haven’t – or you don’t think that it’s likely to happen,  send out a note like this:

Sorry for an impersonal e-mail but I wanted to let you know of a change in contact information as I’m no longer with ABC Company. The best way to reach me is via this e-mail address, or my mobile phone number at 415-123-4567 (and / or land line).”

Last, you may to think back to Communications 101 and remember that generally the best communications strategy is to get your accurate information out first, rather than last: you form an impression in people’s minds that tends to jell rather than react to someone’s already formed opinion.

In that case, you add a line to the effect of (fill in the facts that are appropriate to you):

I’ll be seeking new opportunities as my position was eliminated due to a (check one: company reorganization, closure of the business, a significant headcount reduction, etc.). Please catch me if you come across opportunities that may be appropriate for me.

Any last words?

Losing your job is generally a pretty lousy event – and can often come with a loss of esteem and sense of pride. It can also be, in some cases, as sense of relief in moving past a role or culture that was not such a great fit.

One of the best things you can do is to let your personal network help you in taking a next step forward to your new job or role. And second, Richard Nelson Bolles work “What Color is Your Parachute ” continues in my mind to be the best self-help resource available to you.

Third, I’m still waiting for “Sam’s” network announcement e-mail.