The final benefit: Outplacement
You have risen through the ranks of your company to the position of vice president. You've been a good performer. Then the roof caves in. The company is acquired by another firm and a few months later your position is eliminated. You find yourself confused, angry and out of work. This scenario, and others like it, happens every day all over the country. Most people think, "It could never happen to me." But, in the ever-shifting business climate, the fact is that it's a possibility you can't ignore.
What are the chances you'll be able to find another job? Obviously, that depends to a great extent on things like your work experience, your ability to relocate and the contacts you have established.
Whatever the situation, jobs at the executive level are scarce and scattered. Employment agencies usually don't handle jobs above the $50,000 range, and it may have been a long time since you have had to look for a job on your own.
This situation has spawned a relatively new corporate benefit called outplacement, a concept only about 15 years old and still maturing. Basically, an outplacement firm is hired by the company that fires you, for the purpose of helping you to find another job.
But what does your former company gain? One of the most obvious reasons for offering outplacement is to build a reputation as a caring company. Other reasons aren't as noble. Charges of discrimination and other lawsuits initiated by former company executives can be embarrassing and expensive.
"If they're talking to an outplacement counselor, they're probably not talking to a lawyer," says Terry Malek, outplacement counselor and management consultant with Maglio and Kendro Inc. of Milwaukee.
Most people are extremely upset and in a state of shock following a termination. They have no idea what to expect from an outplacement agency. Here are some things to keep in mind in case you should ever have to use an outplacement service.
Do your negotiations at the time of termination
Remember, out of sight is out of mind, so before you walk out the door, find out exactly what the outplacement firm has been contracted to do.
Also, try to negotiate for as much severance pay, vacation pay and as many other benefits as possible. It takes most people in these circumstances at least six months to be hired, so negotiate with this time frame in mind.
If your company offers no outplacement help, try to get a higher severance amount. The reason you have been terminated will determine the strength of your negotiating position.
Know what the outplacement firm has been contracted to do and insist that they stick to it
Companies often pay 15% or more of an executive's former salary for outplacement service, plus the expenses of stationery typing and printing a resume.
In spite of the sizable fee, service to the job-hunting executive can fluctuate in quality, depending on the firm. If the outplacement firm doesn't place you within the first few months - and they have agreed to help you until you find a job - protest if they begin to withdraw their support.
"Because the individual feels like a failure, they tend to blame themselves and rationalize that the outplacement counselor did what he could," says Malek, "when, in fact, it's probably the failure of the outplacement counselor who has abandoned the case."
Insist on personalized service
Some bigger outplacement firms use an assembly line approach. One person counsels you, another does your market research and another writes your resume.
If this appears to be the case, request the services of one counselor who will work with you until you're hired. Your campaign will be more tailored, you will repeat yourself less often and you will probably get more personal coaching and counseling. This counseling may even include your spouse, particularly when relocation is being considered.
It's important to remember that your marketing campaign should be different from everyone else's campaign. Even if the job you want is relatively common, the job market changes constantly, and your background, skills and experience are unique. You will probably find a job that's right for you if you have one counselor who knows you personally.
What is offered?
What does a full service outplacement firm offer?
A pre-termination conference is held with your manager to discuss the circumstances from management's viewpoint. All information regarding severance pay, vacation pay and other benefits are discussed.
Then a post-termination conference is held with you immediately after you are terminated. The purpose is to put you at ease regarding your situation, and to explain the outplacement process.
Vocational assessment may be done to determine your strengths and weaknesses and the potential career opportunities you would be suited for. Preparation of your resume, cover letters and marketing letters will require comprehensive data gathering sessions. You should insist on a personalized, accomplishment-oriented resume. Brochure-type resumes, resumes that don't name the companies you have worked for and letters sent without resumes should be avoided.
Finally, interview coaching is usually provide to help you tactfully answer questions about your former employer. Particular attention is given to the way you
Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, customized training (leadership skills, presentation skills, internal consulting skills & facilitation skills), team conflict resolution and retreat facilitation.
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