The photographs of workers carrying boxes of their stuff leaving Lehman Brothers building in New York City yesterday were heart wrenching.

It’s one of the worse feelings to have a job one day and be out of work the next.

I remember when I was laid off from a magazine job in Manhattan many years ago. The editor was such a sweetheart about it. He even cried when he told me and a bunch of other reporters that we were part of massive cutbacks to help the publication get back into the black.

At first, the events seemed surreal. I was like a zombie walking out of the building with my box of stuff. But when I got on the subway heading for Astoria where I lived in a tiny apartment over a Ravioli shop, it hit me. I still have to pay rent. I got a sinking feeling in my stomach and the overwhelming thought I had was that I had lost control. Control over my life, my career, my finances.

I probably ended up at the greasy souvlaki restaurant near my home, meeting a friend to bitch about how bad life sucks.

I was in my early twenties and didn’t really think about getting my butt into gear fast. Until that editor called me to check up on me. He offered me a bunch of his contacts and had this sense of urgency in his voice, not for himself but for me. The editor was probably in his 50s and probably realized I was going to do the twenty-something, unemployment-check, hang out for a while. But the world of journalism and the workforce in general, rewarded those who were quick on the trigger.

At least that’s what I took away from our conversation.

OK, why am I sharing this event. Because I learned something back then and it served me well throughout my career. You can hang out a bit and have a greasy souvlaki or two, but it’s best to get right back into the game, especially if you want to become successful in a particular career, or if you’re worried about paying rent or a mortgage.

Today, 25,000 workers at Lehman don’t know what the future holds for them. That’s also the case for the 60,000 workers at Merrill Lynch, that will be gobbled up by banking behemoth, Bank of America. And also, outside of Wall Street, the loss of 25,000 jobs at Hewlett Packard was announced yesterday.

It’s definitely a bloodbath out there, but you all need to remain strong.

So it’s time to get your career armor on and figure out how you can best fight your way through the job battle ahead.

If you’ve been laid off from a job you thought paid well and you can’t find something comparable, it might be a good time to go back to school in order to learn something new so you can transfer your skills to another industry. There may be state or federal money available for retraining, so it’s a good idea to check with local community colleges.

With a mechanical background you could be a hot commodity in a hot industry like green manufacturing where companies are looking to make environmentally friendly products, says Chuck Pappalardo, managing director of recruiting firm Trilogy Search.

Now more than ever, you have to be clear on what you can bring to a prospective employer because there are going to be more people applying for that job you want.

“They need to develop an elevator pitch for why someone would want to hire them for a particular job,” Pappalardo advises. “Candidates want to be very targeted. I don’t mean get one or two targets, but really target your career and who you are. What sets you apart and makes you more qualified for a certain job than others.”

To target your search, you have to do a lot of research up front into a company and the job you’re applying for. Sending out hundreds of resumes without knowing exactly what you want is going to get you no where, especially in a weak job market.

So, get some comfort food and find comfort in knowing it always works out in the end. I’m serious folks. Almost everyone I’ve know who’s gotten laid off always ended up better off.


Here are some great tips from Deborah Brown-Volkman, a career coach and author of Coach Yourself To A New Career: A Guide For Discovering Your Ultimate Profession:

1. Recognize That Losing Your Job Was Not Your Fault

Yes, there is some relief knowing that the inevitable
has finally happened vs. the waiting to see if you
will go next. But there is still a little part deep
inside you that wonders if it was your fault. Maybe
if you worked harder, then this would not have
happened. Maybe if you worked weekends, evenings,
etc, it would have been some else that was cut.
Maybe if you participated in office polices more,
you would still have a job. All these thoughts drain
your energy and take away from the contributions you
made when you were there. Your company was not doing
well. They had to cut costs, and you were one of the
people they cut. This is all there is to it.
Period. Stop making it mean something more.

2. Decide What’s Important To You

You probably have put YOU on hold for years as you
have been spending all your time figuring out how to
mold yourself to be someone else. You worried about
what your boss thought of you, what his or her boss
thought of you, and what your co-workers thought of
you. You spent many evenings trying to calm down or
figure out what to do with a co-worker or boss that
was driving you crazy. All of this is gone (if only
temporarily) and now you get to decide what is
important to you. What makes you happy? What gets
you excited? These are questions that you can answer
because you have been given the gift of time to do

3. Recognize That The Time Off Is A Blessing

Things in life happen for a reason. There was some
purpose for you to stop and reassess how you have
been living your life at this point. Why do you
think this happened now? Were you working too hard?
Were you neglecting yourself? Was your family
screaming for you to spend more time with them?
Now is the time to see if your former lifestyle will
fit your future one. Use the time wisely because an
opportunity like this one may never come again.

4. Decide What You Will Do Next:

Will you stay in the same career? Will you do
something different? Will you start your own
business? Or, will you decide to scale down your
lifestyle so you can stretch out the time before you
go back to work? There is no right or wrong choice,
only what calls to you. Trust your instinct.
The answer is inside you. It is up to you if you
will take the time to listen.

5. Put An Action Plan In Place:

Now that you have free time, how will you make it as
productive as it can be? How many resumes will you
send out each week? How many hours each day will you
spend searching for jobs online and in the paper?
How may people will you talk to, and how e-mail’s
will you send out? Your job search does not have to
consume you, but having a daily plan, will keep you
from sitting in front of the TV saying “I really
should be looking for another job.”

6. Get Support:

Enlist the help of a friend, spouse, coach,
colleague, etc. Someone who will listen and support
you through this transitional period in your life.
Looking for a job can be frustrating, time consuming,
and disappointing. Remember that you do not have to
do it alone.

7. Reward Yourself:

Yes, the final reward is finding a new job, but there
are milestones that can be rewarded along the way.
Sent your resume to five employers? Reward. Went on
one job interview this week? Reward. When you look
back, you will know that you are not the same person
you were before this happened. And, you will smile
to yourself because you know that this is a good

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