Finance First Friday: Unexpected Job Loss

In spite of an overall good economy, it is common for members of our community to experience unexpected job loss. This seems to be in many different employment groups and at all position levels. Knowing the stress unemployment produces I reached out to parishioner, Gil Lautenshlager, to get some first-hand experience and ideas.

Sarah: Gil, thank you so much for sharing with our fellow parishioners, what experience have you had with unemployment?

Gil: Years ago, I was President/CEO of a U.S. company.  It had been owned by a European firm for approximately four years and was underperforming. After two years I was escorted out the door. Three other executives succeeded me but conditions deteriorated to the point that the U.S. company had to be broken up and sold piecemeal. There was also turnover in the European Management. The point of my rambling is that in almost 50 years in business management, I have rarely seen an employee terminated, where it was solely his or her fault.  There are consistently under currents of management politics, hind side protection, outside influences and other factors that were clearly not caused by the employee who was let go.  Certainly, I made mistakes and did some stupid things. Probably the same was true of the other five executives let go. But ultimately the organization failed to define a viable strategic direction.

Sarah: It’s so tough losing your job, even when it’s not a good situation. I was laid off in 2012, along with 800 other employees, even though I saw it coming and welcomed the opportunity to change careers it was still hard not being wanted any more. What are your thoughts on that?

Gil: You cannot obsess on what you did to cause your termination. As with my experience, you can be assured there were factors beyond your control, that played a major part in the situation. Neither can you spend your energy being angry at your former employer. That will only serve to poison your job search. These are both difficult emotions. 

Sarah: How do you suggest handling these emotions?

Gil: I would suggest this is a good time to contact your priest or other trusted advisor. I did and that enabled me to move forward. You must “clear the deck” for the task facing you. I have experienced several career crises, and can guarantee that the sooner you find spiritual peace, the sooner you can effectively search for a new job.

Sarah: What do you think is the first step after being let go?

Gil: Once you have your “game face on,” you need to explain the situation to your spouse, partner, children, and other loved ones. Tell them your plan to secure new employment. Be honest about any financial sacrifices that need to be made.  

Sarah: Yes, honesty and an action plan worked for me, although it can be hard to keep your motivation up when faced with unemployment, do you have any recommendations?

Gil: Take the time to lay out all of the details of your job search. Commit them to writing. Do not take your unemployment status as an opportunity to slow down and relax. Your job search is a full-time effort and it helps to conduct yourself as you would during conventional employment. Set aside someplace in your home, where you can work, undisturbed. Have a desk or table, a phone and your computer with internet access. Get up at your usual time, get dressed, eat breakfast, all as you normally would. Be at your workspace, working, at the time you previously started work. Find a friend or acquaintance, who is familiar with the re-employment process to mentor you and act as a sounding board. There is no reason to be ashamed of unemployment. It is a reality of modern life and you are not being singled out. Work with your mentor to develop a list of target jobs, companies and industries. Consider your compensation requirements. Discuss the possibility of relocation with your family.

Sarah: Not having been unemployed before I found good advice invaluable and would recommend reaching out to the local workforce center, what recommendations do you have?

Gil: If a parishioner cannot find anyone, with whom they are comfortable, contact me (612-799-4474 or [email protected]). Remember, I’ve been there. I will guide them through the process. In addition, I have a presentation, I prepared for a job search work shop, including a lot of sample documents. I don’t expect to be paid, but ask that when they are again employed and their finances are in order, they make a contribution to a charity of their choice. 

Sarah: That is very generous of you Gil – thank you – and as you mentioned you gave a job search presentation during a workshop at St. Mark’s Cathedral, what are your top tips?

Gil: Well, …

  • First, pray for strength.  Prayer DOES work.
  • You need to have a resume which gives an overview of your employment and education. You can find people who will “write” you a resume for a price. It’s up to you if you want to pay someone to edit or “pretty up” your resume. But the content MUST be yours.  You will need to repeat it over and over again and sell it in interviews.  That’s hard to do if they’re somebody else’s words.
  • You also need to develop and perfect an “elevator speech.” This is a 30 to 45 second verbal recap of your experience, accomplishments and the type of situation for which you are searching. Practice it over and over, in front of a mirror until it becomes natural and convincing. You will need it for casual conversations.
  • Once you have a resume there are several ways to approach potential employers such as applying for job postings, networking, civic and professional organizations, employment agencies and recruiters. You MUST be dynamic and do several of them – not just one or two.
  • You will quickly find that printed newspapers and other printed media are no longer a good source for job leads. Use them but concentrate on on-line job boards.
  • When responding to specific open positions, tailor it to relate directly to the position for which you are applying. Review the position, identify the requirements and tailor your letter and resume, to show how you meet those requirements.
  • Make a list of ALL of your personal and professional acquaintances. Don’t worry about being embarrassed, include everybody.
  • ID organizations that relate to your job skills or interests. Try to get their membership lists. Some will make it available, some won’t. If you can’t get a full list, you can usually get the officers names from their website.
  • Some experts suggest “cold calling.”  I’ve found a modified approach works better.  Prepare a generic letter or email (preferred). Explain your situation with a positive bias. Summarize your experience and accomplishments. Discuss your objectives. Say you will call in a few days. Send with a copy of your resume. Absolutely follow-up with a telephone call. If necessary, remind the person of how you know each other. Recap the information in your transmittal. Remember your “elevator” speech. Don’t ask for a job. Ask them if they can provide any ideas or directions. Ask them for referrals and repeat the process. Do everything you can to accomplish your objective but still keep the conversation brief. Send a short thank-you note and reiterate any significant subjects discussed. You may not find this easy. Don’t get discouraged. Take any negative experiences with a “grain of salt” and move on.
  • It will start slowly but you will begin to get called in for interviews. Take every interview that is offered to you even if you know you’re not interested. Interviewing is a learned skill and you need to get as much practice as possible. This is another place where you will need help from an acquaintance, who is familiar with the hiring process. Feel free to call me.
  • You may well have experienced some financial trauma while you were unemployed. I know I did. As soon as you get back on your feet, start accumulating a “war chest.”  Lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice, but unemployment does. I can tell you about it from personal experience. As soon as you land write, to everyone in your network, tell them about your new job and give them your contact information and thank them for their help. Every six months, or at least once a year, correspond with everyone in your network, tell them what you’re working on and offer to give them any kind of assistance they may need in the future. Pay it forward. If anyone contacts you, in a job search, bend over backwards to help them.
  • Remember to thank God via prayer.

Thank you Gil!

If you have experiences and resources to share with the parish, on employment or other financial related subjects, please contact Sarah Dull, Executive Administrator – you never know who needs to hear your story.

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