The critical component of an outplacement session is when the candidate comes face-to-face with the power that is their value proposition.  This includes experience, skills and quantifiable accomplishments and the realization of who they really are, what they are good at, and how they can successfully take control of their careers.

Nancy Swain

“That is a powerful “ah hah” moment in the career transition process,” says veteran outplacement advisor and career coach Nancy Swain, President of Strategic Intelligence, a Dallas-based consultancy which has successfully directed outplacement assignments for employees of Fortune 500 companies including MedAssets, Alcatel, Kodak, Unysis, and Motorola.  “Until that happens, executives are destined to be repeat customers for outplacement counselors.”

A master’s prepared counselor with six years clinical experience, Ms. Swain has more than 25-years of experience in executive leadership, training and career counseling.  Ms. Swain also has led sales teams at Voluntary Hospitals of America and Cardinal Health. 

She has also developed and facilitated a broad range of customized training and development programs for various business and industry enterprises including MedAssets, Voluntary Hospitals of America, Hewlett Packard, Kinetic Concepts, GTE, AT&T, Kodak, Unysis, Owens and Minor, Abbott Laboratories, Cardinal Health, Time Warner, Motorola, and The MED Group.

In most outplacement engagements, the emphasis is on the tactics of what the candidate must do to get their next job: the “elevator speech,” write a good resume and cover letter, practice interviewing skills, craft answers to the standard interviewing questions, especially those tough queries regarding career missteps, master the keys of networking, etc.  “For years that was the standard for outplacement services and there were some great people who guided their clients through difficult times.  But today, while those tactical steps are important, they are no longer sufficient to give candidates a competitive advantage,” Ms. Swain believes.  It is a broader perspective than just a focus on the next. “It is no longer enough to help a candidate accomplish what they want:  a similar job in a different location.  It is a process.  It is about discovering their hidden skills and their passion.”

“I never help a candidate write a resume for at least two weeks into the process.  The first goal is to help them truly understand, that even though they lost their job, they have never been more qualified than they are today.  Then we drill down for a deep understanding of their experience, their skills, their attributes and formulate a list of quantifiable accomplishments,” Ms. Swain explained.  “It is a waste of time to write the resume until you refocus the candidate on their value proposition and get them to that ‘ah hah’ moment.  If you do not accomplish that critical step, you have not had a successful outplacement experience, nor have you given the candidate the confidence to manage their careers going forward.”

A critical piece of successful outplacement is to get candidates to develop a list of their life’s accomplishments and quantifiable achievements, to teach candidates how to integrate this information in the job search process, connecting their relevant skills, backed by those quantifiable achievements, seamlessly in an interview.  Executives who master this talent will do well in career management.

Ms. Swain says her landing rate – candidates who find the right next job – is exceedingly high.  “I never have repeat customers, only referrals because even if they have to make a change, the candidate has learned skills that allow them to take control of their career, to master the career management process.”

The traditional resource model is no longer applicable in healthcare, at least for the vast majority of executives being transitioned out of their jobs.  Some of the national firms continue to offer the big infrastructure approach, Ms. Swain said, but increasingly this service is being transitioned to include on-line components.

The cookie cutter approach, where every candidate receives the same basic instruction and tactical advice, is passé.  “To succeed, the on-line outplacement model must do the same thing that I do when I meet candidates face-to-face: teach them how to capture their value proposition and connect it with their experience and quantifiable, relevant results.

“Ideally I would like to spend time, face to face, with every executive who is in transition.  But economic conditions are forcing a change in the outplacement paradigm.  It is not ideal but it is what we have to deal with in the future.

“In the end, it is about a best-in-class process and passion,“ Ms. Swain said.

If you want to meet at the intersection of great process and passion, meet Nancy Swain. 

Photo Credit:  Holly Kuyper