Today we continue with our story about Dan, an executive who was terminated by his employer after they had brought in a new executive to lead Dan’s Division.
“To shake things up,” is how his former boss, the CEO describe the move.
After a short period of time, Dan, who consistently met his performance targets, was terminated. The new boss decided to “go in a new direction,”
Yes, you are probably familiar with that ubiquitous phrase that is used to fire people when companies do not want to go into details as to “why”, or they lack a compelling reason.
They did not tell Dan his position was being eliminated which signaled that the new boss was going to replace Dan with someone of his own choosing.
This termination was a big blow. Dan thought of this company as part of his extended family. He held close professional relationships with members of the team he helped build. It was painful and disorienting.
Dan’s wife, Jennifer, although shocked at the news of her husband’s termination, realized that the likelihood of Dan finding another job at a similar rate of compensation in this small city, was very unlikely. She realized immediately that they would have to sell their new home, uproot the kids from school and friends, and start again.
She, too, would miss her close friends, some great relationships that evolved from more than five years of almost daily contact.
Her husband spent the first couple of days after that fateful Friday afternoon, end-of-the-day termination in a zombie-like state so Jennifer, a former senior executive before they decided to have kids, had jumped into action. Once a corporate executive with experience in these types of events, she immediately contacted their attorney who had contacts with the company and who had represented some previous executives who had left.
He was able to negotiate a much better deal than Dan’s new boss offered, and who had pressured Dan to sign the severance agreement. Now Dan and his family would have medical benefits, he would get his end-of-the-year bonus, six months severance and outplacement counseling. The lawyer simply encouraged the company to meet the same standard they had used when previous executives were moved out.
So the family had financial security for up to a year, maybe a little longer with what was left of their savings account after they bought the house.
Jennifer insisted that Dan continue with his long-planned fishing trip with friends to her parent’s lake cabin. While he was gone, she went to work getting Dan’s home office set up and researching outplacement counselors.
Dan was due back on Saturday and she wanted to be ready to present a plan for his new full-time job: finding a new job.
Dan was so rattled by the company’s decision that he asked Jennifer to help.
Her first task was to identify some potential outplacement consultants. There were all shapes and sizes. She began with several well-known national companies that her former employer had used. They had varying degrees of success, and they soon realized Dan would just be another number in a current large client pool. One company was infamous for cookie cutter transition plans.
Another company offered lower cost fees but their program was built around classroom instruction. Dan would be lumped in a room with supervisors, managers and executives getting some fairly generic advice. Moreover, this company, a national franchised operation, lacked industry specific experience. Their marketing rep said not to worry about the industry experience, that it was not important, but Jennifer’s experience told her better.
A third company said they would develop Dan a new resume, teach him how to interview and share their large industry network with him. This sounded promising but when she asked questions about the changing job market, she did not get a sense that this boutique firm’s basic service had changed over the last 10 years. They did not have a social media specialist but they said they were thinking about hiring one.
Yet another boutique firm talked about working with Dan to first develop his value proposition, that this would be the foundation for everything in Dan’s transition, then move to developing a resume and finally conduct several mock interviews that were videotaped for coaching purposes. They did not have limits on their services — “we will stay with Dan until he lands in a new role” their principal said. She knew a senior executive who had used them. The executive raved about their approach, especially the mock interviews and follow up coaching.
That was THE dealmaker for Jennifer. Also, the other firms had a term limit on support for 60 to 90 days. She knew an executive job search in a competitive market could take six to eight months, or longer.
The really good news was that this firm’s fees were $3,000 under Dan’s negotiated settlement so she would save that savings for contingencies that almost always arise during a job search.
Jennifer made an appointment for the first session the week following Dan’s mini-vacation. It would be a face-to-face assessment of Dan’s style, presence , his prior experience and competences. After the first day-long meeting, the subsequent coaching sessions would be conducted via FaceTime or Skype which would be easier on their budget. They needed to conserve moneyed airline fares seemed to be going up again.
On Sunday afternoon, after Dan returned from the trip with his friends feeling rested and optimistic, he and Jennifer huddled in Dan’s new home office to talk about his day-to-day schedule.
Dan could not help smiling. It was not that his wife was a control freak, but she was amazingly organized and her approach was built around how she knew Dan liked to work. Instead of designing a system that would, in effect, force Dan to change his style, she thought about an approach that seemed to match her husband’s work habits.
He loved his new work digs and readily bought in to his new schedule.
A realtor would arrive on Monday, after the kids left for school. That night they would have to break the news of the impending move. They did not know what to expect and a sense of dread, and, to be honest, some guilt, began to seep back into Dan’s otherwise optimistic frame of mind.
They also talked about the possibility of having to move on to interim housing. Although their community was not that big, the demand for good housing was very high and the realtor, who was familiar with their neighborhood and the houses, told them to prepare for a quick sale, that buyers were paying a premium over market price. Jennifer would scout for housing locally in hopes of keeping the kids in their school but given the fact that housing was in such big demand, she also would call her mom to look for property in her city, about three hours away.
Dan, whose parents lived on the east coast, understood that their decision to remain in the center of the US made sense for a job search.
Meanwhile, Dan began to organize his professional contacts that he had brought from his office computer. He was very careful not to copy any information thought to be proprietary. He purchased an online contacts manager that would enable him to track his interactions with professional networking resources and potential employers.
Dan always hated it when he returned someone’s call who was looking for a job and found that they were not sure which company Dan was with. The person came across as confused and disorganized. Dan was determined not to be like that. He knew that the market for executives in his field was very competitive and he knew he had to be exceptionally professional and well organized. He knew he could not afford to botch an opportunity because he did not have his act together.
Dan was a hard worker who stayed focused on the task at hand. He knew the secret was being organized and executing on a plan with some specific targets and timelines.
The rest of the afternoon he took Jennifer’s excellent framework of his job search plan and began to develop timelines for his search. First up, was to schedule travel for the outplacement consult and to identify eight to 10 references who would be willing to share their thought’s about Dan and his performance. He came up with the number because he knew the search could take up to a year or longer. He did not want to wear out his references. He read somewhere about the phenomenon of reference fatigue.
He also updated his professional profile on his trade association’s web site. He had thought about canceling his membership and his reservation to attend the national meeting but both his wife and lawyer insisted that he not do that. The company had agreed to allow him to use the tuition.
“You do not want to be penny-wise and pound foolish,” Jennifer had said.
It was getting late, his work was so engaging that first day that he did not realize how fast the time had flown by. He made a mental note: A year’s severance seemed adequate but Dan knew he could not afford to waste his now most valuable asset: Time.
On Monday, there was more good news. And, there was some bad news.
Yes, the realtor said the house would sell quickly — she personally knew of four or five buyers who would probably compete. She told Dan and Jennifer that they could expect to reap a nice profit from the sale. But she also cautioned them about the difficulty of finding a decent rental or lease property given the housing shortage. This would make the conversation with their kids all the more difficult. Again, Dan could not help but dread the possibility that his kids might blame him for getting the sack and the collateral damage that they might have to leave their school and their friends behind.
That afternoon, before the kids returned from school, Dan began to plan some coffees, lunches and telephone calls with potential referral sources. Their home was about 60 miles west of another metropolitan area and Dan had several industry contacts there. He blocked out Friday’s for the lunches and coffees since that was not the best day to make job search calls, he had read.
He also scheduled time in the gym at their club. Staying physically fit would support self confidence as well as help provide the level of energy he would need to go into his home office each day and make the essential telephone calls as well as work on expanding his professional network of contacts. He was determined to apply the same discipline he had in his former office to his new role.
So his new life was coming back together. He was going to the office but it was for the kind of word he would have preferred, but just that development was reassuring.
He scheduled time every week for staying current on industry trends, for working on his social media profile and brand as well as for making telephone calls searching for information on potential new job opportunities.
He made a list of companies that he would like to work for and planned to begin looking for LinkedIn connections with current employees of those companies or with people who might be able to open doors and make introductions.
He knew that external recruiters handled only a small percentage of the total number of job openings so he was determined not to sit around and wait.
Now here is an industry note: Truth be told, people who rely on the sit-and-wait approach to finding a new job, will either experience a significantly longer time in finding a new job, be forced to settle for less, or will prematurely retire.
A hallmark of Dan’s personality was that he was not willing to settle. He believed that “settling” was actually a plan for mediocrity.
He had much to be thankful for: a wife who loved and supported his career and a wonderful family — his kids, his parents and his wife’s parents, highly successful entrepreneurs who thought the world of their son-in-law and were ready to help if need be.
Now, thanks to Jennifer’s support, Dan had a plan, goals and a weekly work schedule that would govern his routines, all elements of a successful transition strategy.
And he had two great coaches. The first was his outplacement consultant who helped him identify his true value and craft a great message to share with potential employers. She understood the changing job market and was guiding Dan to understand that it was all about meeting the needs of potential employers.
Then there was his second coach, Jennifer. She was an amazing life partner in that she understood her husband’s strengths and weaknesses, and helped him with a plan that reflected that deep understanding. No judgments, second guessing or recriminations. Just support.
Dan was on the road not just to find the same job in another city, but to take his career to the next level.
Thanks for listening.
Now, I want to invite you to visit my blog on Thursday at www.johngself.com where we will examine the two types of baseball teams — yes, you heard me right — and how those two models apply to career management, believe it or not. Join me and I think you will see the similarities and that recognition could help you with your career management strategy.