So you’ve just been laid off … and you’re hit with a whirlwind of emotions. And you begin to ask yourself the following questions: What do I do now? How will I feed my family? Where will I find work?
All of these questions are valid concerns, but it’s important to remember you’re not alone in this – 150,000 some odd workers have experienced the same thing in recent months due to the sharp dip in oil prices that began late 2014.
There is life after layoff.
While it’s natural to have feelings after being laid off, it’s important to keep them at bay long enough to plan your next steps. According to certified career coach Lisa Quast, the very first thing an oil and gas employee should do immediately after being laid off is finding out what’s included in their layoff package – which typically includes severance pay that covers two weeks of pay for every year the employee worked at a company plus continuation of medical benefits for a set period of time.
What should come next, Quast told Rigzone, is a conversation about outplacement services – which helps laid off employees make their transition easier.
Lindsay Witcher, director of practice strategy for RiseSmart, a company which offers outplacement services, told Rigzone her company’s service is unique in that it partners each individual with a team of three people – a career coach, professional resume writer and job concierge – to help with the transition. They’re a business-to-business (B2B) company, meaning employers reach out to them when they expect to have layoffs. RiseSmart then reaches out to the laid off individuals immediately. She said individuals who work with them land jobs in an average of 82 days, which is 61 percent faster than the national average of 209 days, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In addition to questions of layoff packages and outplacement services, laid off employees should also ask their manager and/or other employees for recommendation letters. This should be done prior to exiting the office, Quast said.
“Recruiters like to see recommendations from previous bosses, coworkers and people who reported to you (if you were a manager) because this helps give them a broader view of the type of employee you were,” she said.
Witcher said she has found that job-seekers often want help branding themselves.
“They understand how important it is to have themselves represented well on paper and online,” she said. “You have to learn how to stand out in today’s job market. Your accomplishments are what make you unique.”
Many employees are tempted to jump right into the job search immediately after being laid off, however Quast said that could be a job-seeker’s biggest mistake – “not taking time to process all the emotions associated with being laid off.”
Quast described the layoff as going through a grieving process, especially if they’ve been at a company for 10 or more years. She said it’s important to take time to grieve and get through the emotional rollercoaster they’re riding. Taking a few days or even a week to process everything will allow individuals to get back in job search mode with a clear head and level emotions.
“Think about your last job and previous jobs and contemplate if you’d like to find a similar job or one that’s slightly different,” said Quast. “The more specific you can get in the type of job you want next, the easier it will be for you to target those jobs in your job search process and to customize your resume.”
It takes strategy in the job search along with a little resume customization.
"One tactic we’ve seen some employers adopt is the concept of ‘flexible leave’ programs. Flexible leave programs allow employees to apply or volunteer to take an extended leave of absence (employers continue to pay a reduced stipend and/or benefits) for a specified period — six months, 12 months, 18 months, etc. In exchange, the employer and employees agree to specified parameters (i.e. the length of leave, restrictions in working for a competitor during the leave, parameters around employers calling back employees from leave early, what happens once the leave expires, etc.) The idea is that the flexible leave program allows the employer to reduce the headcount for the short term, but allows for flexibility and connection back to flex-leave employees when the need arises to ramp up activity. It’s a win-win in that employers are able to flex their headcount and maintain their connection with these individuals and employees love it because it allows them a break to go back to school, spend time with family or travel … even work someplace else during this time.”
“Don’t just upload your resume to oil and gas job boards and expect the jobs to find you,” Quast said.
She offers the following tips for laid off employees to customize their resume:
As many are aware, oil and gas is a people industry and networking is key, though individuals often neglect to network after they’ve been laid off, said Witcher.
“Most people rely on what’s comfortable and that’s sitting behind your computer shooting out your resume and hoping somebody calls you back,” said Witcher, who refers to this as the “spray and pray” approach. “What you find out rather quickly is you have to do more than that to be effective. As much as 80 percent of jobs are found via networking.”
Jobs acquired through networking can take several different forms (finding the job online, but knowing someone at the company who was able to push your resume up the ranks; a close friend telling you about an open position within their company and you applied, etc.).
“Networking is really about helping others and through that approach, what goes around comes around,” said Witcher. “When opportunities for new jobs arise, people will think of you.”
Witcher said individuals who have worked in oil and gas probably have a larger network than they realize.
“It’s important to take a step back and think, ‘who do I know?’” said Witcher. “Think broadly – not just people you worked with directly but people in other departments. You never know who may be the perfect connection to get you to that next job. Leverage the fact that it is a close-knit industry.”
Quast added that trade associations are a good place to network for job openings.
“While you’re building your network within the oil and gas industry, don’t forget to stay in touch with other employees who were also laid off, and even with those who weren’t, because you never know where a job opening lead will come from.”
By maintaining a positive attitude and can-do spirit, giving themselves inner pep talks, setting daily and weekly job search goals and celebrating small victories, job-seekers can help keep up morale during the job search, said Quast.
It’s imperative to set up a support system – a team of either family members, close friends or maybe even other laid off comrades – who can provide encouragement and assistance while searching for a job.
“It can be difficult and sometimes discouraging to find a job if you are going through the job search process alone,” Quast said.
She added it’s important to weed out negative people who always make negative comments about anything an individual is doing while looking for a job.
“One way to identify these people is by the way you feel when you’re around them. Often times, you’ll feel like all the energy has been drained from your body. That’s because it probably has – these people are human energy vampires who will suck your energy dry with their negativity,” Quast said. “One of the best things you can do for yourself during the job search process is to carefully choose the people with whom you surround yourself. Be selective about the people with whom you associate and choose people who will lift you up and help you fly, not those who will hold you back from achieving your dreams.”
Individuals who have been the recent victims of oil and gas layoffs may have a prolonged period of time until their next job. That’s just the reality. Fortunately, employers aren’t overly concerned with resume gaps.
“Having a gap on a resume isn’t as big of a deal as most people would think,” said Quast. “After the economy crashed in 2008-2009, I rarely saw a resume that didn’t have a gap because so many employees around the world had been laid off due to corporate downsizing.”
What matters more to recruiters and hiring managers, Quast said, is what you did after the layoff, such as how you searched for a new job, if you learned new skills, volunteered and stayed up-to-date on industry news, amongst other things.
“The more proactive you are in your activities during your layoff period, the easier it will be for you to discuss this time period with potential employers – and the more apt they’ll be to consider you for a job,” Quast said.