Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Layoff Project: "Be prepared for strong highs and lows"


TN writes in with their layoff story:

I was a biologist at a big pharma company.  As part of a company-wide reorg, our entire department was closed.  We did have several weeks before having to pack up, and the severance was generous.  However, it was shocking and infuriating since my family relocated from across the country just 16 months prior (I was working for the company at a different site).  So my search was more complex in that I was looking in my old location, my new location, and potentially other locations.

What should you do the first week? Should you take a break? Jump right in to finding a new job?  
I would jump in, but I would not start applying for jobs.  Get the word out to your network that you're on the market, update your resume, and think hard about whether you're looking for work similar to your old position or want to explore other areas.  If you still have time w/your previous employer, get a job talk together, get it approved by legal for public disclosure (I believe strongly in this), and write a paper if possible.

How can your family and friends help? 
Expanding your network - making introductions to people at potential new employers - and moral support.  It's also important to avoid isolation.

Was the help the company offered you (outplacement, etc.) useful?  
Outplacement is marginally helpful; most useful is you can network and it gives you an excuse to leave the house.

What financial advice can you offer? What should/did you do? What should you NOT do? 
File for unemployment ASAP.  Be prudent with spending.  But you should not go on complete austerity, you still need to live your life.  We still went on a family ski vacation and it was a sorely needed reprieve from the job search (and I didn't need to use vacation days!).

When did you start looking for another position? 
I started promptly since I am the primary breadwinner and a Type A personality, but I would advocate taking a short break and start with a clearer head and less panic.

How painful was finding another position? What should someone be emotionally prepared for? 
The pain lessens as you gain more distance from your previous job and more towards your next opportunity but be prepared for strong highs and lows, even from one day to the next.

How did you spend your typical day? What behaviors do you think were helpful or not helpful? 
I had a couple of guiding principles:

1) Do not check job sites more than once/week or you will drive yourself crazy.  Every Monday I would start with an aggregator (e.g. indeed.com) and then follow up at companies on my target list
2) Leave the house at least once every day, even if it's just to run errands.

I would spend several hours a day with the job hunt - anything from searching for positions on-line, networking and informational interviews (preferably in-person), researching companies, and preparing for interviews.

But it is not a full time job.  I spent more time with the kids, did more running, and volunteered.  My wife is a freelance writer from home and we went on several "dates."

It was also critical to negotiate how much extra housework you're willing to take on.  Yes, you have more time on your hands, but a job search takes time, and you will be resentful if you feel you have moved from valued professional scientist to housekeeper.

Have you found new work? What was helpful there? 
I have found new work without having to relocate or taking a pay cut.  I am lucky that I am loving my new job, have great colleagues, and while staying in research my focus is different so I am learning a ton.  The most important things are to keep a positive attitude, build new relationships, and learn how processes are done in your new environment (and not complain if they are different from where you were before).

CJ here again. Thanks to TN for sharing their story and best wishes to all of us.

The Layoff Project is an attempt to collect the oral histories of chemists who have been affected by the changes in the pharmaceutical and chemical industries. The explanatory post is here; stories can be left in the comments or e-mailed to chemjobber -at- gmail/dot/com. Confidentiality and anonymity is guaranteed. 

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