Author Archives: Vivian Blade

5 steps to surviving a career transition

“Fortune 100 Company Lays Off Employees” “Corporate Restructuring Offers Early Retirement to Hundreds of Employees.” You see these headlines all too often. You may have been personally impacted or know someone who has by announcements like these. My family has been personally impacted by both.

An unexpected layoff or early retirement brings with it a lot of anxiety and emotion. It raises serious questions that weigh heavy on your mind… “How can this happen after I’ve given so much to the company for so many years? How long will it take to get a new job? How will I continue to provide for my family? Will I have enough retirement income to pay for insurance and our monthly living expenses?”

What do you do if you find yourself downsized out? How do you exit as gracefully as you can and transition smoother than you thought possible?

These 5 steps are your keys to getting through this.

Step 1. Love yourself first

Don’t take this personal. Downsizing happens as a matter of keeping companies profitable and competitive. However, these are never easy decisions for the company to make. Don’t blame yourself or others. Blaming becomes a barrier to moving forward. Besides, it won’t make a difference anyway. Your first step is to discover and learn to appreciate who you are and the value you bring. Reflect on what you’ve accomplished. You’ve grown in experience, talents, and skills. You have value! Create a “My Value” list by writing your reflections down. You’ll be able to come back to this list when you need encouragement. Give yourself space to deal with and work through the emotions. But, don’t stay in that space. Let the best in you inspire you.

Step 2. Leave with a good reputation

Decide that you’re ready to move on. Once announcements are made, even if you have time before you physically leave, the organization is already moving on without you. Do what you can to bring some closure to current projects. Leave your work organized and easy for someone to pick up after you’re gone. Assist with the transition. Be as objective as you can. Don’t participate in negative talk. You want to be remembered for your value. You never know where paths will cross again in the future.

Step 3. Look ahead

If you were sitting with a fortune teller, what would she see in her crystal ball for you? What would you want her to say you have to look forward to? Feel hope and look ahead to imagine the possibilities. What have you always wanted to do? What are you passionate about? Where can your experience and skills add value to the next stage of your career? Use the resources the company may make available to help you transition. Take advantage of the benefits of outplacement services immediately and fully. You may feel embarrassed to go to the outplacement or the unemployment office. Don’t be. Use these to the fullest. Light your path forward with a plan to make your vision reality. Everything won’t be crystal clear as you begin but will grow clearer as you progress.

Step 4. Leap forward

You have the courage within you to leap forward! From your reflections in these prior steps, you know you are a person of tremendous value! The best-laid plans need action. Dedicate your attention and time to your next chapter. It will take courage. You will experience disappointments. But, remember, a “NO” doesn’t mean failure, it means “Next Opportunity”. In the animated Christmas show, “Santa Clause is Coming to Town”, Kris Kringle sings “Put One Foot In Front of the Other” when he’s trying to help the Winter Warlock change his evil ways. The Winter Warlock’s first step began to change everything for himself. His life was so much better as a result. Leap forward with the courage to act by taking a step at a time. You have what it takes!

The Kris Kringles in your network and support system are willing and waiting to help you move ahead. More people than you know have been in a similar situation and are glad to help you as others have helped them. It’s important to cultivate your network on an ongoing basis. Your next opportunity is often as good as your network. A word of caution, don’t just reach out to people when you need something. Relationships are reciprocal. Genuinely reach out and be willing to see how you can lend a hand.

Step 5: Look Beyond to New Possibilities

I was recently back home in the mountains of West Virginia and was reminded of how beautiful a hike up the mountains can be in the spring. Once you reach the summit, you can look at the beauty and grandeur of the terrain. The view stretches as far as the eye can see. Like the boundary-less view of the horizon, your step forward opens new possibilities. Continue to dream! You never know what lies ahead for you.

The beginning of this transition seems daunting and uncomfortably uncertain. Have faith that your higher power will get you through this. 2 Chronicles 20 was empowering for me. I pray that these 5 steps and this scripture will be empowering for you.

Leading through transitions

Even though unemployment is low, companies are still restructuring. Companies are facing uncertainty in healthcare, new business models in grocery retail, and new competition in other industries. In order to remain competitive and take out cost, companies turn to restructuring their workforce with approaches such as layoffs or early retirement offers.

My husband’s employer offered him and hundreds of other employees early retirement. He had a very successful career moving up in the company over 34 years. The parting was painful for some, exciting for others, and emotional for all.

I also personally experienced my own corporate employers’ restructurings. Early in my career, peers were laid off from a leading healthcare company. I survived that layoff, but remember how painful that day was for those who left and those who stayed. Also, a few years ago during a thirteen-year career moving up the corporate ladder for a Fortune 50 company, my name was called in a layoff. This definitely was an emotional transition in my life.

In each of these situations, I observed how tough the transition has been for those retiring or being laid off, and for those staying with the company. But, we often don’t think about how tough the transition must be for the leaders who have to put the pieces back together with the remaining team. Most leaders have never been in a situation like this before, and don’t know how to handle it.

Leaders are faced with two primary challenges – managing the transition of employees leaving, and inspiring the team that remains. Following are strategies that will help you successfully navigate through both situations.

Leading Employees Transitioning Out

How do you help employees transition out, when their shortened careers may not be by choice?
1. Be as transparent as you can – Help all employees on your team understand why the company needed to take this action, within the boundaries of what you can legally discuss. Communication may help them better deal with the situation.
2. Appreciate them – Let your departing employees know that their service to the company is sincerely appreciated. Share how their contributions have been valued. Self-worth and self-confidence are usually at low points during these times. Even though you can’t reverse the action, it matters to know that their years of commitment and hard work were not unnoticed or unappreciated.
3. Be empathetic to their emotions and concerns; listen – People just want their concerns to be heard. Know that this is a very emotional situation that will take time to work through. Be empathetic by just acknowledging their feelings.
4. Offer assistance to land elsewhere – For some employees, you may be able to connect them to professionals in your network, or share opportunities that you hear about.
5. Give the space and bandwidth needed to transition out – Don’t try to just suck the life out of them before they leave. Where the situation permits, determine how work will be reassigned as soon as you can and communicate it to the team. Give them the bandwidth to close out projects and train other employees on the responsibilities.

Leading the Remaining Team

How do you handle the next morning and coming days when the remaining employees return to work and things are different?
1. What assurances can you give – The morning after the layoffs or retirements are effective, meet with the team first thing to acknowledge that things will be different, but they have your commitment that you will make the transition as smooth as possible. Assure them that ‘we’re all in this together’.
2. Be as transparent as you can – Communicate allowable information on what will happen next as soon as you can. Employees are wondering what’s ahead because the grapevine is ripe with rumors. Don’t sugarcoat the news. If the cuts are over, let them know that in order to ease other fears. However, don’t give false hope. Be honest if more restructuring is on the table and all the dust hasn’t settled yet. Trust can grow or be broken at times like these.
3. Appreciate them – Let them know how much you value their hard work and pitching in to make the transition work.
4. Be empathetic to their emotions and concerns; listen – Acknowledge that your employees feel unsettled and miss their coworkers. Empathize with their emotions and concerns. Share that you have the confidence in them to work together to make the transition as smooth as possible.
5. Make yourself available for employees to come to you with concerns – This will take time to work through. Let employees know your door is open to listen; however, don’t passively allow whining to take hold.
6. Provide direction – Your team is looking to you for guidance and direction on how to move forward. What does the new structure mean to the company and to your team? How do things change or stay the same? Invite input on how the team can work most effectively in the new environment. Create opportunities to strengthen relationships among the team.

You, leader, play a huge role in how restructuring transitions turn out.

If you are not proactive in leading your team through the process, you’ll have tougher consequences to deal with.

And if the team you are leading through transition includes millennial talent, I have created a special update to help you. You can download it here.