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theLabRat.com - What to do if you are laid off...
What to do if you are laid off...

In the good times the biotech industry is a very exciting!  Let's be honest though, in the bad times it really sucks!  In your career you will undoubtedly be laid off or down sized and probably more than once.  For me it has been twice in four years!  One thing has kept me coming back for more!  The fact that I have landed a better job both times I was rightsized!  The first time I was unemployed for one month, the second time I was unemployed two months.  Getting employed this quickly was not by accident, but as a result of careful planning before the layoff and observing a few key points (in no particular order) which I will now share with you.

What to do before a layoff:
  • Always have a current CV - Make it a ritual every month to update your CV.  Make sure it contains all of your publications and current job duties.
  • Circulate your CV to headhunters every six months - Cultivate a personal relationship with a few recruiters in your area.  Invite them to lunch and ask about what employers are currently looking for in candidates.  If you don't have these job skills, get them!
  • Don't loose touch when people leave for a new position - When people leave your current company, make sure you have a forwarding address, phone number, and email.  Don't be fake, but find a way to stay in touch.
  • What can this job do for me - Always be thinking how your current job will help you get the next job.  What will tangible evidence will you take from this job to demonstrate that you were a valued employee (publications, presentations, patents, etc.).
  • Never miss a chance to network - At meetings never forget to give out your business card and to get one from who you are talking to.  This is especially true at scientific meetings like ASBMB.  You are building your network for the future with people who have a common interest!  Most jobs in the biotech industry are filled through word of mouth and are never advertised.  A good number of positions are filled by the time the ad gets to the media.
  • Always cultivate a personal relationship with sales reps - It is annoying when they show up without an appointment, but after you are laid off they can be your best source of information.  The sales reps who cover your area will know who is buying and expanding and who is in trouble.  They may not be a source of leads, but they can distinguish the quality opportunities from the ones you want to avoid.
  • Save some money - The extra cash will help you during an extended layoff.  You want to try to avoid the stress of having a quick deadline when you must have a job
What to do after a layoff:
  • File for unemployment - Don't let your pride get in the way of this one!  Immediately file for unemployment!  You don't know how long you will be out of work and any money coming in will help.  Also find out what services are offered by your local employment office.  Some offer phones and internet access to help the job seeker.
  • Asses your financial situation - Make a detailed budget and stick with it.  Try to estimate how long you savings and unemployment (and severance if you were lucky enough to get some!) will allow you to look for a job.  Make sure to include some cash for going out since you will need to relax during this time! There are some good basic financial articles on budgeting and other topics here: Money articles and advice.
  • Do you need a career change - Maybe it is time for a career change? Check out this page for more information: Guide to career change.
  • Make a home office - Set aside a place in the home with all the basic office materials that you have.  If you are lucky enough to have a placement service then learn about what services they offer.
  • Make it a job - Like any job you can take a day off, but treat your looking for a job like it is your job.  Five days a week, eight hours a day.  I would tell myself I would earn a day of vacation for every two weeks that I worked looking for a job.
  • Blow off some steam - At some time during this ordeal you will be pissed!  The key is to not let your bitterness consume you but realize that it is natural to be mad.  Just realize it was not personal.  The company will move on and so should you!
  • Don't feel ashamed - Being laid off is not something to be ashamed of in the biotech industry.  If it has not happened to you yet then you are the exception to the rule!  Chances are that most people that you talk to during your job search have been laid at least once in their career.
  • Leave on good terms - If you must return to your job to pack up your things make it a point to go around to everyone that you knew and give them your contact information and get theirs!  Try to keep a happy face and don't be bitter.  The "survivors" of a layoff go through quite a bit of stress as well!  Every day you are distancing yourself from the event whereas they have to look at the empty cubicles and offices every day.  That does not make for a very happy work environment.
  • Take a self assessment - Ask those deep questions:  What kind of job do I want?  Where do I want to work?  Should I change my specialization?
  • Who do I know? - This is the start of the job search.  Making a list of who you know and where they are.  Get this organized on paper or with software such as Outlook or Act 2000 to track correspondence.
  • Figure out what to say - I would discourage scripts as they make you seem a little to much like a robot.  Instead put together a few talking points.  Make sure to get at least one name from each person on your primary list.
    • Example for people you know
      • Find out how they are doing, what is new with them.
      • Give them the news about the layoff if they don't already know.
      • Tell them what you are looking for in a job.
      • Ask if their company is hiring.
      • See if they are free for lunch (if they are - ask them if they could think about who they could refer you to between now and then).
      • Do you know which companies are hiring?
      • Is there anyone else that you know that I should call? (I can't stress this enough).
    • Example for people you don't know
      • Introduce yourself and say who referred you to them.
      • Tell them you were laid off and what type of job you are looking for.
      • Ask if their company is hiring.
      • Do you know which companies are hiring?
      • Is there anyone else that you know that I should call? (I can't stress this enough).

  • Go to any scientific meetings in your area - If there are any meetings which interest you then make sure to go!  Look at these as an opportunity to network!  If you don't have the cash then contact a sales rep and get an exhibitors guest pass.

  • Target you correspondence - Target your correspondence to a specific person at each company.  After a few days follow up with a phone call or an email to ensure that they received your CV or references and that they were delivered to the appropriate person.

  • Practice your interview skills - A great place to do this is at a scientific meeting.  The career fair can set you up with several interviews in a short period of time.  Go on interviews even if you don't think you would care for the job.  You might be surprised when you interview and it will give you valuable experience for the job you really want.

  • Consider consulting, temp work or a side business - After you have exhausted your contacts consider consulting or temp work.  In the right situation this can be very nice.  I did some consulting during the last layoff period which allowed me to not dip into my severance and also gave me the confidence I needed in my job search. Also consider starting something on the side that can run on its own. I started theLabRat.com between jobs.
  • Put your extra time to good use - If you don't want to consider consulting or temp work then make sure your days are busy.  Chores around the house are nice to get done but I would suggest taking some time to learn some new skills or even take a short course at a local college.

  • Before you start your new job take a vacation! - You have earned it!  Once you start your new position you will not be able to take a vacation for quite a while, so take advantage of the time and go have some fun.

  • Save your receipts - Remember that everything you pay for on your job search is tax deductible!  Make sure to consult your tax advisor on this, and if you don't have one then get one!

I hope this guide will help you out.  If you feel you need more assistance, I would suggest you contact a placement service to arrange for an appointment.  I have used DBM (Drake, Beam, and Morrin) in the past and found it very helpful.  If you have any suggestions, please email them to me.

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