Unemployed? Here are 4 Guidelines for Getting the Word Out – the Right Way
Unemployed? Here are 4 Guidelines for Getting the Word Out – the Right Way

Unless you're leading a charmed professional life or are self-employed, there's a good chance you'll inevitably hit a speed bump at some point in your career — and have your position impacted by a layoff. In such cases, emotions always run high, and it can be tempting to panic and immediately reach out to your network to share the news. However, it’s essential to recognize that such a move can impact your long-term employment chances.

For example, a recent viral video showed a woman filming her termination from a technology company and posting it on TikTok. In the video, she confronts an HR professional and another leader at the company — asking them to walk through the specific reasons why they were eliminating her job, even though (at least according to her side of the story) she exceeded all of her manager’s expectations.

If you were a hiring manager, how would you feel if you were interviewing somebody for a role, searched their name on Google and this video popped up? Would you be more inclined to hire them? Or would you have some potential concerns about inviting them to be part of your team? In fairness, most people will never engage in such a drastic measure. However, when communicating with your broader network (as opposed to your close circle of family, friends and supporters), you always want to keep your professional reputation in mind and be sure the message you're sharing is the subject of long, thoughtful consideration.

As a career coach, I've advised many job hunters on how to handle these situations over the years and here are four guidelines for getting the word out about your unemployment I'd pass along:

1. Be unfailingly positive (even if you don't feel that way)

There's no getting around it. Layoffs and terminations stink. They're always personal (no matter what the employer might say) and no matter how prepared you feel you might be to receive such news, it's always going to feel like a punch in the gut. Your initial reaction to the news will likely surface feelings of anger, fear and frustration.

And yet, the reality is negativity doesn't sell. Attitude makes a huge difference in the hiring process and no employer is looking to hire people who bear a grudge or have a chip on their shoulder. Moreover, most people in your network won’t be eager to make referrals for people they feel are stuck in a negative place.

Sure, they'll tell you they'll keep their eyes and ears open for you, but when it comes down to passing the names along of an influential contact or two, chances are they're going to balk. They'll be worried that such referrals will backfire, and you’ll make them look bad by handling the introduction in an inappropriate, unprofessional or glass-half-empty way.

Whether you're announcing the news of your layoff in written form or in "live" fashion to your circle of contacts, keep your game face on. Emphasize the positive, focus on the aspects of your last job you DID enjoy (e.g., what you learned, what you accomplished, the quality of people you worked with, etc.) and frame everything optimistically. It’s fair to express a certain amount of regret or disappointment about what happened but be sure to balance these sentiments with some upbeat thoughts.

2. Look forward, not backward

Talking about your bright future is more critical when addressing a layoff than focusing on your turbulent past. While it may feel cathartic to go into great detail about what happened in your last assignment, it doesn't serve much of a purpose. The more airtime you give to the past, the less information you'll be passing along about what matters in terms of the types of jobs you're targeting and the kind of organization you’re eager to join forces with next.

Keep the gory details about what happened in your last role out of any broader messaging. Resist the temptation to vent and instead signal to your network that the layoff happened, that you've moved on and that you're excited to see what new career adventure the universe has in store.

Fake it 'til you make it, if you have to, but keep steering the conversation to the future and showing people you're eager to get back to work. Be sure to arm your network with specific details, such as the types of roles, companies and work you’re interested in moving forward, so they understand what a good referral looks like for you.

3. Don't tarnish your "permanent record"

Another reason to be careful about communicating layoff news to your network? In the social media age, you can't "unring the bell" once your messaging goes out there. If you fire off an angry tweet or post a note on Facebook in the heat of the moment, in most cases, it’ll come up when somebody searches your name. And you'll likely regret such an action once you've gained a little more time, distance and perspective.

I realize your termination or layoff could have been unfair or handled unprofessionally. I'm not advocating caution regarding how an employer might feel about the news you put out. That's the least of my concerns; in some cases, they really might deserve it.

But the question revolves around doing what's in YOUR best interests, career-wise. Now that we're all living in the digital age, we've got to be vigilant about what we attach our names to since it will have a permanent digital lifespan.

4. Imitation is flattery, borrow ideas from others

In contemplating the best way to share news regarding a recent job loss, I'd encourage you to look to others for inspiration. You'll undoubtedly see examples of people venting about their situation or putting out a fearful, desperate vibe.

But you'll also see tons of examples of people rising above the fray and sharing heartfelt, thoughtful notes about the time they spent in their prior organizations — and who are communicating a plethora of helpful information about the new types of roles they're excited to land. Don’t hesitate to borrow liberally from these postings’ language, tone and attitude as needed since they attract a far greater number of referrals and moral support from the LinkedIn community.

Layoffs are no picnic and it's understandable to want to share the news with your network immediately. But everything has a time and a place, and with a bit of consideration up front, you can craft a more thoughtful message that gets you more of what you really want — enthusiastic support from a bevy of folks eager to help you get hired again.

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Author Matt Youngquist

Matt Youngquist

Guest writer Matt Youngquist is a recognized career coaching expert and LinkedIn trainer in the greater Seattle area. He’s the founder and president of Career Horizons, where he helps clients across the Pacific Northwest tackle the challenges of job hunting and employment transition.

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