Being Laid Off Part I: What to Update?

I found out on December 10 that my last day would be December 19. I thought I took it pretty well. The company had had one round of layoffs (15%) in November. Although I did not expect the second round (18%), I had seriously confronted the question, “What would I do if I were laid off tomorrow?” I think it prepared me mentally.

Everyone around me, especially my boss, naturally had a very sorrowful look. I tried to stay cheerful and walked around and told everyone the news. I received numerous offers of a variety of help, and expressed my gratitude for them. Having heard horror stories of employees being escorted out by armed guards and even losing some personal possessions, I knew I actually had it pretty good.

The cliché is that when you lose your job, you update your resume and start sending it out. However, years ago, I had read this wonderful little book:

Two things about it resonated deeply with me. The first was the contrarian approach prominently expressed in the title. If everyone around you is updating their resume and blasting it out, then you’re likely to get lost in the noise if you do the same. The whole point is to differentiate yourself, so you need to behave differently from others.

The second was the author’s application of corporate product marketing principles to the personal job search. As a fractals geek, I’ve always enjoyed seeing similarity at different scales, and it was satisfying to see this principle at play. Plus, I have much more experience doing (or seeing) product marketing than I do searching for jobs.

Another book that had impressed me recently was this one:

In the chapter on product development, he describes using your own contacts as your target market. Provide something valuable to the people you know personally. This approach avoids two mistakes: Too many people (especially technical people) build products based on what they like doing, and forget about what people really need done (and are willing to pay for). Others (especially those seeking venture capital) try to tap into mass markets which they understand only indirectly through third-party research.

So my conclusion was, rather than focusing on my resume, focus on my contacts list: Who are all the people I could contact? What were their interests and needs? How might I help them?

That’s when I hit on the idea of doing a segmented marketing campaign, leading my contacts to a personal web site. I divided my contacts into five segments, tried to guess general needs within each segment, and sent each person an e-mail appropriate for his or her segment. I directed each segment to a separate tab on my web site, where I described problems relevant to the segment and how I had solved them.

I won’t say the campaign has been a resounding success until it leads to income. However, it has met my expectations. There were many bouncebacks, but numerous people have responded with excellent job leads, lunches, coffees, illuminating experiences, wise advice, recommendation offers, and encouragement. Writing the software kept me busy for three weeks after I got the news, and handling responses to the campaign has kept me happily busy for another two.

Tags: Business, Reading

Updated at: 15 January 2009 10:01 AM