Make the Most of Your Outplacement Program

by William S. Frank, President/CEO of CareerLabĀ®

Outplacement is a step-by-step process to help departing employees find another job. This article is directed toward those receiving company-paid outplacement, but it will help you to work with almost any career advisor you might have.
Your Consultant’s Reality
Outplacement consultants are usually very busy, because they have several roles to fill:
    • Career Advisor
    • Group Leader, and
    • Staff Marketing Person.
Consultants also have to sell their company’s services. This makes them a job-hunter, just like you. In addition, your counselor may be working with as many as 15-50 other job candidates. This means he or she could be spread very thin. Still, he or she will be very interested in you and in your success.
The Client’s Reality
The client is often shocked and dazed at having lost a job suddenly. He or she is looking for help and direction and is willing to trust the career planner’s expertise, at least in the beginning. The client is often feeling vulnerable and time-pressured and wants to see immediate results.
The Consultant’s Role
Newcomers to outplacement often wrongly believe that the outplacement advisor will get them interviews or find them a job.
Actually, the consultant’s role is to motivate and stimulate, to ask the right questions (the hard ones), and to lend emotional support. To be a catalyst, to help you generate options, and to keep you unstuck. To help you clarify, to connect you with community resources and to lend job-search expertise. That’s all.
In truth, this is your job-search, and in the final analysis you are going to have to do a lot of it alone. The consultant will help you, but you will have to make many things happen for yourself.
The Client’s Role
You can have a very big impact on the outcomes of your program by your attitude. I have seen it happen every time. The harder you work at it, the sooner you get positive results. Nothing new about that.
As a client your role is to complete homework assignments on time, to keep productively busy, to keep the consultant informed, and to take the process seriously.
Two Types of Clients
There are generally two kinds of clients: those who go with the process and those who resist it.
Rick Wilson, the President of a large national bank, was terminated and refused to office in our complex. Instead, he leased his own space for $1,800 per month. He wrote and e-mailed a four-page resume with six pages of supplementary accomplishments. We advised him to shorten his materials, but he discounted everything we said.
Rick radiated negativity and barked order to the secretaries. The office staff called him “General”. He seemed to be in his own little world and nothing we could say or do affected him. Because Rick did not allow us to help him, he is still unemployed.
Tim Child took the opposite approach. He welcomed the outplacement experience and wanted to do everything in the detail. When I asked him to list the things he liked and disliked about past jobs, he wrote 13 pages.
After getting started himself, Tim acted as unofficial career consultant to other clients in the complex, helping them with letters, resumes and networking. The day we moved to a new office, he showed up in blue jeans to help us pack.
After six months of immersing himself in process, Tim accepted one of three job offers. When it didn’t pan out, he used the outplacement technologies to start a national management consulting firm.
Things to Do
1. Do take full advantage of the outplacement opportunity. Immerse yourself in it, if possible.
2. Do ask what is included in your program-and what is excluded.
3. Do involve your spouse if he or she would be willing.
4. Do set a rigorous schedule for yourself, and follow it.  Keep the calendar full.
5. Do your homework assignments. Don’t waste counseling time completing homework you        should have done on your own.
6. Do the exercises wholeheartedly, even if you don’t understand what they are for or why        they will help. Sometimes we don’t know the benefit of an exercise until after it is                  completed.
7. Do trust the consultant as much as you can. Most likely, he or she has been through this        many times before.
8. Do make your thoughts, feelings and ideas known. Don’t keep things hidden.
9. Do express your upsets in the counselor’s office. Don’t vent negative feelings on your            family at home.
10. Do keep your consultant informed about your progress and any important new                     developments.
11. Do call the consultant, don’t wait for the consultant to call you.
12. Do be assertive. Ask for what you want and need. Be clear and specific (but there’s no          need to blow up).
13. Do socialize with the other clients and counselors in the office.
14. Do meet frequently with your advisor. After the first two weeks, about one hour per                week is usual.
15. Do make and keep appointments (expect the consultant to be on time too).
16. Do plan your meetings with your counselor. Make them fruitful, not rap sessions.
17. Do prepare a list for your meetings. Bring specific questions requiring specific answers.
18. Do bring every ounce of optimism to the surface. Radiate a smile, if you can.
19. Do take action. Don’t wait for others around you to do something. Do something yourself.
20. Do trust the process. It has a beginning, a middle and an end. Trust that it will end                successfully for you.
Things To Avoid
1. Don’t make a pest of yourself.
2. Don’t corner the consultant every time a questions pops into your mind. Try to collect            your questions and have them answered in one sitting.
3. Don’t try to skip steps or rush things. You’ll make matters worse.
4. Don’t allow yourself too much free time. Too much free time tends to breed anxiety.
5. Don’t hound the administrative assistants for your paperwork. Except in emergencies, a          24-hour turnaround time is considered excellent.
6. Don’t attack your consultant. It isn’t his or her fault you’re still unemployed. The                    consultant is on your team. Remember?
7. Don’t beat yourself up. When things go wrong, we have a tendency to attack ourselves.          Don’t do it.
8. Don’t assume your counselor can read your mind. Ask for what you want.
9. Don’t waste your advisor’s time, or your own.
10. Don’t expect the consultant to know everything. He or she won’t or can’t.
11. Don’t complain to your former company about your consultant. Address the person face-        to-face and deal with the issues head-on.
12. Don’t expect overnight success. Rule of thumb: one month of job-search for each $10K          in salary. Thus, twelve months for a $120,000 job.
13. Last of all, don’t panic. The outplacement process works for everyone. It will work for            you too.