The Upside of Being Downsized

Have you ever looked at a trick picture of an image such as a vase? Then, if you look at the same picture again, but this time from a different angle or perspective, you see a totally different image — two profiles looking at each other. This type of picture is referred to as a paradox. The interesting thing is, you cannot view the two images at the same time. You either focus on one image or the other. Sometimes, it’s hard to refocus to view the other image once you have the first picture planted in your mind. 

Being downsized and going through a career transition is a little like viewing that type of picture. First, you may focus on the unwanted change — how your downsizing is creating stress, chaos and crisis in your life. Then, if you’re fortunate enough to have been employed by an organization that valued outplacement services and worked closely with a personal career consultant, a different perspective might have taken shape.

I have been an outplacement consultant for about a dozen years. Most of my candidates initially view their downsizing as a professional crisis that they need to get through as soon as possible. But within time, a different picture begins to take shape. They view their downsizing and outplacement experience as a hidden gift.

Through the outplacement experience, candidates gain a new sense of self-awareness. They become more conscious of their skills, achievements and value that they bring to the table. They learn how to articulate their value in the form of a personal brand that they can proudly communicate in their resumes, LinkedIn profiles and talking points. They learn new business skills that empower them, such as networking, selling themselves and negotiating new opportunities with its terms and salaries.

Mostly, my candidates develop a new mindset regarding their careers. They become more proactive and in charge of the direction where they want to take their career. Outplacement becomes a time to explore the road not taken. Even though most candidates continue down the same career path, some use this time to reinvent themselves, change industries, choose different size companies and even find themselves in higher-level positions than the one they started with. Some use this time to launch their own business. Instead of trying to climb the corporate ladder, they decide it’s time to own their own ladder.

The outplacement environment becomes a supportive and nurturing sanctuary where candidates hone new persuasion skills, stretch beyond their comfort zone and slowly transform into stronger and more self-assured career professionals.

The corporate landscape is rapidly changing and job security is quickly becoming as distant a memory as Blockbuster video stores. Through the outplacement program, candidates learn how to make their careers sustainable by relying on networking skills, creating compelling narratives and understanding how transferable skills can keep them adaptable in this sea of change.

Before coming to outplacement, most of my candidates were totally unprepared to manage their careers in this 21st century climate of marketplace instability. By being exposed to their outplacement program, they now feel empowered, ready and confident to manage their careers with the new market realities.

By the time their program is over, many of my candidates express a sense of gratitude that they were afforded the opportunity to learn new business skills. For them, this is the upside of being downsized. 

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  1. Melinda Brown's avatar
    Melinda Brown
    | Permalink
    Very true, Damon! Our participants come out of our programmes feeling more positive, confident and generally happier than when they started. In addition, we have had so many say that they are grateful their employers provided the support. That is why it is important for organisations to offer career transition programmes to outplaced employees - an employee (even one who has left) can have an impact on an organisation's brand and reputation in the marketplace.
  2. Russ Knight's avatar
    Russ Knight
    | Permalink
    Damon, great piece and really great, compelling title! When we talk to job seekers we try to remind them that there is light at the end of the tunnel - and it's not a train.

    The opportunity to go through outplacement IS an upside. The coaching and the time to pause is part of the value add too. Sometimes candidates say "I need a job ASAP". Maybe not. Perhaps this moment of pause during your career is even better.

    Good word.

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