Bring a Bag…

Feb 27, 2013   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Careers, Professional Development  //  13 Comments

A couple of months ago I talked about Project Parabola – It’s Reorg Season.  The project is basically concluded, and not surprisingly, resulted in a small number of layoffs. In a really sad situation an employee walked over to my cube and asked if I had a plastic bag or a box—at first I thought he was joking, but then quickly realized he wasn’t joking. I have to say: watching this was really painful, and frankly, his manager should had a box ready for all of his stuff. That was particularly crappy.

As part of Project Parabola, a small number of employees were let go—they got a basic severance package of a week of salary for each year they worked for the company, along with their vacation pay. Additionally, they get the use of an outplacement service, (I’ll talk more about this later). So how can you prepare for a layoff?

  • Always be looking—never stop looking for jobs. Your company doesn’t care about you (seriously no box?) so why should you be loyal to them? I’m not implying you should job hop—but talk to human traffickers recruiters (I love the good ones, I really do), and see what’s going on. By all means, if you see something that looks interesting to you, wrangle your way into an interview for it.
  • Keep your resume/CVs up to date and tailor them to the specific job description you are applying for. Notice that I have used plural forms there?  Yes, it’s fine to have resumes tailored to specific types of jobs.  In fact, it’s a good thing.
  • Network with others NOW, not when you need a job. By networking, I don’t mean handing out business cards. I mean building relationships with people. You don’t have be BFFs, but you do need to know people well enough to ask them for a favour, later.
  • Join user groups and participate in them. Attend some meetings. Most user group meetings are free. Take advantage of that.  My mantra is NetworkToGetWork.  Remember that.
  • Participate in social media, even if you can do it only on a limited basis. Your reach is so much larger there. Still do local, in-person networking, but don’t ignore the virtual opportunities.
  • Update LinkedIn—make sure your skills and profile are up to date. Don’t wait to do this when you need it. Do it now. In fact, in my presentations on Career Management for Data Professionals, I tell people to set a reminder to update their profile monthly. Not only does this keep your profile up to date, it notifies people in your network that something has changed. That gets your name in front of them on a regular basis. Regular updates also have the benefit of not signalling your boss that you might be looking for a job.
  • Help people now, not when you need help. In addition to building a network you should have a reputation of helping others. I don’t mean just offering to help, but spending time to give others advice, write a helpful blog post, answer an email or to give someone a ride to a SQL Saturday or DAMA event.  Note: I may have had assistance in writing this post.  Thank you, anonymous helper. If you ever need a job, you are on my list of people to help.
  • Read up on negotiation methods. Don’t wait until you need those skills. Get them now. Practice them. You’ll need them even during a layoff.  In fact, you should know what to do when you get a lay off notice a  head of time.  Your rights and obligations vary by jurisdiction, but generally you don’t have to sign or agree to anything right then and there, even if they tell you that you do.
  • Have two month’s salary in savings—severance and unemployment will help, but having a nice cushion is very good. I know this one is really difficult. But having a cushion allows you and your family to choose better options.

One other thing to remember—you are going to lose all computer access. This means your files and contacts will be gone. Make sure you keep copies of your contacts and any scripts or tools that you would like to retain, at least the ones you are allowed to take with you. Be sure you keep your personal files and contacts separate from your corporates ones.


The Good News

Depending on what your data source is the unemployment rate for database professionals is between 1-3%. The US Government defines full employment at 3%, so that means it won’t take you very long to find a new job. The one thing I recommend highly is leveraging the outplacement services you’ll get as part of your severance package. Those folks are professionals and can help you write a really good resume. Aside from that some other things you should do are:

  • Leverage your network. Let folks in your user group and personal network know that you are looking for a new gig (I’m assuming you are in a user group if you are reading this—if you aren’t, you should be). The best jobs frequently never make it to a formal posting. This is where all that user grouping, social media work fun, blogging, and generally being a great resource to others is going to pay off, in a big way.
  • Update LinkedIn. Yes, I said above to do this regularly. You still need to do that.  But right now you need to let that network know you are looking for a job.  Do not under any circumstances change your title to Unemployed or something weak like that.  Change your title to the type of job you are looking for (and are qualified for).   This is the time to leverage your networks, so your networking profiles need to reflect the fact that you are looking for a new project.
  • Take the downtime to rest, exercise and learn new skills. Is there a new database feature you’ve been wanting to play with, but couldn’t implement at your old job? Now is the time to learn it.

More Advice on Job Hunting and Layoffs

I’ve blogged about this topic before; you might find these posts helpful, too:

First Day of Work Karen: What I Would Tell Her
Looking for a Job? Some Free Advice That’s Paid For

Do you have a blog post with career advice?  If you leave a comment here on my blog, you can choose that post to share it, too.  Share the love.

My Lessons on Layoffs

I’ve been around a while (I’m not old; I’m experienced), and I know a lot of this stuff, but “Do you have a bag” was still a surprise to me. There weren’t many rumours of layoffs out of Parabola, so even though the total number was small, it was more eye opening. The number one thing I learned yesterday though, was to bring a bag, a plastic trash bag, and keep it in my desk, because MassiveMegaGlobalMegaCorpTM probably doesn’t care enough about you to give you a box to put your belongings in.


  • One thing about the “multiple resumes” idea: in this age of LinkedIn, you can only create one profile to show the world – and the world looks at LinkedIn frst. I think the notion of spinning different versions of a paper resume is outdated – pick the job DESCRIPTION you want most, then gear all of your efforts in that one direction.

    • Most people still have to submit a resume of some sort with an application. Paper or virtual, I still want to see a resume that is somewhat tailored to the job I’m trying to fill. I see so many resumes for Data Architect jobs where there is only a brief mention of the things I want to see and then 99% is developer or DBA work. That person could be a great DA, but their resume says they won’t be.
      Karen Lopez recently posted..Let’s Talk Data Modeling, Privacy, Data Breaches and the Role of Data Architects 28 FebMy Profile

      • So basically you want a resume for a job and not a CV of the person?
        Justin Dearing recently posted..Announcing SevenZipCmdLine.MSBuildMy Profile

        • It depends. Agencies and headhunters want resumes…or applications even. Some employers want CVs, but most don’t. Headhunters use computer-assisted screening that is syntax based. You can write about all the life experiences you want, but their computer are only looking for VBCX# Next 1.3 or whatever.

          It depends, as always.
          Karen Lopez recently posted..Office Hours with Datachick are Back – Fridays at 4PM ESTMy Profile

      • I hear what you’re saying about submitting a resume with an application, but I struggled mightily with that exercise last year – it’s probably because my particular “area of expertise” is less well-defined than “DBA” or “Data Architect”. My roles have been more mid- to high-level, where the words in the Job Title could vary wildly, but the job descriptions were largely the same.

        Either that, or I’m just not as smart as I think I am!

        • I’d recommend you still have a core resume that you tailor to the position as much as you can. If the position is vague — maybe it’s new to the organization or they just aren’t sure what they want, then try to highlight the priorities they have mentioned.

          I have a lengthy one that I cut parts out of for proposals. If I’m not going to be doing a lot of data modeling, then the project management parts remain prominent. And if I’m proposing for a methodologist or project management role, those parts are the focus.
          Karen Lopez recently posted..Office Hours with Datachick are Back – Fridays at 4PM ESTMy Profile

  • Excellent advice all around. Also, keep yourself healthy. Helps to reduce stress, and will assist in making clear decisions when times get tough. Too busy to stay healthy? Bollocks, I say ….
    Josh recently posted..10 Second Abs: Fitness Tips for Busy ProfessionalsMy Profile

  • That’s particularly sad.

    At one point I had to participate in a mass layoff of an office. It seemed exciting at the beginning. The office didn’t know it was coming and we were kind of sneaking in over night to secure things and transport them in a UHaul the next day.

    But when the people started coming into the office, it wasn’t so exciting.

    I have to say, that the HR people with us were super professional, and even in later years when they had to terminate other people, they were always there with “the box”. There was never an issue about “the box”. They always had tissues and “the box”. And though we joked about any empty box we saw sitting on someone’s desk, at least you knew you would get a proper dignified burial.

  • When it happens, be professional and thank them for letting you work there. As tempting as it is to give the big F@ck You Too, they may change their minds in a few months when they discover you really were doing the work of ten even though it looked like you were surfing the net all day – in fact, that surfing may have been the reason why. I know I’ve been called back in a couple of situations. One place it was a running joke, as they were using me when fickle customers decided to go on projects, so it was something like half a dozen times. And even if the place is on the outs itself, all those cow-orkers are going to wind up somewhere else.

    On the other hand, some places are so bad people look up to you when you tell them to f@ck off. I’ve had that happen too. In fact, after I was at one place for about six months, manager told me he had called a reference and they gave a bad reference. But since they were a customer, he knew what assholes those guys were, and took it as a positive. I had no idea they would do that after telling me they would give a positive reference. I guess crap like that is why some places got sued and so many places won’t say anything committal these days.

    One place I had left on good terms, a couple years later they were moving and found some of my stuff I had forgotten, and someone dropped it off at my house. Professionalism pays.

    [Apologies for having to edit a couple of words here. I have to find a balance for workplace filters. – Karen]

  • While I think the box thing is a good idea, I’m actually a humongous fan of “you may grab what you can fit in your pockets, we will ship your stuff to you.” Maybe that’s not fiscally practical for a mass layoff, but I really think allowing a person to linger long enough to collect their belongings is not respecting their dignity and the gravity of the situation.

    I’ve seen how a lack of an immediate escort allowed a boss to embarass himself, and I felt an immediate escort out the door granted me dignity when I had to perform my own walk of shame.

    That being said, I know the immediate escort is not commonplace in all industries. In advertising, I had the awkward experience of freshly fired “dead (wo)men” walking lingering around the office for hours saying good bye.
    Justin Dearing recently posted..Announcing SevenZipCmdLine.MSBuildMy Profile

    • l think the escort out varies by organizational culture, too.

  • I looked at the PDF for Career Management for Data Professionals and got the gist of it, but I don’t suppose there’s an actual video or transcript or anything to go along with it?

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