Case Study: How One Laid-Off Researcher Connected His Way to a New Job in 7 Days

Louis BerklowNOTE: This is a guest post from Louis Burklow. Louis is a reader of Smart Business Revolution and works as a researcher by day, screenwriter by night.

He recently shared his story with me of how he got laid off and jumped into action, networking his way into a new job almost immediately, with just seven days of being out of work. I thought his tips were so useful and actionable that I asked him if he’d write it up a guest post.  Here it is:

 

See if any of this sounds familiar: I worked for a law firm for six years and everyone was happy with my work.

Two days before Thanksgiving I was called into my year-end review to find the HR manager there with my boss’s boss. My position was being eliminated.

While they assured me it was nothing personal I couldn’t help but think of those scenes in gangster movies where they say it’s just business as they kill you.

I was given two months’ notice before my time would run out and paychecks would stop.  Nothing focuses the mind like a strict deadline.

While I can’t claim to have a well-planned exit strategy, I did come up with a series of steps to follow. For anyone who finds themselves in the same spot as I was, here they are.

1.  Pause to Reflect and Plan

I decided I would send out resumes but otherwise wait until after Christmas to worry. I already had a plane ticket to visit my family in Nashville over the Christmas holidays.

Although this strategy was dictated by the time of year and my previous plans, I now realize it was the best way to get whatever grieving I had to do over my lost job out of the way and plot my course of action.

2.  Define Your Network

While on vacation, I realized I had a tiny network of connections. Still, I thought about ways to use what network I had. (Read more about how to create your Conversations Lists.)

Having worked in the legal field for several years, I knew I had to start with lawyers. Not just any lawyers but ones who had built up loyal clients who considered the lawyers to be trusted business advisors.

Asking anyone for help indiscriminately will not be enough; choose people with whom you want to be associated.

3.  Jump Into Action

When I returned to my home in Los Angeles after the new year, I approached two attorneys at my firm who liked my work. After I told them what had happened I asked if any of their clients might be interested in hiring someone with my research abilities either for freelance projects or on a permanent basis.

One of them replied in the way I expected: he didn’t know of any but would make inquiries on my behalf.

The other attorney challenged me. He said he would like to help but he needed to know what my skills are. Considering I had worked for him for six years this stunned me. In that moment I realized I was entering a new phase of job searching.

In an environment where everyone seemed either out of work or unhappy with their job, I would need to differentiate myself. This would not be the last time I would find getting a job today requires more than a resume.

4.  Do Your Homework

I told the lawyer I am a researcher who can report on his findings in a clear and compelling way; I also talked up my editing and proofreading skills.

He thought about this for a moment, then gave me a list of three of his clients who might need researchers.

He told me to go to their websites and read up on them. If I believed I could work for them, I was to report back to him.

5.  Make the Sale

After I walked out of this attorney’s office, I realized I could not just tell him “sure, I can work for these companies” without during further research.  That’s when I fired up my old friend, the Internet, and I began researching each of these companies.

While it did not take long to convince him I could work for them, I knew I would need to explain how I would fit in. I drafted a long e-mail in which I detailed what I had learned regarding each company’s business and what I could offer them.

A few days later I ran into the attorney getting on the elevator. He told me he was impressed with my response and would be happy to send all three companies my resume.

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6.  Be Thoroughly Prepared

As it turned out, one of the companies we approached was in the process of creating a position that called for the skills I’d developed. Having seen not only my resume but the e-mail, the management of that business wanted to interview me.

I set up a meeting for the Monday after my last day at the firm, which was the previous Wednesday. Once again I studied the company website, trying to understand as much as I could about the work that they did. When the head of the company was ushered in to meet me, I knew I was in good shape.

7.  Share Your Successes With Those Who Helped You

On Thursday they called and asked if I could start the next Monday. I made sure to follow up with the attorney who referred me to know how things turned out. (Read more about how to master your follow-up strategy.)

I have several friends at my old firm who were also laid off; I don’t like to brag about this to them but I am proud I was only out of work for seven weekdays. Given the horrendous economy I consider that a professional achievement to rival anything on my resume or LinkedIn profile.

8.  After You Stabilize, Focus On The Big Picture

This episode made me realize I need to work on the career I want to have, as a writer. I came to California to study screenwriting at USC, then let the regular day job I needed to stay here get in the way of my writing. I do not make that mistake anymore (well, at least not every day now).

I am back to writing and can now use the additional research skills picked up in my new job to help me. I also go after some freelance work. While I’m not out of the woods financially I do feel like I’m taking an active role in my own career. That’s the best thing to come out of my adversity.

If you face a job loss or just want to make a change, create your own action plan. The steps I followed won’t work for everyone. Your success must be your own creation.

What advice do you have for someone who just got laid off? What is the best way to use relationships to land a new job in minimal time?