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VOL. 35 | NO. 17 | Friday, April 29, 2011

Take advantage of outplacement services

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In today’s uncertain work environment, the likelihood of employees having to lay off employees is common. Many employees being laid off often experience confusion, disorientation and anger. The question they most often ask themselves is, “What do I do now?” And the question that employers often ask themselves is, “What can I do to help the employee or employees I am letting go?”

One of the options employers have is to hire an outplacement firm to assist employees in the transition. They can offer valuable assistance to the newly unemployed, and their services should be understood and utilized.

If you are an employee being laid off and are not offered outplacement services in your severance package, request it be added. The firm’s staff can assist you in finding a job and offer some emotional support in your time of need.

The loss of a job is not only the loss of familiarity; it is the loss of day-to-day social interaction. Being home, when it is not a vacation, can be very lonely.

The outplacement firm will, in many cases, provide you a place to go. Staying home can be depressing.

Outplacement services vary. However, they generally include personal assessment, career counseling, resume preparation, cover letter preparation, employer databases and a telephone answering service. Senior-level managers are often provided an office and secretarial support, paid for by the former employer. Seminars or tapes are often available on relevant employment subjects.

An initial meeting is generally provided by a firm to access the emotional state of the new client and determine the skills, education and background he/she processes. Often the assessment includes a battery of tests to determine interests, motivation and skills. It is followed by sitting down with the client and reviewing the findings. The client is then asked to provide personal input on past accomplishments and what he/she wants for the future. And finally, a plan of action is formulated with specific strategies.

The client is often tutored on how to write a marketable resume and cover letters. Both may be kept in the firm’s computer and printed for distribution by mail or e-mail at the client’s request. The firm usually handles the mailing, including some postage, but not always.

Clients sometimes, with the assistance of the staff, review the in-house databases for potential jobs, recruiters and employer contacts. Next, they select and target the positions, recruiters or employers of interest. The client then either sends out directly or requests that the firm send out an appropriate resume and cover letter to the proper contacts.

A designated telephone number and e-mail address is often provided for the potential employer to contact. The firm’s answering service will professionally take any incoming calls to be relayed to the client.

Throughout this process, the client is usually provided with seminars or tapes on subjects such as how to network effectively, interviewing techniques, and how to cope with being laid off and how to deal with the worry and stress.

If the client experiences depression during the transition period, outplacement staff are usually trained in how to provide appropriate attention.

The firm can and often do address many other pertinent topics. These can include effective telephone communication, how to develop contact lists, how to set up referral meetings, reactive job search strategies, business etiquette and how to be polite but persistent.

One thing to keep in mind is the outplacement firm does not, in most cases, find the client a job. So a passive client will receive little benefit.

If you have the opportunity to use an outplacement service, use the firm’s resources to their maximum benefit.

M.B. Owens is a Nashville-based columnist and journalist with a decade of experience writing on employment topics and business. He can be reached at mariusowens@aol.com.

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