3). What do I do if I’ve been downsized or fired?

Don’t Panic

You will not find a new assignment through luck. A new assignment with your name written all over it will not find itself blindly to your doorstep. Rather, this process should be treated more as a full-time job, a job that will have both its high and low points, its rewards and its frustrations. It almost certainly will be a period of extreme anxiety for you. The excitement of new challenges and opportunities will be offset by the uncertainty of many day to day issues. At Harris Heery, we stress that your job search will begin and will be executed just as any good marketing plan should be.


You are now facing a period of uncertainty which requires a cool head and a good strong work ethic.


This situation requires all your concentration. Panic will only work against you.

Your search therefore will be approached as a full time job. There should be no arrivals at your office at 10:00 AM and no Friday tee-off times.


The basic nature of all marketing people includes a business personality that has been developed over time in many ways because of people coming to them. Market research, sales promotion, ad agencies, other outside suppliers, indeed, even executive recruiters, are all constantly looking to gain approval on this or that from you. Now, however, these relationships have changed dramatically. You now much approach them. A critical aspect of any job search is networking in order to develop job leads. Your personal contact list will, to a great degree, be the ticket to a successful search.


If people know you as a "good person", they’ll be more receptive towards pointing you in other directions.


It is certainly important that you first take a deep breath. You’ve just had a shock that can be traumatic to both you and your family and…


Be sensitive to those around you.

As much of a jolt as this has been to you, it quite possibly may have had a greater impact on those around you---your family. We say this because while you may understand where your credentials fit into the marketplace, your family probably does not. For this reason, the tendency on the part of the family is to either underestimate or overestimate the nature of your problem. Point #2 said don’t overreact. It is very sound advice.

We highly recommend a family meeting. What you don’t need right now is stress on the home front. Make certain that everyone understands the situation. They take their lead from you. So respond accordingly.

Another thing to keep in mind is the stress factor. You’re in a very pressurized situation. It is important that you maintain a way to let off steam. In much the same way as a pressure cooker continues to build pressure, so will you. Your release mechanism is important so that you don’t begin to release onto your family or those around you. Remember that there is a very thin line between talking things through with your family and everyone avoiding you because you have a short fuse.


Tennis, golf, jogging---whatever. The issue isn’t what you do, just that you do.

Termination and Reference

Perhaps the most overlooked aspects of any job search are the termination explanation and references, yet they are two of yours strongest sales promotion tools. Simply put, these two devices explain why you are looking for a new job, so let’s examine each one more closely:

A). The Termination explanation: The termination explanation is a brief explanation as to why you are leaving your former company. It should be a concise and well-planned document which will serve you in good stead as you approach other companies and search firms. Avoid having it too wordy or flattering as it gives the appearance that you and your employer are trying to cover up the real reason for your termination. It is always better to stick with the basics and to stick to the truth. (The truth has a way of surfacing anyway!) Some of the better explanations for termination are as follows:

  • Job dissolved or consolidated
  • Change in company management
  • Change in company direction
  • A "log-jam" of talent at your level
  • Relocation of the company

B). References

References can come in many different forms, all of which can be either highly productive or extremely damaging to your cause. There are basically four sources of references and they are as follows:

1). Letter of Reference: In most cases, your termination explanation will serve as a letter of reference. At Harris Heery, we do not recommend formal letters of reference because they are never negative and frequently not viewed as objective. As a result, they get overlooked in the process.

2). Telephone References: Keep in mind that when references are checked, in most cases they are with people you have recommended as suitable references and the assumption is made that they will be positive. That is not always the case however. Telephone references by the search firm or the potential employer are often used to make certain "you are what you say you are".

3). The Silent Reference: Any search firm worth their salt will check references without you ever knowing it. In most cases, the person giving the reference might not even be aware that they are giving a reference.


Q. I understand things are really crazy over there---I hear they let John go".

A. "That’s true, but John really never got along with Bob (his boss). They were always like cats and dogs".

Q. "That’s funny, I always thought John was a pretty easy going guy".

A. "Are we talking about the same guy---you could never tell John anything. He had his mind made up before he knew the facts".

Whether you know it or not, your search just took a major step backward.

These references can bear fruit for you assuming your termination explanation is honest. What you can’t afford to do is have your termination explanation and formal references say one thing and have your silent references say something else. Someone is not telling the truth and it is bound to surface.

Reference Guidelines:

The reference procedure traditionally covers the following areas:

  • Dates the person worked with the candidate
  • Relationship to candidate (peer, subordinate, superior)
  • Job content, technical skills
  • Business style-How does the candidate interact with support groups or outside suppliers?
  • The candidate’s personality-what kind of person are they both in the office and out?
  • Strengths/weaknesses
  • Why is the candidate no longer with the company?
  • Would the person re-hire the candidate?

Your Responsibilities:

Assemble your reference list. Make certain each individual is willing, if not eager, to assist. Your list should have the individual’s name, title, company, relationship and contact information available. Make certain that each of your references knows what you are saying regarding your termination.


Mr. Mike Murphy
XYZ Company
Vice-President / Marketing
1100 NE 40th Ct.
Phoenix, Arizona 11843
H. 602-248-0875
I. 602-598-1100 ext. 82
Relationship: Immediate Superior at XYC

Ms. Wanda Zoeple
XYZ Company
Manager of Professional Staffing
1100 NE 40th Ct.
Phoenix, Arizona 11843
H. 602-980-1432
W. 602-598-1100 Ext. 17
Relationship: Human Resource Manager

Finally, alert your references when a call will be coming and that it is important. Allow them time to organize their own thoughts.

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