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A layoff, a move, and retraining for the future

Coach's Corner--September 14, 2009

The Client
Name: Bill
Age: 49
Title: Commercial estimator
Industry: Construction
Issue: Preparing to return to the workforce
Q. After being laid off last year, I moved to a new city and started a two-year retraining program to become more advanced in my field. What should I do now to be ready to rejoin the workforce once my schooling is complete?

A. Plan for the future while keeping your primary focus in the present. This will help you be ready for anything in an unpredictable environment.

The inner game
First, be able to articulate your vision for yourself, what you want to achieve, and what you have to offer. In addition to your up-to-date technical education and industry experience, what personal attributes, such as dependability or creativity, do you bring that an employer would value?

Now, list the things you control. Include both external factors, such as the amount of time you spend studying, as well as internal, such as your attitude. How about things you don’t control? Perhaps you’d include items such as “it’s not what you know but who you know” in the uncontrolled list. For all of these items, work hard to find ways that you can exert some control.

Finally, identify your barriers to success. Time and energy are often a challenge for busy midcareer people. Other dangerous internal barriers may include negative messages about how much success you deserve, your ability level, or whether you’ll fall short. To keep any negative thinking from holding you back, start by noticing these thoughts when they arise and replacing them with positive thoughts. This may feel phony at first, but your brain will eventually acquire a new and better habit.

The outer game
The most important step to take now is to focus on your education program, and get as much out of it as you can. Be an active learner, engaged in both what you’re learning and how you’ll use it in the future. If you don’t see a practical application for a certain lesson, focus on its contribution to your general knowledge base and intellectual discipline.

Go above and beyond on learning when you can. Read trade magazines and follow the news in your field. Help others if you’re catching on quicker than they are or become a tutor once you’re one of the senior students — teaching others is a great way to anchor your learning. It also marks you as a leader, and builds your attractiveness to future employers.

Get to know people. Start with your instructors, taking time to talk with them during their office hours. Seek their advice, and ask for introductions and referrals. Take advantage of your school placement office, and attend meetings of local organizations in your field. If you can, find a part-time or temporary job in your field to get your foot in the door.

Keep track of everything you’re doing for future use in your résumé. Start a file folder of résumé material, and keep a running list of accomplishments.  It’ll make it a lot easier to put together a compelling résumé.

The last word
Prepare for your next job by knowing what you want, succeeding in school, and getting connected to your new community.

Liz Reyer, President RCC - Posted September 14, 2009
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