If you find yourself in a situation where your company offers you outplacement services, it is useful to take advantage of these services. Outplacement firms are paid by your employer to help you in your search for your next job and provide valuable tools to aid in job seeking activities. But it is up to you to put these services to use productively in managing your longer-term career objectives. In the near-term the services outplacement firms provide can be effective and often include providing a desk where you can get organized, some secretarial services, access to databases (like Hoovers), resume preparation services, some interview preparation and some networking guidance. It is however important to realize that the outplacement firms are usually working with a great number of other people from your current employer and are likely to be able to provide only limited detailed one-on-one support.
The best part of the outplacement service is having a place to go that focuses you on the job of managing your next career transition. While in their service you should take advantage of their generalized resume preparation services. Then you should be prepared to tailor you resume for each unique career interaction with a prospective employer. You should also strengthen and expand your network by utilizing the outplacement firm’s access to their proprietary internal databases and the other external databases they subscribe to. Researching potential employers this way can enable you to gather a decent amount of detailed intelligence to help you in deciding whether they are a fit for your career goals. In some cases, the outplacement firm may even assign one of their own experienced executives to serve as a personal mentor to you as you progress through their process. Many of these seasoned outplacement executives will be willing to share access to their own professional network that you can leverage, in the appropriate way.
Finally, and most importantly talking with other professionals that are going through the same process can be extremely helpful as well as stress reducing; so be sure to socialize with others as you go through the outplacement process. Also, these extended conversations with other executives provide a great opportunity to share network contacts to mutual benefit. Exchanging network contacts or exchanging leads for opportunities with others going through the same outplacement process often pays huge dividends later.
Picking two or three other professionals from your network with whom you also have a strong trusted relationship to serve on your personal board of advisors can greatly ease the stress that so often accompanies being offered outplacement services by your current company. Many people, even very senior executives will have gone through the outplacement process themselves and are willing to offer great advice. Our conversations with other executives have revealed that those who actively manage their networks and stay focused on their long term objectives can often come through the outplacement process in a better position to advance their careers.
The dose of reality that outplacement provides can be a positive motivator if managed for the longer term, particularly with respect to involving your personal board of advisors. Thus, outplacement can have a unique role as part of the larger career management process. This role can work to your advantage with proper career planning and focus.