Most likely, the end of your career at Zimmer or Biomet ended sooner than you expected. You are likely experiencing a range of emotion right now, which is normal. Whether this is your first time or you have been through it before, being laid-off one of life’s most devastating events and can affect people in a variety of ways. You may feel a tremendous sense of betrayal or even relief. Layoffs are an expected reality after any acquisition or merger. Despite the rhetoric about how there is room for everyone, at a point that is determined by upper management, the cuts will begin. Irrespective of how you currently feel about your predicament, you need to act appropriately to ensure you make a successful transition into your next company. The following is a list will not only help you in securing your next job, but it will also help reduce the duration of any future unemployment.

  1. Keep a Stiff Upper Lip. The fact of the matter is that it helps no one if you become vindictive and go out with a scene. You are not part of the team going forward, and while that is probably disappointing to you, there is nothing to be gained by you or anyone else if you decide that now is the time to give everyone a piece of your mind on the way out. People will remember you by how graciously you moved on or what a vindictive person you were when you didn’t make the cut. Not everyone who plays, wins, right? After a merger, there are “winners & losers.” There is no shame in losing. It is not the final declaration of how good you are at your job. It is simply the way it played out in this round. Decisions must be made, and they very often fall on political lines. Wish them well and be professional as you exit. You’ll never have regrets about what you didn’t say when you were emotional.
  2. Attempt to Get Released from your Non-Compete. The greatest value that you can bring to a new company is in the capacity you have been in for the past several years. Re-tooling and finding a company that will value your experience outside of your last role is more challenging. Companies who have just exercised a layoff have discretion when it comes to releasing those leaving from the covenants and restrictions that they have previously agreed to. Typically, the ones that they don’t release you from are the Confidentiality and Non-Solicit. If you happen to be in a Sales capacity, then the extent of the non-compete’s enforceability is with those customers whom you worked with while you were in your last position. You may be able to receive a conditional release that would enable you to sell to anyone who is not a current customer of your or in some cases your previous employer. Although I am not an attorney and cannot provide legal advice, I have found that companies cannot legally keep you from selling, but they can restrict you from selling to their customers. This is the “protectable asset” that the courts will uphold if it goes that far. Whatever concessions you receive, get it in writing so that you have a clear pathway to pursue a new job.
  3. Clear Your Head. The very first thing you must do before attempting to find a new job is to gain a proper perspective of things. This is best done by allowing the wound to heal a bit before you begin interviewing to trying to secure your next gig. In the same way that “rebound relationships” are bad for your personally, they are bad for your professionally. You need some time to regroup and collect your thoughts. Take some time to evaluate the marketplace and figure out where you would best take the next step in your career. Avoid taking the first job opportunity that comes your way unless you do careful due diligence on the people, products and role in the new company. Remember the last time you went to the grocery store while you were hungry? The stuff that you unpacked from the bags when you returned home were not very healthy for you. Neither will the job be that you accepted without being discerning and objective.
  4. List Your “Must Haves” and “Non-Negotiables.” An old friend gave me this advice and I’ve been in the same role for over 15 years. Sit down away from distractions and think through what is most important to you and write it down. Write down the things that are important that you find in your next job and in another column, write the things that are “non-negotiables.” Depending upon your family situation, that might be a relocation or a job that requires extensive travel. The key is that you don’t want to begin interviewing for a job that ultimately you don’t want. It will be a huge waste of your time and energy as well as the people you drag along for the ride. The lists you create will serve as a filter that you should begin to put the opportunities through such that you don’t find yourself in the regrettable situation of being in a job that you hate, simply because you panicked or didn’t carefully consider the full ramifications of your decision.
  5. Put a Plan in Place. Identify the marketplace that you want to pursue and make a list of the companies that fit your criteria. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the same space you’ve been in, but the companies that will most likely place the highest value on you are the ones in your same market. It stands to reason that you will have a more immediate impact if you stay within your area of expertise. There are always exceptions to the rule, but this is generally true. Once your list is complete, begin to engage with people who hire for those companies to see if there is a fit.
  6. Stay Positive. Don’t let self-doubt or negative thoughts creep in. This takes discipline, but you must stay positive and avoid any negative friends or conversations once you get past the few venting sessions with close friends. Negativity will change you in ways imperceptible to you but not to others. Be energetic and optimistic. People like people like that. Be someone that people can enthusiastically endorse.
  7. Believe in Yourself. It is easy to feel sorry for yourself and to allow this setback to define you. Don’t let that happen. Believe in your talents and abilities to be leveraged by another company. Know how to communicate your unique Value Proposition. Know why someone needs to hire you and be able to articulate it confidently.
  8. Build Your LinkedIn Profile to reflect the value that you have brought your previous employers. It isn’t enough to list only your jobs and companies. To get the most out of it, you must make your profile compelling! This is your opportunity to broadcast your resume, so seize the moment. Connect with your former colleagues wherever you can and try to view everyone as a potential referral source or recommendation.
  9. Engage in Social Media. Consider that you are now a Free Agent and are selling the brand called, “You.” Use whatever means to build awareness of your brand. People need to be able to figure out what you are good at. It is one thing to be able to be found on social media and yet another to actively engage the marketplace with your ideas and experiences. Raising awareness can accelerate your job search dramatically.
  10. Rekindle Old Relationships. Obviously, it will be very satisfying to comiserate with other friends and colleagues who were also let go from your company. However, doing that will only prolong your negativity and make finding a job more difficult. Reach out to old friends and colleagues and begin to network with them to meet new people. Never assume that people will remember to make an introduction for you even when they promise to. Hunt down the people that they know and build your network so that you can stay sharp and begin selling yourself to new people. You need to be proactive to land your next job. This is also a great way to stay sharp for your upcoming interviews. Never be afraid to ask for help.
  11. Don’t Rush In. Too often, people take the first opportunity that comes their way out of fear of not finding a replacement income, later to find themselves experiencing profound regret. There are things you can do to ease some of the financial pressure and give yourself the time you need to find a good fit. It is important to try to avoid a short stint on your resume which is what you will likely end up with if you are too hasty and aren’t objective in your due diligence prior to making a commitment.
  12. Offer to Help Others. A layoff is a golden opportunity for small to midsized companies to leverage talent that has been released from the larger companies. If a start up is interesting to you, it can be useful to engage with one in an effort to help them. By providing value to the start up, you can actually create an opportunity where one did not previously exist. Some jobs begin as nothing more than a offer to help. It can give each party the opportunity to see how the fit is and if there is a mutual exchange of value that would justify the company creating a new position. It doesn’t happen every time, but when the conditions are perfect and your skills are in alignment with what the company needs, since they have tested the value you bring, it can happen.
  13. Start a Consulting Practice. Sometimes, the right job doesn’t become available when you need it. But rather than settling for a job that is less than challenging or is a step back in your career, consider for a moment that you may be able to bridge the gap for a number of months through consulting with other companies. If your old company was willing to pay you a salary to do your job, most likely you have a talent that other companies need as well. Companies will often pay consultants to bring an outside perspective to bear on their business strategies. This can be an excellent way to engage with potential employers and see what it is like working with them before making a long-term commitment as a Full Time Employee. This isn’t for everyone, but if you have the confidence to engage business leaders and have valuable information or insight that doesn’t violate your restrictive covenants, this is a great option.
  14. Act Like You’re Still Employed. You need to make “Finding a Job” your new “Full Time Job!” I have seen far too many people struggle to find a job and begin spiraling into a funk that turns into depression. First they change their habits with their schedule and soon they disengage with their colleagues and go off the grid. Countless hours surfing the internet searching and applying for new jobs that never materialize and before long, they stop getting dressed, let their beard grow out and stop taking care of themselves. My advice is to keep the same schedule that you had while you were employed. Get up early, have your coffee, go to the gym and dress for success. Stay engaged and focused on your goals. Don’t allow yourself to become distant from your peers. Habits can form quickly and without this discipline, you may begin to suffer. This is critical to your mental health.

If you will take my advice, and stay engaged as a professional, the length of your unemployment will likely be reduced. Be sure to take advantage of any outplacement services provided by your former employer, but by no means expect someone else to find you your next job. Keep in mind that the new activities you begin while unemployed and searching for a new role are useful even when you are gainfully employed. Keeping this up, will mitigate future suffering in case you must endure yet another layoff.