After The Fire: Reframing Your Career Path Following Job Loss
Elizabeth Holmes’ fall from grace has a been a very fast and public one. The CEO of Theranos, Inc. was banned recently by U.S. regulators from “owning or operating laboratories for two years, a devastating blow for the blood-testing startup that’s come under scrutiny for risking harm to patients with unreliable tests,” according to the Economic Times.The tech leader who once graced magazine covers for her grit, innovation and billion-dollar valuation is likely soon out of a job and may never get another – at least in this field. Her career path may be doomed.According to ET: “The once high-flying Silicon Valley company was battered with sweeping sanctions from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which regulates clinical laboratories. They include the revocation of a key lab certificate, monetary penalties and cancellation of payments from federal health insurance programs for lab services. Holmes, in a statement late Thursday, said Theranos is committed to resolving its issues.”What can women leaders learn from Holmes’ journey?Granted, you may never be fired for unethical reasons and putting people’s health at risk, but most everyone has been fired at least once. Me, included.We’re not dissecting the reasons people could be fired; some firings are illegal in the case of discrimination. Some terminations are labelled more gently with the reason as “downsizing,” “layoffs” or “letting go.”With 123.6 million Americans employed as of May 2016, there are now more people working than being fired. According to Statista, “in February 2015, a total number of 4.65 million people were ‘separated’ from their jobs (that includes voluntary quits, involuntary layoffs and discharges, and other separations, including retirements). About 4.92 million people found a new job during that month.”The report continues, “On the one side, the U.S. national unemployment rate has been declining steadily over the past years and is now below 6 percent again (as of March 2015), which is close to the level before the crisis.”In addition, “the employers in the U.S. have been generating a large number of jobs in the past year. On a monthly basis, an average number of 264,000 new jobs have been created each month (as of February 2015). New jobs are created, and fortunately more people are getting hired than fired.”Let’s say you are one of those people who was “separated from her job.” What next?How, as a leader do you bounce back, reframe your career path and look for another position?“Losing your job isn’t something anyone wants, but the experience can make a person a better leader,” Stephanie Vozza wrote in Fast Company.“Getting fired is also an opportunity to take a look inside and evaluate what you want to do professionally, “Vozza writes. She interviewed Lewis Howes, author of The School of Greatness: A Real-World Guide to Living Bigger, Loving Deeper, and Leaving A Legacy.Howes told Vozza: “Most of the time, getting fired means you either weren’t in the right job in the first place, or something in your life was out of balance to the point that it hampered your ability to really perform to your full potential. Either scenario is your opportunity to identify what’s not working and course correct. If you use getting fired the right way, it can be your biggest opportunity for professional growth in the direction you want to head.“Perhaps now is the time to look for an aspirational job, one that may be a little above of your recent experience. Perhaps you can redesign your career path. This way you can use the termination as a way to start fresh, perhaps aim higher as a leader.There is a way to come back, and come back stronger. “Whether you’re making a career change or just pushing yourself to the next level, there are plenty of times you may find yourself applying to a position you don’t fully align with. Here’s the good news, though: There are plenty of ways to paint a picture of yourself as a qualified candidate. Besides the obvious—tailoring your resume, submitting an unforgettable cover letter, really explaining in the interview why they should hire you—here are five tricks that will make the hiring manager excited to learn more about you,” writes Jessica Solloway in The Muse.Another tactic you can use in recovering from job loss and hoping to move into another position is to present yourself as someone who can feel their pain. Instead of saying how great you are only, say what you can do to help the company solve the company or organizations’ ills.“Start by doing a deep dive into the company’s online presence, keeping tabs on the key players in the news, and chatting with anyone you know who works there to identify pain points or growth opportunities—things that are holding the organization back now that you think you could help it do better. Then, rather than a typical cover letter, write a ‘pain letter,’ outlining what you see as one of the team’s biggest problems and the solutions you would bring to the table if hired. This reinforces that you’ve done your homework and are excited about hitting the ground running,” Solloway writes.Now that you have moved past the stress of losing your job and have successfully moved beyond the initial round of interviews and are talking about salary, it’s time to be confident in your leadership abilities and negotiate like a champ. And, yes, women can negotiate well, in every step of the career path.[bctt tweet=“Yes, women can negotiate well, in every step of the career path.”]Yes, you can negotiate. “According to negotiation consultant Lelia Gowland, who specializes in helping women achieve career success on their own terms, you’re actually great at getting what you want. The real problem, she says, isn’t that women aren’t good at negotiating—it’s that we just don’t recognize it,” writes Marie Elizabeth Oliver in Marie Claire.“You’re actually successfully negotiating constantly throughout the day, from making dinner plans to arranging a weekend with friends. “We should be looking at negotiation like that: not as an obstacle course that there’s only one right way to complete, but as an organic conversation.“Just as in your resume cover letter, shift the point of view to the potential employer.Oliver writes, “Gowland recommends framing your argument from your employer’s perspective. You don’t have to lose sight of your goal and what’s important to you—get what you want by approaching the situation in terms of how it benefits your employer. For example, if you’re asking for a more flexible schedule, provide examples of how it will make you more productive and effective for them.“The not so great news is a 2014 study found that more women at the top— CEOs— were fired than men in those same positions. Amanda Duberman wrote in Huffington Post: “Over the past decade, 27 percent of male CEOs left because they were fired, compared to 38 percent of women who were forced out, Strategy& found.“Duberman adds, “There are several potential explanations for the firing gap. Quartz explains that women are more likely to be hired from outside the company than men (35 percent of women, 22 percent of men), and research shows that external hires are generally less effective than those promoted from within. Still, the relatively risky recruitment of CEO positions from outside the company is itself a product of a gender gap.“Knowing you are not alone may or may not help. But on your way back into another position, remember in the negotiations, to try to keep the sting of the recent termination in perspective. It’s a chance to start fresh, create a position for yourself and perform to capacity as a leader in a new role on the career path of your choosing.