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The information you get in outplacement is way too soft: Write a cover letter. Email it with your resume or send out a fax blast. Wait a certain number of days. Email again. Don’t call. Don’t bother people.

Sorry. This doesn’t work. If you’ve received outplacement services as part of your severance package, here are some points that will help you filter the way you use those services.

The truth: You have to call people. If you’re bothering someone, you’re on the phone with the wrong person. You’re talking to an executive who doesn’t see today’s critical importance of talent acquisition to their own success. Hang up and move on to the next. We’ll have much more about the role of the phone call in your job search, but for now it’s a good example of the kind of advice that will get you nowhere.

What happens when you go to outplacement? You get access to a computer and to the Internet for emailing your 40 emails a day – or whatever the number being recommended. You learn how to customize your cover letter and that you need to send it to the right person. You probably won’t learn how to zero in on that person. You get to be part of a job search support group
with a lot of other unemployed people where you all practice your ‘elevator pitch’.

There are exceptions to this scenario, of course. But it bothers us that too many people go to outplacement when they’re still shell shocked from losing their jobs and then waste the first precious months on unproductive activities.

I don’t know about you, but if I’m looking for a job, I definitely don’t want to spend days hanging out with other people in the same boat as me. It seems okay because you need the support, but misery loves company? Not in a bare knuckle job search it doesn’t. In fact there’s no time for misery at all.

The reality is that outplacement usually does more for the company that just fired you than it does for you. Doing something that they believe will help you makes them feel better. That’s what they’re really paying for.

Every week we get hundreds of unsolicited resumes faxed over from outplacement firms. They send them out pro forma as part of their services. They go right to recycling without us even taking a glance. They also get people to put their resume into one single format – in essence they “sterilize”each person’s background before sending it out. I can recognize that
format right away and it bothers me every time I see it. Again, I know it sounds heartless, but we only have so many hours
in the day. If I didn’t prioritize my day as a recruiter and focus on activities that will get me a placement, I would never make a living.2 Telephones 19th - Vintage

So what about career coaches?

We often work with job candidates who’ve consulted career coaches. Their bare knuckles never even get a scratch. Once again, the focus is way too soft: far too much emphasis on resume writing; far too little on actually talking to people who can hire you.

Career coaches – the good ones – may help you zero in and focus on strengths that you can build on. They may help you get clarity on what options are realistic based on your experience and personal strengths. Help you with bare knuckle job search techniques? Nah.

Let’s look at the pure economics of why a recruiter’s advice holds water in this discussion. A top recruiter gets paid by the company — in general, 25% of your first year’s salary. That’s our incentive for identifying and bringing to the table the best matched talent for a position.

We come at the process from a totally different perspective than outplacement firms or career coaches. We are performance based. In contingent search, if we don’t perform, we don’t get paid. In retained search, we get paid, but if we don’t perform we don’t get more retained searches.

In outplacement, your former company is paying for services on your behalf. But are those services performance based? We wonder how many executives hiring outplacement firms ask how many people they’ve actually placed in jobs or transitioned to business ownership. That’s not necessarilythe success criteria for people who are no longer employees.

When you hire a career coach, you yourself are paying. Obviously, the hourly rate has to be in line with what someone can afford who has no paycheck coming in and is trying to stretch out severance and unemployment for as long as possible. You’ll probably feel better on some level with coaching. But will you get a job?

Outplacement and career coaching thrive in a down market. Recruiters do well in down markets and very well in good markets. Historically, there are a lot more boom cycles, even factoring in the Great Recession. We choose to be held to a performance standard of job placement because it’s very well compensated and we do great over time.

Would it hurt you to adopt the same motivation to get yourself a job? We believe passionately that it will help you.

Takeaway: Outplacement and career coaching will tell you what’s easy to hear. We’re telling you what you probably don’t want to hear. But it’s what will get you back to rewarding work.

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