Going Postal My Last Day Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time
Toni Bowers’ wrote an article on her TechRepublic Career Management blog with the headline “Talking smack about former employers is not advisable.” She points to the farewell message sent by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Dan Neil announcing his departure from the Los Angeles Times to go work for the Wall Street Journal. It’s the kind of note you can get away with if you’ve won a prize like that. It’ probably not the best approach for the rest of us. We just don’t have the clout.
Your first reaction when given the sorry news is to lash out, but please keep this in mind. Your former co-workers (remember their titles change really fast) suddenly become your networking contacts. And they are the most valuable ones you are likely to have. They:
- know your work
- understand your capabilities and
- can serve as your most credible references.
If you’ve worked somewhere for several years and developed good ties with your co-workers, they’ll be sympathetic to you. They may even see in you as the person they could have been if the guns had been aimed a little closer in their direction. They may see you as the person that took the bullet that was meant for them.
You don’t want to taint your reputation by throwing a public tantrum in the office, sending anyone a torching tirade of an email and you certainly want to minimize any out loud derogatory remarks you make about that employer. (I’m sure you would never do these things, but fantasies like these are likely to flood your mind for a while.)
But what should you do? First of all, you should reach out your former cohorts. Depending upon how you were escorted out the door, you may not have had a chance to say the proper goodbyes. A phone call or email are appropriate. Don’t be surprised if some employees prefer to disassociated themselves from you, especially while at work. It’s like they want to avoid having what happened to you rub off on them. (Like that would happen.)
Now let’s walk through an encounter with a former employee. First of all, they still work with and for the jerks and company that no longer needs you. (They may not be jerks, but let’s make the assumption here.) They may feel some pride for the place. They still drive to work every morning the way you used to. Any conversation with them should lean toward the side of respecting the firm that still employs them. Your discussion with them should be forward looking.
If they open the door, maybe express your regrets to them, but be careful. Their loyalty is still to the company and anything you say might be shared with other former co-workers and damage their willingness to network on your behalf.
Moaning and groaning about the past makes no sense. If these people are now to become your advocates, you need to assure them you are still the right postive person for them to promote to their network of contacts.
You should ask former co-workers to review your resume. Even if you don’t think they would be the best people to do a review, by reading through your resume they refresh themselves on all you can do for your next employer. They can look at your situation objectively and possibly come up with job search tips and tactics that may not have occurred to you. Remember, they are in your same industry. They have similar professional interests. They know you.
I’ve had clients tell me that former co-workers approached him asking for help in their job hunt. They didn’t like how things were going for them at the firm and thought they could be a layoff target. That was a surprise. Former co-works may have opportunities they were following in anticipation of a possible layoff themselves. They may have job leads they were nurturing in case they were the ones that were hit with the layoff.
Again, inappropriate gut reactions are not the way to go. Clear headed thinking is. Don’t take steps you’ll regret later.
Please share with us interactions you had with former co-workers and how you handled them.