Q and A with John Challenger

Clues for coping from an insider

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john a. challenger is an expert on layoffs. As CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a global outplacement company, he specializes in finding people their next job. Mr. Challenger discussed how people react to being laid off.

People come to you at watershed periods of their lives-one job has ended, and the next job lies ahead. What's the one emotion that best describes the newly laid off? Angry? Depressed? Determined?

It depends on the person. You've hit some of them. Some people come in with real purpose ... to move forward, and some come in feeling betrayed and angry, and some come in lackadaisical, not in a hurry, reflective.

What's the first message you want to get across to those who come to you fresh from being laid off?

Usually, it's "Don't wait." You've got to get at the search. You're at your most hirable in the opening months. ... A lot of people waste those first couple months. It's real easy to put off a search. ... They don't get determined as quickly as they should to resolve the situation.

How do you convince them-besides finding them a new job-that this isn't the end of the world?

Eighty-five percent of them find an equivalent or better job. Right now, the economy is very strong-4.4% unemployment is really near full employment. For workers with a college degree or more, it's 1.9%.

Is there less of a stigma to being laid off these days?

Almost everyone you see has been laid off [at one time], so the stigma has been diminished. It's almost like no-fault job loss. Employers can be open to seeing it that way.

How should people look at being laid off? As an opportunity?

Absolutely. You've developed skills, know-how. It's certainly an opportunity; often you get paid to go. There are those who are expert at making [job] changes four or five times in a career. ... In midcareer, six, seven years [in a job] is appropriate. ...

If you're not happy or fulfilled in your current job, [being laid off is] an opportunity to rejuvenate your career.
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