Select the right words. Say them well.


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Firings. Layoffs. Downsizing. Outsourcing. Limited buyouts.

Through my official duties and unofficial experience (and a personal episode) I’ve had opportunities to learn a lot about how best to handle bad career news. Besides providing counsel for high-profile execs, I also do some volunteer work in this space and always try to be available for friends and family who face these dilemmas. Here are four quick takeaways which can benefit anyone.

Why 2008 Changed Everything: A blip in your work history is not what it used to be. Probably the only good thing to come out of The Great Recession is the fact that so many people lost their jobs it no longer holds the negative connotation it once did. Most employers get it. Change happens. Solid and underperforming employees alike have been shown the door. Take a breath and realize you are not alone. Even in a strong economy people lose jobs and, unless you are a serial job changer, you can probably get past it.

It’s About Who You Barely Know: When you are in the hunt for a job you often think of your closest allies and how they will help you. In reality, maybe not. Some very interesting new research shows your ‘low stakes’ or ‘weak ties’ relationships can often be a great source of help in a job search. There is some magic in that person who feels they can help you even though you are not close friends. That person hasn’t had five conversations with you about your situation so, in some ways, they are unburdened by the details of your story. “You need a job? I think I might know someone.” It’s a simple transaction for that ‘weak ties’ person. Sometimes it is the perfect formula for what you need right now.

Tell Your Story With Confidence: Many times the job candidate has been knocked off their stride by a job loss. They speak with tentative language. As I’ve noted before, starting your story with, “Well, I’m thinking about…” or “I’m sort of looking at…” or “I’m kinda leaning toward..” will not inspire anyone. Why would they go to bat for you if you don’t seem confident in where you are going? Tell your story with conviction, even if you know everything is not perfectly in place!

Who did you call today? The job search can be a lonely road. Sitting in front of your computer screen for endless hours can get anyone down. Keep up or add to your exercise regimen. Get some fresh air. And call someone new every day to expand the pool of people who are aware you are looking.

I hope this was helpful, and, even more importantly, I hope it sent you in some directions you hadn’t thought about before. Haven’t had a ‘bad news’ episode yet? Congratulations. But chances are you will. Very few people get through a 40 to 50 year career without at least one – and probably a few. Next month, I’ll talk about how to make some of the right moves when the new opportunity comes along.

Suggested reading: Almost Hired by Jackie Ducci is a great new book with loads of timely suggestions for anyone in the job hunt.

Cary Pfeffer is the founder of ClearComm Consulting,, a Phoenix, AZ-based communications consulting firm which is helping people tell their story. He works with clients to make the most of their media and live audience communication. Email him at: