Avoid the Temptation of Severance Sloth

You’ve received a Lay Off, Down-Size, Reduction in Force, Job Elimination, or whatever term your now former employer chose. Part of your package includes anywhere from a few weeks to several months’ severance pay.  BE CAREFUL about using this to rationalize delaying your search for a new job with full commitment and energy.  Rather, view the package as a unique opportunity to “play with house money.”

Starting a job search process is a frightening and overwhelming under any circumstances, let alone following an unexpected and perhaps emotional job separation. Human nature can encourage us to avoid difficult tasks, especially when grieving something as difficult as a job loss. The knowledge that we will still receive a steady paycheck for a set period of time may tempt the new job seeker to take a brief vacation, so to speak.

YES, you will need to allow the pain to heal. Losing a job, especially unexpectedly, can be as devastating as the loss of a loved one. It will require a grieving period. Read articles on stages of grief as a resource.

YES, you will need to take the time to inventory your skills, polish up your résumé, target the type of employers you want to target and reach out to your network. Starting a job search parallels introducing a product or service to the market. You want to have everything ready for the launch and avoid starting out in the mode of “Ready, Fire, Aim.”

However, when you adapt a “vacation” mind set, you tend avoid or delay more difficult tasks. In a job search, these include self-assessment, targeting desired employers as well as building and reaching out to your network list.

If you have a decent severance package and feel the temptation to take things easy for a while, consider these factors:

  • Will the tasks you avoid become any easier once the severance money runs out?
  • Do you feel better marketing and selling your talent with the added financial stress of only receiving unemployment compensation?
  • What evidence do you see that the labor market will improve right around the time your severance package expires?

So once you’ve relieved the pain of your job loss and planned out your strategy, tackle your search as the full-time job it is. Maybe you’ll get the chance to earn double paychecks for a while.


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