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So, you’re in transition from Target…

Some good news: you’re unemployed in one of the best labor markets I can remember. I’m old, I remember a lot. And the Target brand on your resume, carries a ton of weight.

Last week Target laid off 1,700 employees from their Minneapolis headquarters.

To put it bluntly, it was a bloodletting. Lots of extremely talented people from what was once one of the most respected brands in retail, and admired companies in the Twin Cities, found themselves learning about Cobra, severance packages and shareholder value. It’s a sad thing to see folks displaced and out on the street, regardless of the circumstances. I spent 26 years at Target myself, I feel some camaraderie with these folks, and since the layoffs were announced I’ve spend double overtime trying to connect with people and help them with networking, resumes, etc.

It’s been really, really interesting. The last few years I’ve been volunteering with an organization here in town to do resume help, interview prep and search skills. Not to mention I’ve been looking for jobs since 1996, so I like to say I’m qualified to offer some advice. Now Target expats are a little different from the folks coming out of prison or rehab — I don’t have to coach around 7 years being out of the workplace — but in many ways, they’re not.

I’ve had a chance to talk on the phone, meet over coffee, and chat with a ton of folks. It’s been very interesting to me. Personally I laid myself of from Target, it was important to me that I leave on my own terms and I’m quite happy to say that in that respect I was successful.

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So I want to offer some perspective, some advice if you will — First of all, it’s OK to be angry. People are apologizing for what essentially is their emotions getting away from them because they’re pissed off. You should be pissed; you got screwed. You have one day to be pissed and feel sorry. ONE DAY. Easier said than done. Just my advice. And those who are left who might read this, I told everyone I knew for 20 years, remember folks, we’re all free agents. Never kept a single picture or personal item at my desk in the time I worked a Target because frankly it reminded me that loyalty is only as good as the next annual report.

Now I’m done with that.

Next up, some good news, you’re unemployed in one of the best labor markets I can remember. I’m old, I remember a lot. And the Target brand on your resume, carries a ton of weight.

You still have to do some work. So a couple words of advice for the job seekers out there, learned from my own experience of leaving Target:

  • On the outside, we’re all equals. Target was a very hierarchal place, lots of team, lots of management, lots and lots of layers. And, in most pyramids it was pretty structured. Now that we’re all outside the walls, we’re all on the same level. So, when you talk to folks who were three levels below you, you never know — they might have that connection or lead you were looking for. Talk to them like equals. Say “thank you” and “please” for example. Same goes when you’re talking to folks who were 11 levels over you. As Red Green says, we’re all in this together.
  • Shed the Bull. Office politics got in the way of a lot of stuff at Target. Couldn’t help it, when you force rank your people twice a year, in my opinion you start to create a toxic atmosphere. Here on the outside however, none of that stuff matters. When people talk about folks they worked with, managed, worked for, well now at this point in our lives, when everyone is unemployed, drop the baggage and stick to all positive. I’m talking about the old “was a good guy, needed to work on blah blah blah.” At Target we said that all the time, it was the culture. Out here, when you talk about people like you’re still managing them, doesn’t play well, you sound pretentious. And when folks are asking for names for positions, don’t pre-filter your friends because you don’t think this person or that person would be a good fit. I’m not saying that you need to recommend someone you know is a slacker or of poor character, that will come back on you, but if it’s simply that you just don’t see Sally in a role because when you were working with her at Target her attention to detail wasn’t to your expectations, respectfully STFU and let Sally and her potential employer sort that out.
  • Recommend folks who personally you didn’t along with but whom you respect. Its good for the Karma, and good for your brand. Don’t recommend folks whom you like a lot but don’t respect. That one BTW… is really hard. Ran into it Monday. Fun guy in a bar, asshole of a boss, treated people like crap, pass.
  • If you’re not picking up a theme here; be nice, go out of your way for strangers, do the right thing etc. People want to network with positive people. They AREN’T going network with crabby complainers who bitch about how things used to be, or how good they had it… or how great they were. If no one is returning your calls… may be time to assess yourself.
  • Brag a bit. All of us have done great work. Now we don’t have bosses or Mom’s to talk about it in public. Keep in mind bragging and boasting are two different things.
  • Keep it short. Keep EVERYTHING short. Resumes. Interviews. Bragging. Whatever you do. Nothing worse than the guy with 25 years’ experience changing the world who takes another 25 to tell you about it. That just leads to two dead guys. No one wants to read a 10 PP email either. Work on your elevator speech and stick to it. If they want to know more about something, they’ll ask.

Severance package poison

Finally, and this for those folks just starting this process, sitting on big fat severance packages. STOP RIGHT NOW with the “I’m going to take some time before I start looking.” Or “I just need to chill for a bit” “not ready to jump back in..”. I’m here to tell you that line of thinking will bring you to the end of your payout faster than you think. I get that this is traumatic, I get that you feel like you need a break. But as a coach who’s seen this playout, I challenge you to look in the mirror and ask yourself, how long a f’n break do I need? It’s been week, get of the beach and start looking. Good reference point here is the spouse, especially if they’re not working. They’ll tell you to get moving.

Couple points on this:

  1. All this networking, preparation, resume writing… it all takes time. Weeks and weeks. Sooner you start the less stress when the money is starting to run low.
  2. If you were to get a first interview with an employer TODAY, chances are, with most employers it will be a minimum of 6 weeks before you even get an offer. 6 weeks is a pretty decent break if you ask me.
  3. You can always negotiate your start date if you feel like you need more time. Wouldn’t it be better to be negotiating a start date for a new job knowing where you are ok financially, rather than the opposite?
  4. 1700 people are looking with you right now. You want to be in the lead pack (Go getters) or wait a month and then start digging around? Be BOLD.

And as you prepare for your next big adventure… couple things I told a good friend today as he’s starting to look around.

  • Money ain’t everything. Having a job you like may mean a pay cut. Figure out what your bottom line is before you get into interviews. Knowing that little tidbit will give you more options and let you be more confident in your discussions with employers.
  • Take time. Do some up front research to know what you really want to do? You’ve been given a gift, you’ve been separated from a company with a golden egg. Don’t waste the chance to do a couple days, week of assessments or soul searching to figure out what your life’s work really is. If you’re lucky enough to figure that out, the passion you emanate in your interviews will guarantee you get that job!
  • Finally what’s your tolerance for risk? There’s a lot of great jobs out there in companies with 10 employees. Are you OK with a company that might not make it? Or where you might take hit early in pay, with big rewards down the road. Or are you more of a big stable company person. Knowing this about yourself will help a lot.

There you go. Ramblings from a chronic job searcher.

Get out there and EARN.

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And if you know anything about pricing or BI send me a note I know a lady.

This post was written by Gary Sankary and originally published on Old and In the Way. Follow Gary on Twitter: @sank.

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