Your Career Path to Success: How to Choose an Outplacement Counselor

Downsizing, cutbacks, outplacement, terminations - all words describing bad times for all levels of an organization suffering economic downturns.

Lately, much has been written on how to “recession-proof” your career. However if you know you are going to lose your job or have already lost your job, we would like to offer a check list for selecting an outplacement counselor and/or company.


Selection criteria:

1. Career counseling vs. job counseling.
Always inquire if the outplacement firm or individual career counselor offers “career guidance” in addition to assisting you in finding another job. Often, outplacement companies and career placement counselors are very keen on getting you a job, yet because your particular industry may be struggling as a whole, there may not be many other jobs available at your level. Find out how they approach career counseling as opposed to just finding another position. Career counselors often ask what you would “dream” of doing or have strong passion for, rather than only contemplating staying in the same field, job and level.


2. Find out who is responsible
Find out exactly who is responsible for assisting you with your job search. Often outplacement firms or counselors may act as if they are going to be heavily involved with you, yet may in fact not interact with you very often during the process. It can feel like a “bait and switch” and is quite common among outplacement firms. Sometimes, outplacement firms and even individual counselors have systems for assisting you and leading your job search. But, when it comes down to the practical applications of career guidance, you need one individual who is going to see you through the entire process and that individual should be someone with whom you are comfortable with and trust.


3. Reputation, Reputation, Reputation
Organizations and individuals are only as good as their reputation. Ask for references and check them out. Don’t get caught believing that an organization is going to have a magical process that is going to get you a job within a short period of time. A good rule of thumb is that it may take six months to one year to find the right position if you’re targeting above the $150,000 salary level.


4. Services
Be sure to ask about all the services that will be provided. Make sure search firm and corporate mailing lists are regularly updated. Connection to online job listings and websites should be provided. Your counselor should facilitate the creation of different types of resumes for different job searches. Ask whether on-board coaching will be provided once you’ve landed a job, or whether your counselor will help negotiate your new job package.

Most of us have not been through the interviewing process in a long time and therefore, could use some assistance getting into “fighting shape”. Outplacement firms and individual counselors should have video production capability so that you can record and observe yourself while role-playing various types of interviews. If this service is not provided you may want to think twice about the firm.

Another example is resume writing. The outplacement firm should offer examples and the framework for a proper resume, and to help fine tune the final product. However it should be up to you to craft the real substance of the document. This way, you will be more prepared to talk about yourself having gone through this therapeutic process of writing down your experience, achievements and position titles, etc., than if someone else wrote your resume for you.


5. Fees and Guarantees
It is a general rule of thumb, never to pay personally out-of-pocket for your outplacement services. Most outplacement firms are paid for by the company who is doing the downsizing or termination. Most companies that charge you directly have great difficulty in ever living up to your expectation of finding a new job. For example, the firm or counselor cannot go with you on the interview, and therefore when talking about guaranteeing you a job, they are usually “stretching the truth”.

We hope that these suggestions are helpful as you embark on the next chapter of your career!

WJM Faculty Cabinet

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