Facing a job loss? Outplacement can shorten your time in transition!

The best part: it’s FREE for you (the terminated employee)

By Kelly Donovan – Principal of Kelly Donovan & Associates

Has your employer terminated you?

If you are facing a job loss, your employer might be willing to provide funds for outplacement assistance, which you can receive from an outplacement firm (like Kelly Donovan & Associates).

What is outplacement?

Outplacement programs are quite diverse and vary widely, but all of them provide some sort of assistance intended to help you land a new position faster and more easily than you would otherwise.

How employers provide outplacement services

There are a few avenues I’ve seen over the years; here are the most common:

  1. The employer hires a firm to do a program for all the affected employees or uses a firm they use on an ongoing basis.
  2. The employer allows you to choose an outplacement firm to help you, and they pay the invoice–or you pay and they reimburse you. They might limit you to vendors on their approved list, or they might let you choose any outplacement firm you’d like.

Forms of outplacement delivery

  • One-on-one: You might have access to a career coach or a resume writer who can help you with navigating the job market, updating your resume and LinkedIn profile, and preparing for interviews.
  • Group: A group program might offer you online seminars or workshops (aka webinars), conference calls or group Zoom sessions, group coaching, “job club” support groups, and similar services that help multiple people together. The program might also have resources such as pre-recorded videos and written content about job search principles.
  • Hybrid: Some programs are a hybrid of group and one-on-one.

Executive outplacement

Outplacement for executives (eg., leaders with salaries above ~$175K) can be a bit different. You’re more likely to receive a larger package valued between $5K and $15K and more likely to have on-on-one services included in that. I’ve done many of these packages for executives, and they can be very robust.

For a senior executive, going with a boutique firm that will provide more personalized service is especially desirable. As an executive, you should be getting one-on-one coaching from an expert to develop your executive brand, not watching a webinar about personal branding and figuring out on your own how to implement it.

Types of outplacement firms

There are two main categories of outplacement firms–the big behemoths and small (“boutique”) firms.

Here are some ways to determine whether boutique outplacement or a large cookie cutter firm would better meet your needs.

Boutique outplacement firm:

  • The firm can usually customize your package to your specific needs (for example, one person might be more concerned about an executive resume and LinkedIn profile, whereas someone else might be more concerned with getting career coaching).
  • It’s more personalized and intimate because it’s a smaller operation, letting you feel like you have a partner who truly cares versus being a number.
  • You might have the opportunity to work directly with a recognized expert (perhaps the owner of the firm).
  • You might be able to speak with the principal of the firm or with whomever you’d be working with prior to hiring the firm, so you can make sure their style is a good fit for you.
  • If a writer is creating your resume and LinkedIn profile, the outcome will almost always be better than the hasty, cookie-cutter approach of a writer at a large firm.
  • You can receive in-depth coaching rather than simply being referred to resources like videos and articles (the use of videos and articles can help make coaching time more productive, but it shouldn’t take the place of the coaching).

Large outplacement firm:

  • The firm usually provides the opportunity to interact with other job seekers in group programs. This could theoretically facilitate networking, although the other job seekers might or might not be optimal networking partners for you.
  • The firm might give you feedback on your resume, but won’t write it for you.
  • If the firm does provide a writer to write your resume, it’s a rushed “resume mill” type of process that results in poor quality. I’ve had clients who received weak executive resumes from large outplacement firms due to the rushed process, and then came to me to rewrite their documents.
  • If you’ll be receiving one-on-one coaching (somewhat rare with large firms except for senior execs), you’ll be assigned a coach and probably won’t be able to choose the coach. As a result, you might end up with a coach who you wouldn’t have picked if you’d had a choice.
  • In some cases, the “coaching” might entail emailing the coach your questions and receiving a response that directs you to a resource about the topic, like a video or article. (This is the secret that allows some outplacement firms to say you can receive unlimited assistance during the specified time frame; rather than capping the number of hours in your package, they use these sorts of techniques to minimize the one-on-one interactions.)
  • These coaches sometimes work for large firms because they can’t attract enough clients to their own small coaching practices. While there are some good coaches who work for large outplacement firms, it’s the luck of the draw.
  • Unlike a boutique firm, a large firm offers the security of a large operation; for example, a natural disaster wouldn’t affect the operation of a massive national firm with hundreds of employees, but it could disrupt a small team based in one metro area.

How to find an outplacement firm

If your employer says you can choose an outplacement firm of your choice, great! Start shopping for the right firm for you. Even if the firm doesn’t describe itself as being an outplacement firm, it will probably be acceptable if the firm provides career services and lists “outplacement” on the invoice.

What if your employer isn’t offering outplacement?

Just ask! The ideal time would be prior to signing any sort of agreement or exit package prior to leaving. That’s when you have some leverage.

However, it doesn’t hurt to ask even if you’ve been gone for a little while. You could say, “I recently learned that a lot of employers provide outplacement assistance for employees during their transition–I just wanted to find out if this is something I would be able to receive?”

If your employer balks, you could throw out a number at the bottom of the range for outplacement. “Even as little as $2000 for outplacement would really help me out!”

What if you’re not impressed with your employer’s outplacement firm?

  • Even if your employer tells you they’re providing outplacement from Big ‘Ol Outplacement  when you negotiate your exit package, you can try asking for an additional pot of money to hire a firm of your choice for one-on-one service either instead of the big firm.
  • For entry level, you could ask for $2000-$3000; mid-career, $3000-$5000; execs, $5000-$10,000; senior execs, $10,000-$15,000. Even if you get less than you ask for, you can still benefit. (Even a couple grand isn’t bad for a question that only took 60 seconds to ask.)

What type of assistance is included in an outplacement package?

At Kelly Donovan & Associates, I’ve designed a unique approach to outplacement that allows you to receive personalized, one-on-one assistance from an expert.

Your package will include a set number of hours that will depend on the dollar value your employer has allotted for you. The higher the budget, the more hours you’re able to receive.

The hours in your package can be spent however you would like on the things that matter most to you.

You’ll be able to cherry-pick from the full range of career services:

  • Resume writing / executive resume writing
  • LinkedIn profile writing
  • LinkedIn consulting and strategy
  • LinkedIn “Boot Camp”
  • Personal brand development
  • Cover letters, thank-you notes, and networking notes
  • Guidance on recruiter outreach
  • Coaching on career documents if you want to work on them yourself
  • Job search coaching to gain traction faster
  • Keyword optimization of your resume for employers’ ATS software
  • Interview preparation
  • Career coaching

Bonus: Additionally, depending on the value of your package, it may include an optional resume distribution to recruiters with access to the spreadsheet of targeted recruiters that are the most relevant for your search.

Layoff? A customized outplacement package can help you land an ideal role sooner.

Are you an HR leader interested in outplacement for your company? You can visit our employer-focused website for more details.