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    Negotiating Your Exit Strategy

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    Even though the economy has quieted down quite a bit since the economic meltdown of 2007-2008, companies still use layoffs as a way of culling the ranks to stay tight and profitable.

    Companies work hard to stay financially fit. Part of corporate America’s belt tightening strategy, and one of the more effective ways to stay lean, has been to use a “reduction in force” for a solid increase to the bottom line and show shareholders a healthy outlook for the future. So if you should find yourself on the short list one day here are some things to keep in mind.

    First and foremost-it’s not the end of the world.  You will find another path. I was laid off three times during my corporate career of 20+ years only to find more fulfilling and more profitable ways to earn a living every single time.

    Severance is negotiable and is driven by your relationship with your employer and your place in the company hierarchy. You will have a competitive edge in the negotiation process if you were well liked, well known and had built up good will within the company.

    These are just a few of the negotiable items:

    Medical insurance usually ends the last day of the month in which the termination takes place.  Ask for an extension. COBRA (federally mandated) will kick in when regular health care benefits end but it can be pricey.  The longer you can extend your company subsidized benefits the longer you will postpone paying the more expensive COBRA premiums.

    Ask for a greater amount of severance than what you are initially offered unless the initial offer is adequate and perhaps even generous. Talk this over with an employment lawyer and/or a certified career coach who has been trained to help you navigate this process.

    Two weeks’ severance for every year of service used to be the norm but is not necessarily the practice anymore. Companies are not obligated to offer severance. If you’re over 40, you’re in a protected class and severance may be offered in exchange for your signature releasing the employer from any legal obligations as a result of your employment. Take the full amount of time you are offered to sign this agreement and be sure you understand everything contained in the release.

    Offer to consult for the employer while you search. While no longer an employee of the firm, you can include the cost of your medical insurance into your consulting fee. This is a viable option for employees leaving on good terms.  And it can be an attractive option for the employer who can continue to benefit from your expertise for a fixed amount of time at a rate you both have agreed upon.

    Make sure you are paid out for unused vacation. And be sure to ask for Outplacement Transition Services which can include job search coaching, an updated professionally written resume, LinkedIn profile, interview preparation, and a new “Two-Minute Pitch” to market yourself to recruiters and potential employers. Some employers will be open to this option depending on the level of responsibility you held.

    An added benefit of outplacement is that you get to work with professionally trained coaches. The global HR transition company I worked for would only hire coaches who themselves had been laid off, understood what that feels like and had learned how to move on from job loss.

    “Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.” John F. Kennedy

    Inaugural Address, January 20 1961

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