Episode #92 – Being Laid Off: Finding a Position vs. Taking a Package

Samantha: Welcome to “The Animal Health Employment Insider,” brought to you by The VET Recruiter. In this podcast, executive search consultant and recruiter ,Stacy Pursell, founder and CEO of The VET Recruiter, provides insight and practical advice for both companies and job seekers in the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession. The VET Recruiter’s mission is to help Animal Health and Veterinary employers hire top talent, while helping animal health and veterinary professionals attain career-enhancing opportunities that increase their quality of life.

In today’s podcast, we’ll be talking about unemployed candidates and the possibility of being laid off. Stacy, thank you for joining us.

Stacy: Hello, Samantha. I’m glad to be here.

Samantha: Stacy, how will we be addressing this topic today? I’m sure it’s one that many of our listeners will be interested to hear about.

Stacy: This is a multi-faceted topic, that’s for sure, so we’re going to explore as many aspects of it as we can in the time that we have. But at this juncture, I think there is something we should point out.

Samantha: What’s that, Stacy?

Stacy: Well, the unemployment rate is very low in the country right now. In fact, it’s the lowest that it’s been since the year 2000. And the unemployment rate is even lower in the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession. However, that doesn’t mean professionals working in these areas will not be laid off. We’ve discussed this before: 100% job security is a myth.

One of the reasons that it’s a myth is there have been an increasing number of mergers and acquisitions in the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession during the last several years. When mergers and acquisitions occur, layoffs often also occur. So while the unemployment rate is undeniably low, marketplace dynamics also dictate that no job is 100% secure.

With that in mind, I have a story based on a conversation I recently had with a candidate.

Samantha: Stacy, is this another case study?

Stacy: Yes, but it’s a different kind of case study.

Samantha: How’s that?

Stacy: Well, the majority of my case studies point out things that professionals have done with their job or career that are wrong. In the case study we’re about to discuss, the candidate in question did something right. She had the foresight to approach a situation in the correct way, and that made an impression on me.

Samantha: What’s the story?

Stacy: I was recently speaking with a pharmaceutical sales rep on the human side. She had been a veterinary pharmaceutical sales rep for many years before that. I first met her many years ago when I placed her in a veterinary pharmaceutical sales position.

So when we were talking recently, this professional told me that she had been working in human pharmaceuticals, but was leaving the company because it was losing its patent on the product she was representing. She said that she saw “the writing on the wall” and decided to make a change.

Samantha: What does that mean, she saw “the writing on the wall”?

Stacy: Since her employer was losing its patent on the product she was representing, she figured it was only a matter of time before she was out of a job.

Samantha: What did she do?

Stacy: Well, she told me that she wanted to be proactive rather than reactive. She didn’t want to find out later that she wasn’t going to have a job. Instead, she wanted to take her career into her own hands and proactively look for a new position with another employer. This is what she said to me. She said, “I would rather find a position than take a severance package.”

Samantha: So she did leave?

Stacy: She did. But she also said that some of her colleagues stayed with her former employer. They anticipated “taking a package” and then moving on if the organization laid them off. But she did not want to do that.

Samantha: Did she say why?

Stacy: She said that when you’re unemployed, recruiters won’t call you. She said if you take a severance package and then go more than two months without a job, recruiters will stop calling. Because of that, she said she wanted to be proactive and find a great job rather than take package, not have a job, and not know how long it would take to find a good job.

Samantha: So you believe she did the right thing?

Stacy: I absolutely do! With more than 20 years of experience as a Veterinary and Animal Health recruiter, I can tell you that this line of thinking makes sense. First of all, you know that I’m a big fan of being proactive and not reactive.

I have story after story involving people who were reactive in terms of their jobs and they paid dearly for it. These are unfortunate situations that I warn other people about. These are the types of case studies that I usually relay, in contrast to the one we’re discussing now.

Samantha: Stacy, suppose there are those in our listening audience who are thinking to themselves, “What’s so bad about taking a severance package? People do it all the time.”

Samantha: That’s a great question, and I have answer for it. In fact, I have three reasons why taking a severance package not a good idea.

The first one is that you have to pay the tax man. There’s no getting away from the IRS.

Samantha: So you still have to pay taxes on a severance package?

Stacy: Yes, you do. It’s just like all of the other money your employer has given to you. The amount that you initially think you’ll be receiving is not the amount that you will actually be receiving.

The second reason it’s not a good idea is that you have no idea how long the severance package will last. Of course, the plan is to find a job before the money from the package runs out, but how can you guarantee that? You can’t. I know quite a few professionals who thought it would be easy to land a new job after receiving a package. What they thought would happen and what actually happened turned out to be two very different things.

Samantha: What if the person has some savings in their bank account?

Stacy: Then they would be in a better situation. But why would you want to eat into your savings account if you don’t have to? And there are a lot of professionals who don’t have much in the way of savings, especially younger people, many of whom have also been saddled with student loan debt.

The third reason is that desperation could lead to poor decisions. This is because the longer that you go without a job, the more desperate you’re likely to become. This is especially the case once the money from the severance package runs out. If this happens, then you might give in to the temptation to take a job that you really don’t want to take. That’s what I mean by desperation leading to poor decisions. While you might have a job, what you’ve actually done is taken a step backwards in your career. You certainly haven’t taken a step forward.

So if that became the situation, would it really be worth it to wait and take a severance package as opposed to being proactive and finding a new job?

Samantha: My answer would be no. Stacy, this all relates to what we’ve discussed before about having leverage, doesn’t it?

Stacy: I’ve said this over and over: the best time to look for a job when you already have a job. If you have an okay job, then look for a better one. If you have a good job, then look for a great one.

Samantha: Because when you have a job, you have more options.

Stacy: That’s right! And when you have more options, you have more leverage. And when you have more leverage, you can make better decisions.

When you have a job, you don’t have to consider another employment opportunity unless that opportunity is clearly better than the job you have.

On the other hand, when you don’t have a job, you must consider just about ALL opportunities because even if those opportunities are not desirable, they’re still better than having no job at all.

It’s crazy to me that a person would intentionally put themselves in a situation where they have limited options and limited leverage. That’s just asking for trouble. That’s why I wanted to highlight this story today. The candidate we discussed also thought that was crazy, even while her colleagues were choosing to do it!

Instead, she chose to be proactive, and that strategy paid off for her.

Samantha: Stacy, I’m afraid we’re running out of time. What would you like to say to our listeners before we wrap up today’s episode?

Stacy: It’d like to tell our listeners to not wait for a severance package or anything else, for that matter. It’s important to be proactive about your career. Keep your eyes open for other opportunities and be open to considering those opportunities if they’re presented to you. Don’t say “No” before you know what you’re saying “No” to!

Samantha: Well, thank you, Stacy. This was great information and another great podcast. I’m looking forward to our next episode.

Stacy: Thank you, Samantha. I look forward to our next podcast, too!