Four months to change your life

2009

Just been laid off? Job looking a bit insecure? You may not want to know therefore that most out-of-work executives now expect it will take them at least four months to land a new job, and some as long as seven.

This may sound grim yet, while being made redundant is never pleasant, if you know you're unlikely to walk into an alternative straightaway, the message for executives is to try not to panic and to start seeing being laid off as opportunity to reflect on what it is you really want to do.

According to a poll of nearly 1,000 unemployed executives by The Korn/Ferry Institute, part of recruitment firm Korn/Ferry International, the days of walking out of a job and having to fend off multiple offers are well and truly over.

In fact, job hunting in the current economic climate is very much like a war of attrition – you're going to get knock-back after knock-back and only the toughest and most persistent will come out the other end stronger.

What's making it even harder is that, for most executives today, this is something they have never experienced before.

Even for those old enough to remember previous downturns, suddenly having to scrap for any and every available position can come as a desperate shock and is likely to need a period of mental readjustment.

The Korn/Ferry survey found that fewer than a third of those surveyed had ever required more than three months to find a new career opportunity in the past.

Now, however, things are very different. More than eight out of 10 said they expected it would take them more than four months to land a new position. And more than four out of 10 felt they would need to hang on it for seven months or longer.

Many of those surveyed had only just been laid off, something not overly surprising given the sharp spike in the redundancies seen on both sides of the Atlantic in the past three to four months.

More than a quarter said they had been unemployed for less than a month, and more than a third had been unemployed for fewer than three months.

Fewer than a fifth admitted they had already been job-hunting for seven months or longer.

"In the executive ranks, lengthy job searches are not confined to poor economies. It takes time to find the right cultural and functional fit for each position and each candidate," said Cheryl Buxton, global managing director of client services for Korn/Ferry.

"We counsel both our clients and candidates to be patient in the search process, and the current economic environment only reinforces that need," she added.

If you do end up with time on your hands, what is important to look very closely at the best ways of using it, the survey emphasised.

One of the most common ways executives were getting into shape to get back into the labour market was by going back to school to "wait out" the downturn.

Nearly a quarter of those polled said they were looking closely at doing an MBA, with 16 per cent looking at other educational opportunities.

More than half were also following the old maxim that finding a job is a job in itself by spending the majority of their time between jobs searching for new opportunities, while nearly a quarter were focusing on their professional development.

Money may be tighter as a result but one silver lining of redundancy, of course, is that you finally get that free time you have yearned to spend with friends and family, something being taken up 12 per cent of those polled.

A lucky seven per cent felt confident or rich enough to go off on vacation or start to pursue hobbies and three per cent admitted they were just spending the time relaxing.

When asked what they missed most about working, apart from the money, nearly three quarters said it was the intellectual challenges of their the workplace.

A fifth missed their colleagues, four per cent missed the jet-set, living-out-of-a-suitcase lifestyle and just one per cent said they missed their expense accounts, company cars, lunches and corporate hospitality.

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