When your future is up in the air and your career could take a multitude of different directions, it takes a particular focus to ask yourself the right questions.
When you sign your redundancy papers and you do the maths to work out how long your payment will last, your mind will likely be clouded by apprehension. In the initial stages of redundancy, the visceral nature of your situation means that your questions will be influenced far more by your “needs” than your “wants.”
They will probably lead to a job, but will it be the right job?
In our role as outplacement advisors over the past couple of decades, we have understood that out primary role is to help our outplacement clients find the right questions.
And then we go on the search for answers.
An objective observer (who is nonetheless emotionally bought-in) is well-placed to tease out the core career motivations of a client who has likely not contemplated them for a good few years. When we are in a role, we are shaped by our environment far more than we think, but that does not define who we are. It might be the case that our base preferences differ from our current situation - the right questions will explore the disconnect.
It is also important to ask the questions that clients would rather avoid. In the traumatic aftermath of a redundancy notification, it is all too tempting to soothe ourselves with a comforting internal dialogue. While it is entirely human to pop to the cinema and watch an uplifting film on that first evening, there is a cold and harsh reality waiting when you wake up the next day. You can either face it and deal with it, or you can go on ignoring it. Tackle the tough questions early on, and be brutally honest with yourself.
As a business, we have always believed in getting close to our clients, but with our outplacement services, it is impossible to deliver success without first “leaning in.” We spend as much time as it takes to get to the point where we know which questions to ask. Rushing in with the wrong questions is also dangerous territory. Much as candidates might want to find some quick answers, patience is the order or the day if we are to get to know our clients. They also have to trust us to let is into their world.
However, it isn’t easy asking the right questions. Because they are often questions where the answers are far from obvious. We don’t expect our clients to have all the answers, and it often involves a process of exploration to get there. As long as you are on the right path, other questions bubble up along the way, and before you know it you have a clear picture of the direction you wish to take.
Answering the right questions is only the first step in a job search, but it creates a solid foundation for success.