Monday, October 27, 2014

Most Outplacement Programs Are a Sham

I’m only saying what many who’ve participated in such programs already know. Most outplacement programs are mostly hype, delivering little substance. Or, as I like to say, they are 90% smoke and only 10% horsepower (or less) and a rip-off for the companies that pay for them. The reason is simple, the purveyors of typical outplacement services over-promise and vastly under-deliver how much they will do for those they are supposed to help.
Outplacement services are often utilized when a company downsizes headcount for whatever reason. Another example may be universities or trade schools, which offer outplacement services as a part of their programs. Yet another might be outplacement services offered to military service members who are completing their enlistments or careers. Without going into detail because, after all, this is a blog and not an in-depth article, let’s look at what many outplacement programs consist of.
A primary component of any outplacement program or service is helping people with their resumes. They claim to help to construct a professional resume and all that goes along with it such as being able to scan and having a generally standardized structure and format. Another component they might boast is to connect you with companies where you can utilize your skills and experience. Now this all sounds nice, but most often all they are doing is helping you to post your resume to a job board or portal; maybe they have relationships with a few companies looking for people with your skills, but that’s about as far as it goes.
So then, what do we have in reality – resume help and assistance posting your stuff online? Is that the best there is? Seems to me companies are paying a lot of money for outplacement help that doesn’t provide much help, neither for the client company paying for the services nor the people they are supposed to be helping. Come on, resume templates and advice can be found all over the place, online. And posting your resume onto job portals is within the grasp of most people. Sounds real helpful doesn’t it (sarcasm)?
At the risk of sounding cynical, these programs are so obviously worthless that one might conclude senior company management provides these services for employees they are cutting loose, as a CYA measure to create the façade that they care about employees they are letting go. In reality, most senior managers do want to provide a substantive resource to help their employees to transition. But even companies are increasingly displeased with so-called outplacement services for which they pay handsomely. I’ll go still further, by saying the majority of outplacement service providers are either ill-equipped to provide any real services – or they are charlatans.
The problem is the focus of these programs. Outplacement is about helping people, not resumes or helping someone to access an online service – any 13-year-old can do the same thing and therein lies the key issue. If you are not teaching people to help themselves, you’re not really helping them. Rather, it should be about empowering or re-empowering people; providing them with substantive information they can capitalize on and from it build a foundation to help them move their lives forward.
I write about and say it until I am blue in the face; it takes more than a resume and online activity to get the results you want or need – much more. At a time when college grads are fighting over bartending and wait staff jobs, if you think a piece of paper and online activity, just going through the motions, is all that’s necessary, then you just don’t get it - or you’re in denial. If, on the other hand, you recognize something’s not working, then perhaps it is about time to rethink your strategy.
So, what are you going to do beyond monitoring job portals and limiting yourself to what everyone else is doing – which isn’t much? What other methods for finding job opportunities are you going to capitalize on? What are you going to say when you find yourself seated in front of a hiring manager and they say, “So tell me about yourself?” - I certainly hope you’re not going to recite / read from your resume. Do you know when and how best to discuss money and compensation? Do you possess any basic negotiating or closing skills? What about follow up? Are you going to be proactive or will you sit around waiting for an email, or for your phone to ring? What about cover letters, references, how to handle job offers – both verbal and written? How many outplacement programs cover these subjects? Do you know of any? No, I didn’t think so. Well, I teach this stuff but there are increasingly very few who are even capable of learning.
If you are a company executive who will, perhaps, have need to facilitate and provide outplacement services, I hope for the sake of the employees you claim you want to help that you’ll demand more from service providers. And if you’re an employee who’ll have need of outplacement assistance, take full advantage of it but press for more than simply being led through the motions. You, as an individual, need to invest the time necessary to upgrade your own abilities so you can maximize your job search and interviewing efforts.


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