Laid-off workers with a long history have additional challenges and opportunities in finding work

A layoff can feel like a kick in the gut. It knocks the wind out of you and leaves you reeling on the floor until you’re finally ready to get up.

Unfortunately, workers with many years of service to one employer can have an especially hard time returning to their feet. They have the same worries as other downsized workers (self-worth, money, health benefits and retirement to name just a few), but they also carry an extra burden. These folks have been working in the same industry – often in the same position – for decades. Their specialized experience makes it difficult to land new jobs. When long-time employers cut positions or shutter their doors, these people are left without jobs and sometimes without direction. They don’t know where to turn.

If you are dealing with this type of challenge, try to remember this: There are countless people in our community who recognize and appreciate the work you have done over the years. Speaking for myself and others, we are grateful for the time, energy and effort that you have given to our cities. Our neighborhoods. And our local economy.

Whether you are a laborer or supervisor, there are ways that you can transition your background to a different field. Even if you don’t think you can. Of course, this kind of change doesn’t come easily. It takes courage and determination to build a new career. But if you succeeded in one job, you can succeed in another. The key is to show your strengths to employers in a way that captures their attention and prompts them to call you for an interview.

At first glance, no one can tell how valuable you are. People don’t know that you will drive productivity, cut costs or raise revenue within a few days of starting your next job. It’s up to you to make employers understand the impact you will make for the business.

Once you’re ready to forge a new path, consider the following:

•You are more talented than you think.

Many seasoned workers don’t realize that their talents and abilities far exceed their official job duties. Let’s say that you labored on a production line for 20 years. You might believe that your skills are limited to the tasks you performed on a daily basis. Not true.

In addition to your specific job responsibilities, you also met tough deadlines, moved quickly to avoid backlogs, maintained equipment and accurately recorded your progress. And since the employer kept you for two decades, you probably contributed to a positive workplace as well. Perhaps you helped coworkers when they needed assistance. Eliminated safety hazards. Streamlined processes. Implemented a recycling program. Write a list of your skills and accomplishments. All of them can be transferred to a new industry or job.

•You can help employers overcome their concerns.

Don’t let employers worry about your capacity to master new equipment or techniques. Demonstrate that you are a quick study with a passion for learning. Highlight your education and training. Also, give examples of times that you adapted to change in the workplace.

If you’ve been laid off, take some time to catch your breath. Soon you will find your balance and start building your next career. You can do it. We’ll cheer you on.

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