If your firm has laid you off, but they have allowed you to maintain the appearance of employment by remaining on the website, do you disclose your true situation to your recruiter and potential future employers during your search process? There are many opinions about this topic so you may want to distill your inquiry to a few simple questions.
What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Informing My Recruiter?
I will begin with a very simple premise: the basis of any good relationship is trust.
If you do not trust your recruiter and he does not trust you, then it is unlikely that you will have a successful relationship. Thus, the first advantage of disclosure is that you establish and begin to build trust with your recruiter. Conversely, if you are not straightforward with your recruiter, then your relationship will be built upon a very unstable foundation.
Worst Case Scenario
I can tell you that as a recruiter it is very important to me that candidates are honest with me. This is not only because I want us to trust each other, but also because I do not want us to be blindsided at any point during the process.
I have been a recruiter for a number of years, and I have helped candidates navigate a wide variety of difficult and challenging situations. You may feel that you are unique, but I can assure you that you are not! If I understand your situation - the good, the bad, and quite possibly the ugly - then you can benefit from my experience, and together we can prepare for an assortment of scenarios, including the worst-case scenario.
On the other hand, if I do not know all the facts, then you are depriving yourself of the benefits of my experience and putting both of us in a very vulnerable and potentially embarrassing position.
Are You Able to Obtain References?
The first question I ask a candidate is why were you laid off from your firm?
Were you laid off for any particular cause? Or were you laid off because your group did not have enough work to keep you busy? If it is the latter situation, then I can explain your situation to potential employers and assure them that you will be able to provide outstanding references.
If you were laid off for a particular cause and cannot obtain references (or your references will be lukewarm at best), then your situation becomes more difficult. However, I still believe that full disclosure is critical, because in the end the potential new employer will ask for references.
If we have "framed" your situation from the outset (and thereby been in control of the process), then we may be able to overcome this problem. Conversely, if, at the end of the process, the potential new employer is surprised by the fact that you cannot obtain references, then they will feel that they have been manipulated; and it is highly unlikely that you will receive an offer.
It is important to remember that you can obtain references from other sources (e.g. other employers, professors, judges, and etcetera). By "framing" your situation, we can make potential new employers understand that your situation with your current employer is an aberration, not the norm, in your professional life.
There is no question that being laid off is difficult. It is a blow to your ego, and creates financial insecurity. When you have a damaged ego and are worried about your finances, your actions may be dictated by anger and fear.
Decisions based upon these highly volatile emotions are unlikely to be sound decisions; and it is here that a good recruiter can guide you through the process. Trust and candor are imperative, as they will allow you and your recruiter to successfully navigate all the twists and turns of your search process. It may be a cliché, but honesty really is the best policy!
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